Is your dealership amazing?

A look at what some retailers are doing to achieve customer delight

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With footfall into dealerships having declined dramatically over the past decade as a result of increased online research by consumers, car retailers are continually looking at ways of differentiating themselves from the competition.

Vehicles are so good these days, it’s virtually impossible to purchase a poor product but that’s not to say that they sell themselves. Far from it, in fact. Having a great product doesn’t mean an automatic sale. Apart from the expense, buying a car is a very emotive experience and in motor retail, people still buy from people, so if a dealership hasn’t got great staff, facilities and a good customer service ethic, it’s already at a disadvantage. There’s plenty of research within the industry which shows the experience surrounding a sale is often the deciding factor in where a customer places their business.

However, it’s not always the most extravagant or complex initiatives that win the praise of customers. Often, it’s the simplest of things done very well, which creates loyalty and brand advocacy. For example, extended opening hours to provide greater customer convenience doesn’t sound a big deal but those dealerships that have embraced this have boosted revenue. Opening for longer has also enabled franchised outlets to regain business from the national fast-fit chains, which have been doing so for some time. New and used vehicle sales functions also have the opportunity to gain incremental business and referrals from extended opening hours by being available at a time that suits the customer.

Of course, opening up at 7am doesn’t necessarily mean that customers need to forego their breakfast in order to drop the car off for a service. A number of retailers now offer a complimentary breakfast for early arriving customers and some even have the option to order a complementary lunch for those visiting at midday.

Actually getting to the dealership can be problematic for some, so the offer of a vehicle collection and return service is another means of ensuring convenience. This doesn’t just apply to aftersales either. One Norfolk based dealer group, Holdens, introduced a Home Test Drive, which involves a ‘home test advisor’, not a salesperson, delivering a car to the customer to test either at home or at work. This allows a new or used vehicle to be fully evaluated on familiar roads with family or friends as passengers, contrary to the traditional model of test driving with a sales executive present. Once the potential customer is happy with the car chosen, only then are they handed over to a salesperson to continue the deal.

On the subject of handovers, there remains a great deal of difference across the industry in how this is implemented. A customer’s perception of the buying experience is often crystallised by the moment that they take delivery of their new purchase. Anecdotal evidence suggests that handover gifts are making a comeback. We’re not just talking about a bunch of flowers or bottle of champagne, often the default choice of dealers but a whole new approach, tailored towards what psychologists call the ‘peak end rule.’ This concept illustrates how people judge an experience based on its highest point and what occurs at the end rather than viewing it as a whole. With psychology playing a part, retailers can benefit from making the vehicle handover as special and memorable as possible, to maximise the chances of leaving the customer with a highly favourable impression.

Often, it’s the simplest of things done very well, which creates loyalty and brand advocacy

It can be as simple as the spare key presented in a personalised box which makes the occasion more memorable. One particular dealer also presented a customer with a set of coasters featuring a Labrador, as the customer had mentioned about the family dog being an important factor in which car they choose.

Among an industry poll of more than 50 dealers, the majority favoured handover gifts. More than 70% of respondents considered the handover gift as either ‘very’ or ‘quite’ important in the delivery of a ‘first-class’ handover experience. Almost three quarters (73%) believe that when their customers received gifts it enhanced their view of the dealership considerably, while 72% thought the handover gift had a role to play in boosting customer retention.

As we have become accustomed to online tailored shopping experiences, it follows that a car handover should be tailored to the customer so that it becomes the proverbial icing on the cake. Some customers just want 15 minutes and others may want an hour-and-a-half, so dealers should be asking them for their preference.

Satisfying consumers’ increasing demands is equally important to Autoglym, that’s been a leader in car care for over 50 years, working continuously to reinforce the strength of the brand and the trust consumers have in our products.

On the subject of ‘amazing’, LifeShine’s unique Carbon Shield Technology™ formula fuses carbon molecules to vehicle paintwork. A result of intensive research and development, Carbon Shield Technology™ delivers even more durability, providing an impenetrable barrier against harsh contaminants and the elements. A leading independent specialist in surface and coating technology has verified a controlled durability test, in which LifeShine Carbon Shield TechnologyTM outlasted competitor systems by a minimum of 10 fold. 

In addition, the LifeShine Vehicle Protection System (VPS) has proven to yield ‘amazing’ financial performance too. Independent research has found that when a dealership switches to LifeShine, penetration rate for VPS sales increases by an average of 8.6%.

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