Anyone love their phone company? If you are like me, there is nothing I abhor more than needing to call them. Every time I call, I have to do a bit of meditational breathing and mentally prepare myself for what will inevitably be hours of frustration. Not only will there be excessive hold times involved, but I will also be bounced from department to department, left dealing with several different people and having to repeat my issue over and over again. If I’m not disconnected along the way, it feels like a victory. Sound familiar?
Now, compare this to the Apple store experience. I make an appointment online, walk into the store at my designated time and get assigned an Apple Genius who will help me every step of the way. Not only do they stay by my side, but they are empowered to answer questions and even ring me up right there on their iPhone when I am ready to transact.
And so there it is — the world we live in, shifting between these two contrasting experiences. And the more Apple-like the world gets, the more we are unwilling to deal with extended wait times and poor customer service.
What would happen if the phone company empowered their frontline employees to help with all of the situations they may be faced with? Think of the minutes a customer spends on hold before resharing the same story 2, 3, 4+ times; or the minutes employees waste transferring people around and listening to the same stories their colleagues have already heard. Would one person be more efficient? Would customers stop dreading the experience and — dare I say — even find it enjoyable?
This is happening within the automotive retail sector as we speak. Progressive dealers around the country are deploying technology and empowering their sales teams to streamline the entire process. And while many dealerships refuse to change, most sit somewhere in between — trying to enhance the experience, but without the tools or buy-in to make it stick.
As we head into 2019 and a world of declining SAAR, customer satisfaction and efficiency are going to be critical areas of focus for dealers to both obtain and retain buyers. As the CMO of a technology company in the space, let me be the first to say — technology itself is not enough to accomplish these goals. How you train and empower your teams to use the technology and streamline your operation is the key to a successful future.
Don’t believe me? Late last year the Roadster team set out to put some data behind this phenomenon. Not only did we survey over 1,500 consumers, but we also observed “transactions in the wild” at eight dealerships, representing six different brands. Here’s what we found:
Customer satisfaction significantly drops every time the salesperson leaves the customer’s side.
Thanks to our friends at AutoTrader, we already know that satisfaction drops significantly after the customer has spent 90 minutes in your showroom. We also know that customers are relatively pleased with the salesperson (73% satisfied), and that time is the true killer of satisfaction.
How we reduce ‘time spent in dealership’ and provide happier experiences has been up for debate. But if there is one thing I have learned over the years it’s this: Doubling down on your strengths is the fastest way to success.
If people are generally happy with your salespeople, keep them with their sales professional longer.
During our onsite observations, salespeople were leaving their customers alone every 20 minutes during the transaction to do a variety of tasks. Every 20 minutes! Not because they want to (although some admitted to doing it intentionally to create the appearance of getting something approved), but because the process you created for your showroom requires it. They must get manager approval for pricing, credit, deal terms, trade valuations, F&I product review and more.
And what were those customers doing while the salesperson was away? Whether that was texting a spouse about their uncertainty, web-rooming your competitor or doing research on 3rd-party sites — they were busy talking themselves off of your deal.
6 out of 10 times customers were re-evaluating the deal.
It’s time to take a good look in the sales process mirror and make the changes necessary to keep your customers with their salesperson longer.
Technology exists to remove duplication and reduce time-intensive aspects of the transaction. But training is key, as many of the salespeople observed were reluctant to use the technology available to them.
Don’t let 2019 go by without empowering your sales team to do more. Not only will it increase your customer satisfaction scores, but, if done right, it will also improve your bottom line by taking waste out of the equation.
The cost of not evolving is too high. The dealerships that deliver a great buying experience will undoubtedly earn a disproportionate share of the market. And with new dealer model threats such as Carvana, Carmax, Tesla, etc. nipping at your heels, the time to take action is now. Taxi companies did nothing to streamline the consumer experience with technology and look where they are now — Uber and Lyft are eating them for breakfast.
So, take a step forward and empower your frontline people. The game of telephone was fun as a child but has no place on your showroom floor. Keep salespeople with your customers longer and you’ll create customers for life.
Download the full copy of the Roadster Time Study report.
Michelle Denogean is the Chief Marketing Officer of Roadster, the leading Commerce Platform for the automotive industry, where she oversees Marketing, Insights & Analytics.
To find out how Roadster’s Omnichannel Commerce offering can help you empower your salespeople, go to roadster.com to schedule a demo.