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How A Customer-Centric Sales Process Boosts Profits — Part 1

More than just good customer service or a friendly salesperson, Customer Centricity goes to the heart of your dealership. It means approaching your business mindset from a customer-first perspective. Switching your perspective from dealer-first to customer-first doesn’t mean a less successful dealership — in fact, focusing on creating a customer-centric sales experience has been proven to increase profits.

In this two-part guide, we’ll take you through what you need to do to create a customer-centric sales process and the financial benefits of taking these actions.

 

How To Craft a Customer-Centric Sales Experience:

There are two steps in adjusting your current sales experience to fit a customer-centric model:

  1. Remove or reduce (as much as possible) the common pain points and concerns that modern car shoppers have during the sales process.
  2. Take your sales experience to the next level. Beyond easing common pains, concerns, and doubts, the customer-centric sales process should encourage an emotionally-engaged shopper.

Be advised: Both of these steps will require work, but more importantly, they also demand a shift in mindset. Part of succeeding with customer centricity is seeing creative and innovative ways for your own dealership to provide a better experience to your shoppers — and without adopting a customer-centric mindset when it comes to business, it’s unlikely you’ll see all the opportunities.

In Part 1 of this guide, we’ll cover the first step to creating a customer-centric sales experience. Without further ado, let’s jump in.

 

Step #1: Getting Rid of Car Shopper Frustration

Naturally, our first action in removing frustrations from the sales process is to identify those frustrations. To make the process easier, we’ve taken care of that for you. Below are some of the key areas of the sales experience that produce frustration for shoppers.

 

#1. During Interaction and Negotiation

Car shoppers dread the moment of interaction with a dealership. In fact, 99% of automotive shoppers begin their purchase journey already expecting it to be a “hassle.”

To be fair, this impression is based on pretty compelling evidence. Proof comes from their experience, or that of a friend/family member, with a salesperson trying to steer the sale and push their goals on the shopper.

With this the expectation for their experience, is it any wonder that most shoppers don’t even contact the dealership before arriving at the lot?  

Next Steps For Improving Interaction and Negotiation:

Let your website do some of the heavy lifting:

Your shoppers are already spending more and more of the car-buying process online — don’t fight that trend. 90% of car shoppers prefer a dealership where they can start the buying process online. Practice good online customer-centricity. Make it exceptionally easy and hassle-free for your shoppers to get the information they want without having to interact with your dealership. When they do arrive at the lot — you can blow them away once again with your customer-centric experience.

When it comes to negotiation, online is also the way to go. 61% of car shoppers in a survey were extremely or very likely to use an online tool to replace negotiations with the dealer. Easy pricing and “get this price” CTAs can help shoppers initiate the negotiation process on their own terms, timing, and from the comfort and convenience of their own home.

Keep your sales process short, fun, and easy. Car buying is still incredibly exciting, but tedium can tank that. By shifting tasks to customers online, your staff has more time and energy to focus on total customer-centricity.

 

#2. Test Drives

The test drive is, and will almost certainly remain, one of the essential components of the sales experience when it comes to vehicles.  

Even Carvana’s car vending machine has a test drive. The entire buying process is done online and you can pick up your car from the vending machine. You even insert a coin to get your car (a totally unnecessary step that is still very cool). The only part of the process that resembles a traditional dealership is the test drive (although it can be up to 7 days long).

The test drive endures (even as more of the buying process shifts online) because 88% of consumers report that they wouldn’t buy a vehicle before they test drive it. Shoppers want to try out vehicle they could be driving for more than a decade before they take it off the lot. But the majority of shoppers still don’t like some elements of the test-drive process — like the fact that it takes place with a salesperson.

It isn’t uncommon for salespeople to hijack the test drive in an attempt to promote the vehicle and win the sale. What shoppers want to be an informative, experiential, and overall exploratory experience becomes a tedious exercise.

Shoppers are looking for convenience and consideration — not pressure. They’d prefer test drives with product specialists, not salespeople.

Next Steps For Improving Test Drives

Offer Total Convenience:

Car shoppers think of the test-drive as a demo, and like any good demo, they want to be able to focus on the product. Help them do that by making your test-drive focus total convenience. You can do this in a multitude of ways, including:

  • Making it possible to schedule or sign up for a test-drive directly from your website.
  • Offering a Test Drive delivery system — where you bring the requested model to your shopper’s home or place of work.  
  • If you’re extra confident, you can suggest driving over to a different dealership if they want to quickly jump in a car and compare models.

Consider a “No-Pressure” Test Drive:

Create (and market) a no-pressure test-drive. Let shoppers know that they get to drive with a product specialist to answer any questions — not a salesperson who’ll deliver a pitch.

 

#3. F&I and Pricing

Customers experience a significant amount of frustrating dealing with the actual financial logistics of purchasing a car. In fact, interactions with the financing department and the length of the car sales process are what shoppers like the least about buying a car at a dealership.  

Shoppers are also dissatisfied with how some dealers handle pricing — namely, they hate when transparent pricing information is withheld. In fact, 50% of car shoppers say they will walk out of a dealership if the dealer requires a test drive before providing a price. That number drops slightly, to 43%, if the dealer requires personal information.

Shoppers want information on pricing, laid out with total transparency, and the more time or information they have to give to get that information, the more they’ll start to think about competitors — and how available their pricing information might be.

Next Steps For Improving F&I and Pricing

Shift F&I Online:

Again, shift this online. Nearly 70% of shoppers expected to find the ability to configure a payment on a dealership website, and according to 83%, online buying technology would help them narrow down their vehicle choice and determine what is affordable. 70% of consumers said they prefer to start the F&I process online as it will shorten the process and be a better experience. Shoppers already want and expect these tools, deliver them, and you’ll reap the benefits.

Deliver Transparent Pricing:

Shoppers don’t want to deal with any confusion or inaccuracy when it comes to pricing. Delivering transparent pricing breakdowns on your website means not only can shoppers know their exact price before they arrive, it also means that salespeople armed with tablets or mobile devices can show shoppers an easy-to-understand pricing breakdown from anywhere on the lot.

The beauty of customer-centricity is that it is not-so-secretly just as good for the business. There are real financial benefits to improving your customer experience during the sales process (and at your dealership as a whole). We’ve laid them out below.

 

Benefits of Improving CX (by Removing Frustrations and Pain Points)

Improving your dealerships customer experience, particularly regarding the sales process, can result in:

  1. Average additional profit of $291,000 per year
    • A Forrester study from 2017 reports that a single point increase in the CX Index score would result in $48.50 in revenue per customer (~$291,000 per year for a modest-sized dealership).
  2. Up to 24% lift in sales
    • Driving Sales found that automotive sales could rise as much as 24% if customer experience were to be improved.
  3. Customers that spend more
    • As you build relationships and customers trust you more, the amount they are willing to spend increases. Loyal customers eventually spend 67% more than new customers.

The dealerships that will see the benefits above are those that are adjusting quickly to the new reality: The shopper has the power now. Many of their frustrations arise from areas where dealers are still trying to control something they feel they can easily do themselves. That frustration can be particularly sharp when not only do they feel they could do it themselves, but that the could have also done it online.

Remember to shift as much of the tedious parts of the sales process online. Only the most exciting, thrilling, and emotionally-engaging parts of the sales process (and the final necessary bureaucracy) should need to take place at the dealership. If your website is as customer-centric as your dealership, you are set to rake in sales.

To really craft a customer-centric sales process, we have to go further than just addressing the pain points car shoppers experience on a daily basis. The second step is to engage car shoppers on an emotional level. Next post, we’ll go over this second step — and the frankly amazing financial benefits — in Part II of this guide.