The old way of selling cars is old hat. A trip to the local shopping mall demonstrates the new trend in buying, which is a customer experience. Look at the Apple Store design, or the style of service you receive at Starbucks. The former successes in new and used car dealerships where customers were sold a product on the salesperson’s terms is no longer relevant in the market today.
Dealership design, both physically and in the sales process, is becoming increasingly consumer-focused instead of dealer-centric. It’s becoming about the customer experience, and not about haggling for the best price.
A New Type of Salesperson
Jeff Dyke, Executive VP of Operations at Sonic Automotive, detailed their approach to CBT News in the clip above. Their sales team members are known as ‘experience guides’ who walk a customer through any part of their visit. From trade-in appraisals and needs assessments to writing up the sales agreement, the experience guides at Sonic Automotive’s EchoPark used car stores are solely focused on the customer’s satisfaction.
And unlike the old-hat sales method, it’s not about selling a car right away. Jeff Dyke comments, “They don’t have to buy a car today. I just want to educate them on who we are and what we’re doing. I know they’re going to come back and buy a car because the experience is that good.”
Before EchoPark experience guides ever makes contact with a customer, they must complete a mandatory 60-day training program. Only the highest caliber staff members are found on the sales floor.
A New Type of Purchase
Old-model dealerships still treat the sales process as a negotiation. According to Dyke, 50- to 60 percent of car buyers don’t want to be bothered with haggling on a fair price. The belief is that each customer should pay the same fair price so the focus can remain on a complete, exceptional customer service experience.
The new dealership design encourages no-haggle fixed pricing which eliminates a hurdle for a salesperson to overcome. An open, transparent experience can vastly improve trust and build a relationship between salesperson and buyer.
A New Type of Facility
The physical design of a forward-thinking dealership is a totally different approach than the former type of automotive store.
- Technology is used to enhance the customer’s experience, both as a knowledge-building tool and as an authoritarian source for the sales team members.
- The environment is comfortable and happy, sifting out the stress customers feels when stepping inside a dealership.
- New dealership design uses a flow between departments that is aesthetically pleasing and much less factory-like or utilitarian.
- A coffee and snack bar and a kids’ play area helps minimize interruptions in the sales process, because both customers and dealership staff agree the old process takes too long from start to finish.
The dealership design is more than just about the sales floor. The complete customer experience includes parts, service, accessories, and auto body departments, which are all incorporated seamlessly into the design.
This modern approach soothes the customer during the car-buying experience and creates a trusting environment. Compared to the old-school model where dealers ‘grind out’ sales with a customer, the changes in dealer design are much more consumer-friendly and forge profitable symbiotic relationships.