“The customer’s perception is your reality.” This quote by Kate Zabriskie, author and learning and development consultant, captures the truth for every single business owner. How the customer perceives the service they are getting from a company defines the enterprise’s reputation and overall success. For dealers, cracking the code of the needs of a new generation of consumers can be daunting. With new expectations and increased use of technology, dealers have to sift through the noise to determine what consumers are honestly looking for in their car buying experience. Well, we have some data and current trends to make this a bit easier for dealers. Read on for data concerning what customers are actively looking for in their car buying experience.

An Informative and Easy-To-Navigate Dealership Website

According to AutoTrader, car buyers spend 59 percent of their time researching the car they want online. This is before they ever enter the doors of a dealership. Potential car buyers are more informed and prepared than ever before. Therefore, dealerships have to make sure vehicle description pages are as informative as possible, and that there is a method where customers can get in contact with a representative whether through chat or a lead form.

Sites Optimized for Mobile Usage

A study by DEM Automotive found that vehicle buyers using a branded app were 73 percent more likely to purchase from the dealership. They also spent more and booked more service appointments than non-app users. Dealers have to meet consumers where they are, and the destination seems to be centered on a mobile app. This feature appears to facilitate the relationship between dealers and customers better.

Consulting Rather Than Selling

Customers are entering dealerships with more information than they have ever had before. This means that customers are looking for sales professionals who are more so in the role of a consultant rather than a seller. Customers want an experience that is peer-to-peer, where sellers treat customers as equals who work with them to find the best option. Reps should allow customers to take the lead and take cues from their family situation, budget, and what they are looking for overall.

Transparent Pricing

Cox Automotive’s 2018 Car Buyer Journey report showed that buyers are the least satisfied with pricing. This information has caused many customers to regret the final price they paid for a vehicle. This development has made many feel a level of distrust with dealers. Consumers are looking for a more transparent pricing process that informs them of the market context. Sonic Automotive dealerships have recognized this trend and installed no-haggle pricing determined by the fair market value of the car.

A Shorter and Simpler F&I Process

Another piece of data found in the Cox Automotive study mentioned above was the lowest amount of satisfaction in the car buying process were interactions with the F&I department and the length of time it took to complete paperwork. Consumers want a much shorter F&I process where either pre-approval is handled before they enter the dealership or a process where their information can be managed digitally.

An Effective Showroom Experience

This new generation of car buyers is looking for flexibility and speed in their dealings. One way dealers can help with this is to instruct the sales team to use technology to speed up the process. Using an iPad that has pricing, mileage, vehicle history, fueling data, and feature information on every car in and outside of the showroom can give customers that “consultant” experience they are seeking. This same technology can even be used to compare competitor pricing and locate limited time offers for specific vehicles. The goal should be to provide as much information as possible for customers to make an informed decision.

Even though technology is expected to be a more substantial part of the vehicle purchasing process, traditional customer service values still stand. Providing consumers with transparent pricing, excellent support, attention to their needs, and shorter operations are essential to developing a cohesive and impressive customer service experience. While technology can help make these principles a reality, they have to be built into the core principles and values of how a dealership operates. Once customers know dealerships places these ideas first, then the likelihood of a purchase and a definite referral is more than possible.

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