We live in the world of technology. Yet, no matter what the technology is, it needs people to operate and interact with it. More importantly, people still crave human interaction, especially when it comes to buying cars.
Technology simplifies life by putting virtually everything on autopilot – your stove, CrockPot and coffee pot, automatic sprinklers, door locks, lights and bathrooms faucets – at home, work and on the go.
Even airplanes have autopilots. But all this technology still requires people to control it, change it or interact with it. This is especially true with technology in fast-food sales, a model some say the automotive industry should emulate.
A cash register with a digital screen provides the cashier with a menu of options. When complete, the order is sent to a screen for the cook and a receipt ensures every item is complete. Each step of the process requires people.
Customers ask questions or discuss options. Cashiers provide information that helps the cook prepares food exactly the way the customer wants it, and it’s served. Technology simplifies the process.
Buying a car is not the same as eating at a fast-food restaurant. It’s an investment. The average transaction price of a new car is nearly $32,000. For the average American in 2014, it was more than half their $53,891 yearly income. (CNN Money).
Technology simplifies car buying. It helps consumers prepare to make a $32,000 decision before they get to a dealership. Consumers spend hours researching online, talking to friends, reading, checking pricing and financing options, and perhaps, even driving or riding in the car they’re considering.
While this speeds the car-buying process, it doesn’t replace the human interaction.
A study on car buying behavior indicates consumers spend an average of 16.7 hours researching their next new car online and yet 84% of women and millennial consumers want to buy their car in person.
Why? They want human interaction, to see, touch and experience the vehicle, to talk to experts and learn more about the product they may purchase.
There are two clear messages here for dealers.
First, there is value in investing in mobile apps and digital tools, processes that speed and smooth the final transaction steps. This could include starting some of the paperwork online in advance.
Digital marketing, blogs, social media and easily navigated mobile-friendly websites are essential to delivering information directly to consumers. While technology will never replace the personal interaction of a phone call or hand-written thank you card, the study concludes a good online experience will bring buyers into a dealership more often.
Moreover, in-house technology that provide traffic counts, automatically collects customer data, creates reports and provides analysis, is important in driving your improvements.
Second, educating salespeople as experts is vital for finding the right balance between technology and human interaction. Dealers must constantly develop the product and service expertise of their salespeople while continually training and educating them on basic sales processes, ways to better interact with customers and how to enhance the customer experience through technology.
Dealers must never lose sight of the fact that technology doesn’t sell cars. People do.
Over-using technology dehumanizes the sales process, and buying a car is a deeply human and emotional experience that’s embedded in American culture.
For a dealership, this means never losing sight of your most valuable assets: salespeople, customers and the human relationships that bind them together. The newest technology can’t replace that.
Richard F. Libin is the author of the book, “Who Stopped the Sale?” (www.whostoppedthesale.com) and president of Automotive Profit Builders, a firm with nearly 50 years of experience working with both sales and service personnel on customer satisfaction and maximizing profits through development and technology. He is at [email protected] or 508-626-9200 or www.apb.cc.