The world of retail has gone through an intense period of change in recent years.
Artificial intelligence, omnichannel marketing and improvements – or sometimes retractions – in customer experience are changing the way we experience the markets of today. The same is happening in the world of car dealerships.
To help sort through it all, let’s explore some of the core characteristics of the successful dealership of today – and tomorrow.
1. Haggle-free prices
Buying a car is a big deal. After all, having a ride is attached to so many elements of our lives. When driving away from the dealership, we all want that blissful feeling of having purchased the right vehicle at the right price.
Dealerships that are stuck in the past in terms of commissions are going to fall behind. Those that nurture a service-centered approach, without the pressures of elevated sticker prices, find themselves growing.
Many years ago, we made the decision to back away from sale-price-based commissions. Today, we’re enjoying high customer experience scores and associates who are motivated to find the best possible vehicle for customers’ needs and budget – not a higher price.
2. Guarantees and what ifs…
What if I don’t like my car? What if things don’t pan out as expected? Some car dealerships have a rigorous quality-control process that allows them to stand behind every vehicle they carry. Some even offer a flexible return policy whereby pre-owned car buyers can return their vehicle within a period of time (or miles driven) for a refund if they are not completely satisfied.
The truth is that sometimes things change fast and in unexpected ways. You’ll want to purchase from a dealership that ‘has your back’ through the what-ifs.
3. Customer experience
Where does the customer stand in the company’s corporate culture? Dealerships that speak to the customer experience both on their website and in person are worth looking into.
The rationale and reality is simple: Dealerships that prioritize the customer experience and convenience grow, retain staff and get positive reviews.
Some dealerships have introduced virtual showrooms, concierge-like services that include contactless purchasing, online chats and customer support, to name a few, that help eliminate friction and strain from the buying experience. Seeing services like these is a good indication of what you can expect.
4. Honesty and trust
Online reviews are important. Dealerships that have recent and relevant reviews have earned the trust of everyday customers. Having reviews is good, but industry-leading dealerships will actively monitor these reviews and make them a part of their continuous improvement processes, exploring how they can improve based on customer feedback.
Regularly tracking reviews and customer feedback helps dealerships swiftly spot concerns that need to be addressed as well as opportunities.
5. Staying power (longevity)
Experience matters, especially in the automotive and retail industries. When investing in a car, customers benefit when they’re in the hands of a group of persons who have been around for a few years, experienced enough to know the balance between accommodating budgets and needs, and know the vehicle options on the market.
Dealerships that have been in business for a while have a loyal customer base because they understand the role of a vehicle in the lives of their customers. These dealerships also have greater access to cars and a knack for helping customers find that needle in the haystack – that perfect vehicle for one’s particular needs and lifestyle.
Keep these traits in mind the next time you’re looking to upgrade or change your car, and hopefully you’ll find them all.
Erin Williamson (left) is national director of marketing at HGreg.com, part of HGregoire, a network of more than 30 new and pre-owned car dealerships in North America.