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How to Become User-Friendly

Creating a “user-friendly” dealership is important. Yet many of the initiatives designed to accomplish this become roadblocks that irritate, frustrate and drive customers elsewhere.

Creating a “user-friendly” dealership is important. Yet many of the initiatives designed to accomplish this become roadblocks that irritate, frustrate and drive customers elsewhere.

The first step in creating a user-friendly dealership is to identify the roadblocks.

Has the management team shopped the store as if they were customers? If so, how long ago? Managers must observe their store's environment and interaction from this vantage point monthly.

Call the dealership. What happens? Use the web site. Is it user-friendly?

By experiencing the business from the customers' perspective, managers can refine processes and knock down roadblocks that discourage and frustrate customers and employees.

Working with dealerships nationwide, Automotive Profit Builders identified barriers consistently listed by customers.

Problems center on screening calls, difficult web site interaction, poor image and asking, “Would you buy if I…?”

Screening Calls:

Without exception, it tops the list, whether by an automated system or the receptionist. When a customer calls they often face an interrogation before being transferred, typically to an impersonal voicemail system. True story:

“I recently called a high line luxury dealership and asked for a sales person, as I wanted to buy a new car. The receptionist asked what kind of vehicle I was interested in. When I told her, she said the person who handles that model was not in and offered to send me to voicemail, even though it was the last day of the month. I wondered if they were they interested in selling me a car, or finding ways not to.”

With an automated system the scene may play like this:

“Please speak your name.” “Press one for sales, two for…” “Press one for new cars, two for…” “To check on a delivery press…” “This is Joe, I can't take your call right now…”

Dealerships are sales organizations, and every call is an opportunity. Any barrier to sales should be eliminated. Call screening has no function in a dealership. When a customer asks for a sales person or a manager they should get one — immediately.

Web Site Interaction:

Keeping web site interaction user-friendly is essential. Managers should navigate their site to determine ease of use.

Does every page prominently display important information — especially the dealership's phone number, street address and email?

Are the pages uncluttered and well organized? Do the graphics reflect the brand and dealer image? Do tools easily let customers conduct research, find and buy vehicles, and schedule service?

Is the e-mail inquiry form straightforward or does it require a life history? Does an e-mail get an immediate response from a sales person (automated responses should be avoided) the same day or the next morning, if the inquiry comes in after business hours?

If these basics are not in place, the web site may be a barrier that prevents customers from calling or visiting.


The image of the dealership, from the design and decor to the way employees dress, can be an asset or a barrier.

A customer is less apt to spend $40,000 on a new car when the salesperson is wearing a casual or overly worn outfit instead of being professionally dressed.

The same holds for a dealership with cluttered desks, messy bathrooms (often crucial in shaping perceptions), or a littered lot.

Dress your employees and your dealership for success. First impressions can often become last impressions.

“Would you buy if I…?”:

This outdated term is a sure-fire roadblock. It indicates the salesperson is more interested in selling a car than in finding the right vehicle for the customer.

Customers hear this (all too often) and think, “He isn't listening to me or care what I want, he just wants the sale.”

Richard F. Libin is president of Automotive Profit Builders Inc. that works with dealerships on customer satisfaction and maximizing sales and gross profits. He is at [email protected] or 508-626-9200.

Questions or comments about this column? Send us an e-mail at [email protected].

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