New car buyers still walk into a dealership to purchase the actual vehicle, but most would prefer to spend less time on-site, giving the dealer and sales team less time to build a trusted relationship with customers.  - Image by NORTONOSX via GettyImages.com

New car buyers still walk into a dealership to purchase the actual vehicle, but most would prefer to spend less time on-site, giving the dealer and sales team less time to build a trusted relationship with customers. 

Image by NORTONOSX via GettyImages.com

Auto manufacturers continue to advance their vehicles with gadgets, music streaming, cameras, assisted driving, and even the ability to order food. While the connected car evolves, so has the customer. The average customer looking to purchase a car spends less time in an actual dealership, and more time researching car makes, models, and feature. According to AutoTrader, new car buyers still walk into a dealership to purchase the actual vehicle, but most would prefer to spend less time on-site, especially as more of the car buying process shifts online. All of this brings about a new reality: the dealer and sales team have limited time to engage and build a trusted relationship with customers.

Today, knowing the customer ahead of their arrival at the dealership, maximizing the efficiency of on-site visits, and offering services that meet their post-sale needs will create a trusting and engaging environment tailored to the modern car buyer.

Additionally, 72% of car buyers will use their own mechanic and do not utilize the services provided by the dealership. Needless to say, once a customer finds their dream car, they often drive away never to be seen again. This is a problem, considering the service and parts departments make up over 49% of a dealership’s revenue.

So what can be done?

Get to Know Your Customers Before They Arrive

Today’s car buyer has already researched the car they want and will spend their time at less dealerships, according to the 2019 Cox Car Buyer Journey. They are walking in with a game plan, complete with all their preferences and other research. While there will be a few who can be persuaded to add extra features, most buyers have made up their mind. Understanding buying behavior creates a new dynamic for dealerships. Train your team to make your customer feel welcome and be receptive to their preferences. It’s also worth re-examining your dealership’s website and ensuring that key vehicle information is easily accessible to online car shoppers. According to AutoTrader, 1-in-6 car buyers do not buy from the first dealership simply because of a poor sales experience. It’s critical to know your customer and make sure your online experience is adapted to meet their needs.

Efficient In-Dealership Process

Walking into a dealership is a stressful experience because it is an expensive life decision for many buyers, and many people dislike the time it takes to buy a car. Unfamiliar car jargon and a lack of transparency only heighten the level of stress for customers.

When it comes to transparency, customers care about the vehicle history and cost. Approximately 47% of car buyers said they’d like to know the total cost of the vehicle versus only the monthly cost.

Another area where customers would like to see much greater efficiency during a dealership visit is the time it takes to locate a test-drive vehicle, find out if the vehicle is in stock, and see if the car is ready to drive off the lot as soon as the paperwork is done. More dealerships have embraced smart telematics solutions to monitor the location and health of vehicles on their vast lots. For dealerships with a large inventory or multiple lots, these solutions can be a necessity. A simple hiccup like not being able to locate a test drive vehicle — or finding that car only to discover its battery is dead — can jeopardize CSI scores or even sales.

Aftermarket Telematics Solutions Can Open Up Opportunities

Part of understanding the modern car buyer is sensing their comfort level, with technology and any expectations of benefits it will bring, in making their life easier. This is one way to continue the relationship past the sale to increase customer loyalty and revenue for dealerships.

Dealerships that view telematics services as a way to build trust and loyalty with customers can drive recurring revenue for their business. This is a win-win for dealers and customers because these services provide convenience and peace of mind to customers, with features from maintenance alerts and roadside assistance, to speed alerts and arrival notification for parents with teenage drivers. At the same time, dealers can benefit by leveraging these services as a post-sale customer touchpoint to capture service and maintenance revenue.

These new types of telematics services go beyond the traditional – but highly valuable – offerings, like stolen vehicle recovery services, which also provide security and peace of mind to car owners. All of the services create an ongoing two-way relationship between the car buyer and the dealership, which can last beyond the sale. 

The automotive industry has evolved quickly, and so has customer buying behavior and technology. But some things don’t change. Customers always want good service and transparent relationships with vendors. Car buyers want the latest technology to tell them it’s time for maintenance before a major problem happens, or if their teenager has arrived at their destination safely. And if they do visit a dealership, they also want to know the customer service they’re seeking is available right then and there.

Today, knowing the customer ahead of their arrival at the dealership, maximizing the efficiency of on-site visits, and offering services that meet their post-sale needs will create a trusting and engaging environment tailored to the modern car buyer.   

Steve Manzi is the vice president of Connected Car at LoJack.

Read: Expert Advice for F&I During COVID-19

Originally posted on F&I and Showroom

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