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Up in a Down Market: Navigating the Evolving Customer Experience, Part 3

I believe, eventually, you’ll be able to do everything online and have the dealership deliver to the home. For people who want that, that will be more of the norm in five to 10 years. Of course, there will still be some people who’ll want to come in, drive the car and shop.

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Market forces might be beyond the control of a dealer or GM, but how their dealership reacts to those forces is something they have power over. As consumer demands evolve and technology comes more and more into play, we’ve been asking our Dealer Panel how they make sure their dealership not only stays up with the times, but plans for the future.

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AutoSuccess: Customers are demanding a quicker, more streamlined shopping experience, much like they do with online retailers. How has your dealership refined the customer experience when it comes to sales and service?


Andrew DiFeo, GM of Hyundai of St. Augustine: From the sales side, we utilize a digital retailing tool on our Website that the consumer can use to see pricing and get their trade in appraised, as well as send in their credit application to get interest rates and payments, all online. We’ve been doing that without the digital retailing solution for years, trying to build a seamless sales experience, but now with that tool, we can save the customer even more time, and we can promote the fact that the customer doesn’t even have to come to the dealership; once that digital retailing solution has been completed from start to finish, we can do all the paperwork via phone, fax or email and deliver the car to their door. For the service experience, obviously we encourage online service scheduling. Again, that starts with sales — when they make the sale, they enroll the customer online to schedule a service appointment. We also show them that they can sign up for service appointments through the Hyundai Blue Link application in their car. Once they are in service, we do use tablets in the service drive and that allows us, if the customer isn’t physically there, to email them photos and videos of their car for recommended work. It also allows the consumer to pay online so they can simply pick up their keys and go.


Chris Saraceno, VP and Partner of Kelly Automotive Group: We have it to the point now where you could pretty much do everything online. Other than signing the paperwork and touching the car, you can do it all online. You can negotiate, fill out your credit app and, if a customer wants us to deliver the car — especially a customer who has bought cars from us in the past — we can deliver it. We’re looking at two different online retailing tools that will allow us to do even more. I believe, eventually, you’ll be able to do everything online and have the dealership deliver to the home. For people who want that, that will be more of the norm in five to 10 years. Of course, there will still be some people who’ll want to come in, drive the car and shop.


Kimberly Cardinal Piscatelli, Vice President and Partner of Cardinal Honda: Quicker, more streamlined service begins with the customer’s ability to schedule their appointments on their terms. Whether it means speaking to a sales or service consultant on the phone, via chat or online with a mobile app, the customer expects to walk down the path to the sale on their own terms. In service, texting allows customers to be kept up to speed with diagnostics, appointment progress and, in some cases, authorize additional work conveniently and remotely from their mobile devices. On the sales side, today’s shoppers expect to do most or all of their research online before ever stepping foot in your dealership. They expect to be able to research your up-to-the-minute inventory, your business philosophy, company history, charitable involvement, online reputation and green dealer status before the real shopping begins — all from their mobile devices. A one-price sales approach, F&I menus and thoughtful scheduling refine the experience to the extent that the sales process can be completed in record time. This is important since today’s vehicle deliveries are taking longer than ever with so many new features standard on even entry-level models. The delivery process can be streamlined as much as possible with personalized setting worksheets completed by the customer prior to delivery. Radio station presets, rear hatch height, back up camera angles, auto lock/unlock settings, phone pairings, adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist are just a few of the features your customer will want dialed in to their preferences before they ride off in their new car. Even those customers who demand the quickest, most streamlined shopping experience tend to slow down when it comes to understanding all the bells and whistles in their new ride.


Mike Good, GM of Street Toyota: Bottom line, the only thing that separates us from our competition is the level of experience we offer. Simply put, we are in the experience business first and foremost! An earlier question addressed our service department efforts. As for sales, we discovered the Website seemed to offer the “Keys to the Kingdom.” After evaluating it and the associated analytics to determine overall efficiency, we found several customer-friendly vendors such as Trade-In-Valet, Car Gurus and CarNow that influence the end result that speaks to customers favoring efficiency. Lastly, we turned to process and human interaction factors. We added an experienced sales BDC manager and are getting better, more accurate results. He has trained his staff to handle leads quickly while setting time and performance expectations. We will complete any transaction in person, online, over the phone and/or by delivering the vehicle to anywhere the guest requests.


Next month, we’ll continue our look at navigating the ups and downs of the sales process by asking our panel about how competition changes when the auto sales market gets tighter.

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