Car Shopping – More Painful than Water Torture

December 18, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Blog

Do you make your customers buying experience easy or difficult?

Stressed car shopper-resized-600While I have never experienced water torture I have had the unpleasant experience of car shopping, car buying, and car purchase negotiation.  I keep a car much longer than I would like. I procrastinate buying a new car to avoid the agony of the experience.

How many companies, knowingly or unknowingly, make the purchasing process more difficult than it need be?  How often is the buying experience geared towards meeting the needs of the seller first and the needs of the customers second?

Case in Point:

I broke down and went car shopping last weekend.  I started at an Infiniti dealer. I asked the salesman if I might test drive the vehicle of my choice. I let him know I had limited time but the test drive would help me get to my short list of cars.  The salesman asked me to fill out a form, hand over my license, and allow him to make a copy of it.  I was flabbergasted.  I said, “With identify theft what it is I am not comfortable with a copy of my driver’s license lying around a dealership.”  I understand his need to know I was a licensed driver but that’s all that made sense.  After all, I wasn’t going to test drive the car without the sales guy, so why did he need a copy?  He puffed out his chest and said “that’s our policy.”  I said, “No thanks, you are now out of the running.”  I went next door to Volvo; same story.  Neither salesperson cared that a qualified lead walked out the door.  They just knew it was “their policy,” and if I didn’t like it, “too bad.”

I was now curious to learn if this ID check with a copy on file is truly required, by law or some higher power I was not aware of, in order to test drive a car.  The next closest dealership up the road was Toyota. I pulled in to test my question. A salesman was immediately at my door. I asked to test drive an Avalon; he said, “Sure, let me get the keys.  I will be right back.”  No copy of my license, no form to fill out. He made test driving easy and pleasant. While I was not originally considering an Avalon, I was suddenly feeling very positive about the car. Much to my surprise, how my car shopping experience was handled by this dealership had a surprising shadow effect on my choice. I began to seriously consider the Avalon as an option.

Still undecided, I went to Lexus.  Same as Toyota: you can test drive anything you want.  No form to fill out, no copy of my license. This felt so much better.

All kinds of businesses forget they are not the only game in town. I have written before about how a corporate policy may hinder sales. Sometimes the sales person becomes so rigidly compliant to a policy, there is no room to accommodate a customer’s request.

Businesses must remember, more often than not, it’s not what you sell but How You Sell.  How relevant are you in meeting the needs of the customer, not just in providing the product or service they need, but how relevant are you in meeting their purchasing experience needs.

Reflections:

  • What can you do to streamline the purchasing experience for your customers and prospects?  Do you have too many forms to fill out?  If you provide on line ordering, is it easy?  I have aborted many an online sale simply because the site and purchase process was too complicated.
  • Are your salespeople given any “policy” leeway to save a customer’s experience, or have your needs to acquire customer data become so important you have lost sight of speed and ease for your customers?

These questions can provide your company with either a competitive advantage or competitive disadvantage.  The former will close more sales every time.

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