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Spoiled Rotten Customers

Spoiled Rotten Customers

Christine Plunkett

Instant gratification is the desire to experience pleasure or fulfillment without delay or deferment. Basically, it’s the Veruca Salt complex. Whatever you want, you want it now. Businesses that embrace solutions designed to satisfy human impulsiveness will thrive. Those who resist making the necessary adaptations and continue to force customers through the traditional sales process “steps,” will go the way of Blockbuster.

It is difficult for automotive sales professionals to back away from the process and objectively identify areas for improvement. We tend to do it this way because this is the way we’ve always done it. We believe our customers are expecting the same experience with each new car purchase, but this could not be further from the truth. Think about all of the non-automotive purchases a typical consumer experiences between their last dealership visit and their next one. What are they learning about sales?

We can order our groceries online and pick them up at the store. We can have Taco Bell delivered to our front door in a few minutes. A stranger will pick us up for a ride if we tap a button on our phones. Amazon is open 24-hours a day and seemingly offers everything – again – delivered right to your door. Electric scooters are strewn about our city streets in case we just don’t feel like walking anymore today. Instead of toiling for weeks to design a homemade Halloween costume for our kid, we just click the mouse and one appears in two days or less.

I think you get the picture. Some might argue that these are not comparable to automotive purchases because they require less money and decision-making time. So, let’s look at some bigger ticket items. When shopping for a new home, traditionally, buyers would coordinate with an experienced real estate agent and physically go visit all the properties of interest. Today, we can experience a 3D, panoramic, interactive, virtual tour of everything from an apartment down the street to a seventy-eight million dollar mansion in Ireland. We apply for mortgage loans online, instead of at the family bank.

The result of all this instant gratification? We’re spoiled rotten shoppers.

We’re being trained by every other industry and retailer to expect fast, easy, online transactions. We are conditioned to receive what we want, how we want it, when we want it, without having to talk to anyone. Our phones are still capable of placing calls, but that’s not what we use them for. We’ll send our own mother to voicemail and text her back, “What’s up?” So why would we expect a new car shopper to regress in order to fit our outdated car sales processes?

We shouldn’t.

Now here’s a real kick in the head. Despite all of this irrefutable evidence supporting the idea of selling cars completely online, automotive digital retailing solutions tend to return lackluster results. Considering all the desire for fast easy transactions, shouldn’t customers just buy the car online when given the opportunity? Actually, no. For starters, the current crop of digital retailing solutions were designed without consideration for how car dealers are selling cars in the showroom. Without a fully coordinated effort, where everyone is on the same page from the website, to the BDC, in the showroom, at the sales desk, back in F&I, through to delivery, these “solutions” are nothing more than a detour from which the sales team must recover before plugging along with the traditional process.

So what do we do?

We accept the reality of our current capabilities while still considering and satisfying the desires of our impatient customers. The answer is a hybrid of old school and new. An amalgamation of transparent, digital, instant information about the vehicle of interest is a solid first step to entice customers to lower their guard and acquiesce to the slower, though often still necessary, car buying formalities.

Interestingly, when given the option to buy a car completely online, only a very small percentage of people choose that route. This demonstrates that, despite our arguments to the contrary, we all still need a little encouragement that we are making a good decision. We crave social proof and confirmation that we are getting the best deal and buying at the right time. We still need a sales person to move us along the process, but we prefer to feel a bit more in control than previous generations.

To satiate instant gratification seekers dealers must implement solutions which facilitate fast, accurate, interactive, digital exchange of pertinent information. Namely, lease payments, loan payments, and out-the-door price offers. Never force the text generation to talk on the phone. Answer questions before they are asked and provide avenues through which the customer can control their own destiny. The illusion of choice is a powerful tool for the most marketed to crop of consumers in history. When you offer true lease, loan, and out-the-door price options, the shopper negotiates takes the reins of the deal without threat to your profit.

Encourage your customers to “play with their money” instead of skipping right ahead to haggling with your sales team over price. Clear out conflicting messages on your website where the manufacturer lease offer is $100/mo less than the dealership’s listed lease offer on the VDP. Ensure that your ePrice is accessible without a barrage of unsolicited, and frankly obnoxious, phone calls. Ask for permission to text and use it. Provide valuable information to the customer at every touch point instead of asking repeatedly when they can visit you for a test drive. Arm your sales team with content about your vehicles that is relevant and interesting. Most importantly, provide a tool to your team which makes fast, accurate payment quotes easy to build and send. Train them to send out personalized quotes in the First Quality Response – every time.

That’s how you win the gratification game. Give them what they want, right now, but stack the deck in your dealership’s favor.

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