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5 Things You Can Do Today to Create a 'Customer First' Buying Experience

 1.  Make it easy and convenient for your online shoppers to find the information they are looking for.   

Dealers should want an easy, seamless experience for their customers that starts online because that’s where consumers are making their vehicle purchase decisions.  Dealer websites need to be more transactional.   As an example, lets start with the fact that 90% of US car buyers are payment buyers.  If most shoppers want to know what their monthly payments are, or how much they can get in a trade, or what financing terms will be before they decide on a specific vehicle, consider ‘digital retailing’ or online 4 Square tools.  With ‘digital retailing’ tools (e.g. instant credit decisions, trade-in tools, interactive price negotiation platforms, to-the-penny payment calculators, F&I tools, etc.), the consumer is giving a little to get a lot.  But at the benefit of the dealer.  Transparency becomes a two-way street, forcing the consumer to be more transparent, giving up more of their personal information earlier in the process and shifting the online information advantage back towards the dealer.   The more customers know, the more comfortable they are. The more comfortable they are, the more likely they are to buy.  And visit your dealership.  For the dealer, that down-the-funnel customer becomes so much more valuable.  And profitable.

 2.  Create ‘One’ Unified Buying Experience.  

Dealership profits are determined by sales and sales are determined by sales process.  According to a recent Cox Automotive study, less than 1% of consumers like the sales process as it is today.  The idea of a “Connected Buying Experience” connects the online and offline shopping experiences to create one unified car buying experience.  As an example, your online retail tools should be fully connected to the showroom sales process.   Today’s shoppers assume these tools are already connected, so they will actually save time when they go to buy the car.  But traditionally, online retail tools have been stand-alone and not well integrated between the dealership website and the Dealer’s CRM, DMS, Desking and F&I Platforms.  So the customer has to start over when they get to the store.   To create a more streamlined, helpful and forward moving in-store buying process, let customers start and stop when and where they want to online and seamlessly pick up where they left off when they get to the dealership.  In other words, enable a process that allows you the dealer to go as fast or as slow as your customer wants.  

3.  Start Sales & Finance at the same time.

 It’s well accepted the negotiation (deal structuring) and time spent in F&I are the steps in the process that consumers like least.   Customers simply don’t understand the very complex deal structuring and F& I processes.  As an example, the way it works today, because finance is arranged after the negotiation, the finance terms quoted in the negotiation sometimes can’t be honored.  The relationship degrades from a consultative relationship to an adversarial relationship.  Avoid the customer confusion and skepticism and resigns and rewrites for the F&I office.   Start the deal right by starting Sales & Finance at the same time.  The two-way transparency is a trust multiplier.   By changing when the shopper is introduced to payment information, and dealership financing options, the dealer, and the customer come together much faster.   The ‘deal’ transparency increases finance penetration.   And the sooner finance managers can get involved in the deal, the better they can be structured.   Starting Sales and Finance together also improves the speed and quality of the customer’s transition from Sales to F&I.   And the time the customer spends in F&I.   Time is money and time correlate directly to a positive or negative customer experience.   

4.  Leverage ‘Mobile’ Technologies in-store. 

 Imagine an in-store selling process that runs on a smartphone or tablet. Web-based or app-based mobile CRM, Desking and DealMaker solutions streamline the process, engage the customer and accelerate the road to the sale.   They also align F&I with your Sales process, eliminating the inefficient silos.  By changing when and how the customer is introduced to payment information and dealership financing options, your showroom sales team then turns into consultants, and the customer gets the transparency and participation in the process they crave.  Based on the customer’s credit profile and vehicle of choice, let your lenders serve up their best offers and let the customer make the choice.   Finance ready buyers are fast tracked from the showroom thru negotiation and thru F&I, increasing profits and customer satisfaction   And these same tools can be used in the service drive. 

5.   Embrace and implement a ‘customer first’ culture at your store. 

 People will continue to buy cars from people, but expectations are going unmet.   The current dealership sales and finance process was built by dealers, for dealers.  Not consumers.  The way consumers shop for cars has dramatically changed over the last many years but the way cars are sold has become stuck in the status quo.   Driving this dissatisfaction are consumer demand for transparency, all things technology, and other retail experiences.  Dealers can’t keep their heads in the sand.  Dealers will be forced to adopt more efficient internal processes in sales and operations, or risk losing the customer and being left further and further behind.  If you want to implement a ‘customer first’ experience and simplify the sales and finance process in your store, a great first step is to do these (3) things:

  • Turn the customer mirror on your dealership and experience what your customers experience.  Online and in-store.
  • Identify the gaps in your current customer experience that create information voids, process bottlenecks, inefficiencies and ‘unengaged’ wait time.
  • Align your technology, processes, and people to fill those gaps.

eLEND Solutions’ products are innovative software solutions that integrate seamlessly with enterprise systems at auto dealerships. Credit Plus, ID Drive™, and Mobilot™, work together to streamline the sales and financing processes and enhance the shopper’s experience. If interested in learning more please contact us today.

Author: Pete Maclnnis

Author Bio: Pete brings over 37 years of experience in automotive finance and technology as Founder and CEO of eLEND Solutions.  Founded in 2003 as DealerCentric, eLEND Solutions is an automotive FinTech company specializing in online and in-store digital credit, identity and finance solutions designed to create a more efficient and profitable vehicle purchase process for the retail automotive industry. 

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