Less than half of consumers trust car manufacturers and dealerships to do business fairly. That's lower than in any other industry.
Just like buying a house or planning a wedding, most of us just accept that finding the vehicle of our dreams will take months of research and dozens of unpleasant conversations with pushy salespeople. Unless we're buying from a luxury or high-end brand, the typical car dealership customer experience doesn't revolve around the customer.
But it should. Even a used car is a big-ticket purchase and a long-term investment.
Trust is the foundation of customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and it drives (see what we did there?) financial success in the automotive industry.
So what does it take to create and put cruise control on consistently high customer satisfaction?
A 2018 study on the link between customer satisfaction and financial performance found that image, customer expectations, perceived product quality and perceived service quality all impact customer satisfaction, which in turn creates customer loyalty and drives (get it?) more revenue long-term.
For automotive manufacturers with hundreds of dealerships, both directly and independently owned, improving all of the above is no easy feat. But if trust is central to customer satisfaction, what can be done to improve it?
Frequent area manager site visits are the secret to boosting customer trust and overall satisfaction, because they ensure quality and service standards are being respected. There's a strong correlation between frequency of area manager visits and customer satisfaction, and here are 3 reasons why.
Reason 1: Site visits improve the dealership's image
A customer forms their own perception of a dealership from the second they turn into the parking lot. Whether you're buying a brand new car, a car that's had one previous owner, or one that's had six, you expect every vehicle in the parking lot to be clean, shiny and in top condition.
Are some of the vehicles facing the wrong way, or is there inconsistent spacing between them? Are the windows a little smeary, or do the carpets inside need a vacuum?
Salespeople might not notice these small details, but customers do. Area managers can make sure display, cleanliness and maintenance standards are being respected, and train dealership teams to do it themselves autonomously.
With more site visits, this will become second nature, and the image of your entire dealership network will improve.
Reason 2: Site visits improve perception of product quality
If you're on your way to a dealership to check out a Mazda, you're doing it because you already know the brand has a reputation of manufacturing high quality cars. Chances are you don't need to be told that Mazda is a reliable brand.
So what the dealership needs to do is convey the product quality of every vehicle or accessory they stock, and provide customers with the technical knowledge to make the best choice.
In fact, over half of customers surveyed in Deloitte's 2018 Global Automotive Consumer Study ranked customer service as a very important factor in choosing a vehicle, and 82% reported needing to physically visit a dealership before they decide on a car.
So even if trust in the automotive industry isn't what it should be, every dealership has the opportunity to impress with their knowledge and capacity to help customers find the perfect car - and the accessories that go with it.
Upselling isn't salesy and annoying if the customer trusts the recommendations they're getting. This boosts not only customer loyalty, but the dealership's financial performance too.
Customers don't trust car sales people. They trust experts. Experts have these qualities:
- Advanced technical knowledge
- A passion for matching customers with products that best suit their needs
- The ability to turn this technical knowledge into concepts that customers can easily understand without coming across as salesy
Area managers can train, coach and motivate dealership teams from regular sales people into experts with every site visit.
Product quality is also demonstrated visually. 2/3 of respondents still find brochures and spec sheets useful at dealerships. But are they up to date and neatly displayed in every one of your dealerships? This is something that site visits can monitor, measure and improve.
Reason 3: Site visits improve service quality
59% of respondents were never contacted by the dealership after bringing their new car home. There are two issues with that.
First - a customer who doesn't receive the courtesy of a simple check-in call doesn't trust the dealership anymore. Why should they? The salespeople obviously don't care about how they're getting on with the new car.
Second - when it's time to get the car serviced or repaired, the dealership is the last place the customer will turn to. They'll find somewhere with great reviews and friendly employees, either because:
- They weren't happy with the original dealership experience, or
- They never considered the dealership an option for servicing or repairs, because no one called to remind them of that warranty they purchased
The customer still gets their car serviced at the end of the day. But the dealership loses revenue, customer loyalty, and trust.
The same thing happens if a customer does decide to get their vehicle serviced and they're not happy with the service experience.
Imagine leaving your car at the dealership to have some repairs done, and getting it back hours later with a faint reek of stale cigarettes clinging to the upholstery. You probably won't be back.
The devil is in the details - just as much in service and after-care as it should be in the initial purchase.
If area managers are frequently auditing post-sales and service procedures, they can make sure standards are being respected and prevent mistakes that cause a loss of loyalty, trust, and ultimately revenue, before they happen.
In an industry where customer trust isn't the norm, automotive manufacturers and dealerships who can restore it stand to gain... a lot.
Trust happens when customers perceive value in the dealership's image, product quality and service.
Area manager site visits improve all 3 of these criteria for customer trust. Make site visits easy for area managers, and they'll happen more frequently, taking your dealership experience and customer trust from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds flat.
Peugeot created a flawless customer experience across hundreds of dealerships by making site audits faster and more accurate with YOOBIC. Watch their story here!