COMMENT: Dealer survey offers shocking results

Bad sales people should be fired

Franz W. Rother is Editor-in-Chief of Automobilwoche

Every car buyer has had the same experience. You go into a dealership, walk around the cars that are on display, leaf through the brochures and price lists -- then you leave after five minutes frustrated that no sales person has offered any help.

The 14 test buyers sent by MSU Consulting to survey dealers on behalf of Automobilwoche had similar experiences.

MSU Consulting's survey is featured in part one of Automobilwoche's three-part series on the quality of new-car sales service offered by the five volume manufacturers. The carmakers surveyed were the Volkswagen group, Ford Europe, Opel, Peugeot and Renault.

The "mystery shoppers" evaluated the competence and commitment of sales people, plus the appearance of dealerships. These must all be at a high level if a consumer's impulse to buy is transformed into a signature on a contract.

The survey results were staggering. Some sales advisors, eager for their lunch break, tried to rush buyers. A few sales people went so far as to asked the buyer to come back on another day. Others lacked the most rudimentary manners -- they neither gave their names, nor offered the potential buyer a seat.

In one-third of the surveyed dealerships, a sales person wasn't even present. Potential buyers had to be content with the display cars and brochures.

If the "mystery shoppers" had been sent by the automakers, then the results would have been bad news for some dealerships, perhaps even leading to a few closures.

The bottom line is that bad personnel leads to lost sales, and without enough new-car sales, a dealership may not qualify for lucrative bonuses from the automakers.

One or two lost bonus points could easily add up to a loss of 100,000 euros over a year. A big dealer group may be able to survive that, but a traditional "mom and pop" shop cannot.

To help dealers achieve those bonuses automakers and their sales organizations invest a large amount of money in organizing service conventions and training for their sales people.

This training appears to be wasted. Despite a depressed market and mass unemployment, some sales people see no need to develop a service-orientated mentality. Employers should get rid of such employees as quickly as possible.

Sales people need to use all their energy to sell a luxury item such as a car to customers in today's competitive market. Otherwise they have failed in their job and, eventually, traditional dealerships will die.

Disappointed customers will sit at their computers and buy their new cars direct from the manufacturers over the Internet. That's easy nowadays. And it will reduce marketing and service costs.

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