Face-to-face, it's all about the customer
To the Editor:
If a recent IBM Corp. retail survey is accurate in saying that 21 percent of new-car buyers and lessees did not test drive a single vehicle before purchase, consumers' impressions of our business won't improve anytime soon ("Survey: 1 in 5 new-car buyers skips test drive," Nov. 26).
Since the industry seeks to sell tangible items, an inability to get people behind the wheel has ugly ramifications: Buying a vehicle based on price or selection alone may result in buyer's remorse and even poor online reviews.
Hand-raiser polls such as IBM's rely on consumers' recall of their shopping and buying experiences, which can often be shaky at best. Our research, which tracks online activity and not anecdotal recall, shows that shoppers spend many hours doing research and almost always consider multiple brands, vehicles and dealers before showing up at a store.
When I speak with dealership groups, they agree that consumers change their minds and buy different vehicles than they initially inquired about around 70 percent of the time once they enter a dealership.
A correct dealership sales process focuses not only on buyers' shopping activities that attracted them to the store but also on their buying motivation -- what is most important to them in a vehicle.
The process includes a presentation and test drive based on their requirements.
If you don't take the time to learn about your customers, you end up trying to make them fit your vehicles rather than making the vehicles fit them. Top performers will tell you that in a face-to-face interaction, it's always about the customer and never about the vehicle.
If we insist on trying to sell vehicles (instead of appointments) via e-mail, telephone and online chat without test drives, we are setting ourselves up for low profits, poor online reputations and dissatisfied clients.
Some may argue that that is the future of the industry, but I hope we fight it kicking and screaming.