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Is Your Dealership Just a Factory Conveyor Belt?

While working with dealers, managers, and salespeople on a daily basis, I am noticing a disturbing trend. It seems that making a deal is all that matters, and building relationships with the customers has diminished. Maybe it is due to technology, maybe having more departments that touch the customer, and also customer apprehension with the whole dealer experience; but with more people touching the customer - Salesperson, F&I person, and sales manager, the customer is moving through the process on a factory conveyor belt.

I understand the main goal is to sell the vehicle, but what about future business, brand, and dealer loyalty? One of my biggest fears, and that of some dealers during COVID-19, was if the customer was overcharged just for profit, would they come back in 2-5 years? What would the long-term effect be on the business? Well, it is rearing its ugly head; we are seeing people berried in those vehicles, the default rate on those vehicles is at epic levels, and now the customer is in a no-win position. This will be a long-lasting issue.

    Outside of the COVID sales issue, I see a great need for the dealership staff to realize a customer is not done at the point of sale. It was different before technology and different departments of the sales process. In my early career, before technology and the internet, customers were handled much differently. We answered the phone up or greeted them on the lot, we qualified them while having a casual conversation. During the conversation, we always tried to find a common interest with the customer and start building a casual relationship with them. Once we figured out which vehicle worked best for them, we wrote the deal, then we took the credit application and submitted it. It could take 30 minutes to get a phone call back from the bank with approval while talking with the customer and building a relationship with them. Once the call came with the approval, we would do the billing sheet and take it to the office to get typed, giving more time to converse with the customer. Once typed, we would do the delivery and send them on the way. We built trust and relationships back in the day, and you would be rewarded with many repeat, family, and referral sales. A strong salesperson back in the day would eventually never have to take a fresh up because they had many repeat and referral business.

     I admit that I had great mentors and senior salespeople to learn from, who aided my success. Without them, I would not have succeeded in this business. So the question more than anything is, who is mentoring the staff, what does the staff believe the long-term effects are of building relationships with customers? Let’s help the whole team succeed by mentoring, teaching, and valuing each customer. I believe we can do better, and the customer is craving a positive experience with the dealership. I preach to the dealers to put myself in the customer’s shoes and ask is this the experience you would want? I think the online model for auto sales is diminishing; just look, another online retailer just went under. It is time to get back to the customer relationship.

-Bill Raynal

Performance Engineer



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