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Automotive Customer Experience

Stop Being Lead-Centric – It’s About the Customer Experience

Today’s customers expect and demand an amazing customer experience. The dealership with the right vehicle and the best experience will ultimately win the business. To deliver the best experience possible, you must maintain expertise about your customers and their shopping behavior.

The average consumer today visits only one or two dealerships before buying. The odds are good consumers will purchase from your store if you focus more on delivering a great customer experience than on being lead-centric.

How do you do that? By mastering three touchpoints: research, communications and the showroom visit.


Shaping that exceptional experience begins with research. According to AutoTrader, nearly 80 percent of shoppers use third-party sites to research and locate vehicles. Make sure your inventory pages on these sites are highly descriptive with critical information above the fold, including pricing, options, and interactive photos or videos.

Digital retailing tools can differentiate your dealership and enhance the experience. Consumers today do more work online. If customers are forced to rehash steps when they arrive in the store, it leads to frustration and erodes the great experience you’re trying to create.

But, if that previously completed work flows into your CRM and DMS, it translates to a shorter and more pleasant in-store experience. That’s where your digital retailing tool comes in.


When you receive a phone call or lead form, don’t simply answer a question about price or availability and end the conversation there. Differentiate your dealership by offering customers critical information to make informed decisions.

For example, along with information on the requested vehicle, present information on similar vehicles in stock with more and less equipment, as well as a pre-owned option. Now the conversation isn’t only about price. It’s about defining what is really important to the customer and how your dealership can meet those vehicle needs.

Learn which communication channel the customer prefers and engage with them there. Be transparent about pricing and financing. Focus on delivering high-quality and relevant answers before asking for an appointment. Asking too soon can stop the transaction in its tracks.

Remember that the human touch still matters. Be warm, welcoming, and competent. Once you’ve answered every question, it’s time to ask for the appointment. By this point, you will have earned it.

Between setting the appointment and the showroom visit, continue shaping a great customer experience. Email the customer valuable information, such as a video of the vehicle of interest, or outline what to expect once they enter your store.

Maintain follow-up with an appointment reminder that clearly states the customer is coming in for a pre-scheduled VIP appointment.

If the vehicle of interest sells before the appointment, reach out immediately with details of other vehicles that meet the customer’s wants and needs.

A NADA survey found that 80 percent of consumers buy a different vehicle than the one they inquired about, so even if the vehicle of interest is still on the lot, prepare a list of alternates.

The Showroom Visit

On the day of the appointment, pull up the vehicle and make sure it’s spotless and ready for a test-drive. Write the customer’s name and VIP status on a prominently-placed appointment board for the customer to see as soon as they step on the floor. Ensure your receptionist has an up-to-date list of appointments and can greet each customer by name.

When you’re with the customer, be a product expert. Demonstrate all the vehicle features and how to use them. Set up preferred radio stations and synchronize mobile phones with the vehicle.

Introduce every customer to your service manager to close the gap between sales and service. This also lets the customer know that you care about the ongoing maintenance of the vehicle and are invested in a long-term relationship.

If the customer misses the appointment, follow up immediately through their preferred communication channel. Give them options of several new appointment days and times and let them know the vehicle is there and ready for the test drive.   

Winning more sales requires an amazing customer experience. Don’t see customers as just leads to be closed. Deliver the best possible experience throughout the customer journey and you’ll see results.

Good selling!

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