Is Your Dealership’s Customer Experience Losing You Customers?

Is Your Dealership’s Customer Experience Losing You Customers?

No matter your industry – your company’s reputation matters.  This may be stating the obvious but the concept of the customer experience has become so huge that by 2020, many industry experts believe that companies will be competing solely on customer experience. When it comes to selling cars, dealerships already have an up-hill battle to climb.  Most consumers view the car buying experience as less than ideal.  Although this is putting it mildly – you have probably read the research citing that people would rather go to a dentist than a car dealer.

DrivingSales conducted a consumer experience study is based on a 16 month-long ethnographic and quantitative research initiative with over 1,300 shopper and buyers. Some key findings include:

  • 99 of 100 automotive shoppers begin their purchase journey expecting it to be a “hassle” driven in large part by their experience, and that of friends/family, with retailers seeking to control the buying process to the retailer’s objectives
  • Shoppers are exposed to dozens of conflicting influences making them wary and distrustful, driving them to seek what they perceive as objective information from trusted sources – primarily trusted friends and family and independent third party sites
  • Shoppers are keeping dealers and sales people at a proverbial arms length until late in the purchase process. When they’re ready to interact, 61% initiate contact by walking into the dealership without prior contact
  • This distrust puts the consumer on a hair trigger as they engage with the dealer, 50% will walk out of a dealership if the dealer requires a test drive before providing a price, 43% if personal information is required
  • 56% of shoppers said they would buy more often if the dealership process was not so difficult – the impact of this retail aversion was quantified at a potential increase in sales volume of 24%

Another study by Total Dealer Compliance (TDC), a car dealership compliance-auditing firm, looked at the importance of the complaint resolution process as part of the overall experience. The survey found that over 55% of consumers who have submitted a complaint were dissatisfied with the resolution provided. “When asked what the biggest pain point was when submitting a complaint to a car dealership, over 50% said it was the car dealerships’ obvious lack of desire to resolve the issue.

With the industry recognized for unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices, nearly 80% of respondents believe that customer satisfaction is of utmost importance to the dealership when they have a clearly stated complaint resolution process.”

automotive customer experience

Additional study findings include:

  • Over 30% of consumers have submitted a complaint to a dealership.
  • Of those who have submitted a complaint, over 55% of consumers were dissatisfied with the resolution provided.
  • Nearly 60% of consumers are more likely to buy a car if there is a clearly stated complaint resolution process.
  • Nearly 80% of respondents think that customer satisfaction is of utmost importance to the dealership if they have a clearly stated complaint resolution process.
  • Over 50% of consumers said that the biggest pain point when submitting a complaint to a car dealership is the dealerships’ obvious lack of desire to resolve issue.
  • Nearly 75% of consumers submit complaints by calling their dealership over submitting a complaint online.

Fuel Better Experiences with an Integrated Customer View

Integrated Customer View

Dealerships must work to understand their particular customers’ pain points and implementing strategies to resolve these gaps in the overall experience. However, mitigating bad experiences is not enough to sustain a competitive advantage.  Consumers expect to be wowed and they will choose the dealership that best caters to their expectations.

Providing these integrated, end-to-end experiences begins – and end – with the customer.  From the initial point of contact with your dealership, throughout the sales process and post-sales communications, every touch point must be optimized. Providing a highly personalized experience in which your customer feels valued means using data insights to establish a comprehensive customer-view.

Integrate your first party data such as contact details, customer service records, website inquiries, and so forth with additional third-party data elements to create a rich customer view.  These consolidated insights will enhance your knowledge of the customer journey in order to deliver personalized and relevant campaigns and prevent break-downs in the customer experience.

Consider adding third-party data including:

Specialized Auto Data – detailed information on vehicles and their owners such as: 

  • Make, model and year of the vehicle they are currently driving
  • Data such as in-market for a new vehicle, segmented wealth modeling, email addresses, and full VIN.
  • Selections such as engine size, fuel type, drive train, engine block, and engine cylinders.
  • Validated contact details such as emails and phone numbers.


You may be missing important details to help you understand your customers wants, likes, preferences, and so on. For example, You may want to know which households have children (“may be time to upgrade to a larger vehicle”), who has a teen driver in the house (“time for a first car”), or who is interested in the outdoors (“this new model of truck just came out”).

Details such as income, marital status, occupation, hobbies, lifestyle, and age are some examples of demographics that can be used to create targeted marketing messages to which your consumers are most apt to relate.

Digital Audience Data

Digital ad targeting allows you to focus on in-market buyers by brand, category and more. Consumer information may be based on data such as vehicle make, model, and year; intent to purchase; geographic locations; and demographics such as age, income, profession, ethnicity, and known interests. This data is often sourced from dealers, service centers, co-registration, and other national sources.

Trigger Data Elements

Trigger data sets provide insights based on imminent purchase signals such as new births, home purchases, credit triggers, social signals, and new teen drivers

Auto Equity Data

These programs provide dealers with daily, “hand-raising” consumers that are in positive equity and willing to trade their cars in on newer models. Traditionally, many automotive marketing programs have used pre-screen credit data as a starting point to identify consumers, which requires a firm offer of credit and often entails mountains of paperwork.

More advanced auto equity programs are based on proprietary algorithms built upon thousands of data points including summarized credit information, consumer demographics and psychographics and other types of data to determine ranking of consumers in the best equity positions. This allows dealers to identify equity hand raisers and then determine the best sales and lending package.

Consumers are constantly leaving clues as to who they are, what they like, and what they’ll buy next.  When these insights are gathered and analyzed, you have the opportunity to personalize your outreach and target new customers before the competition may even be aware that they are in market or what may influence them to purchase.  And with 86% of consumers stating that personalization plays a role in their purchasing decisions (Infosys), taking the time to develop a personalized customer experience will pay off every time.

Download our Automotive Marketing Success Kit for more great tips and strategies on how to target and acquire today’s car shoppers.

Automotive Marketing 2020

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