Auto Dealerships: It’s about the Experience. What you Can Learn from 2 Franchise Restaurants - PCG Digital

Recently while traveling with family, we stopped at a chain style restaurant to grab some lunch. My one son wanted pancakes, the other a burger. Soup and salad for my wife and I. Service was excellent, food was solid and off we went in a reasonable time.

On the way back home from our trip, we decided to go back to the same named restaurant, but at a different location. As with many franchise customers, our expectations were based on our previous experience. It soon was apparent that this experience was not going to live up to those expectations.

The waitress seemed a bit overwhelmed and after we put in our order, we waited. 25 minutes went by and nothing came out. We ordered similar things as the previous time so we wondered what was holding things up.

Our waitress came over very hurried and dropped two big blueberry muffins on our table. “I know your food is taking a while so I brought these.” While this was very kind, I had been noticing other service mistakes with tables nearby.

One table complained their sandwich was cold and too salty. Apologies ensued and they made her something different. The other person at the table never got their soup, so a big bowl was hurriedly brought out, even though she only ordered a cup. Another table complained people who came in after they did received their food first, so dessert was offered as a compromise. Finally our food came out. The soup was missing garnishes, salads containing things we had asked not to be included, and it all looked thrown together.

My 14 year old son mentioned as we left, “That was different than before.” I worked in the restaurant/hospitality industry for over 15 years so I know things can happen to impact service. I explained to him the potential reasons, but my main point was how poor execution is costing this restaurant money. I explained how wasted food all adds up if this is happening daily. While the muffins may be a nice touch today, people remember what went wrong and won’t go back next time due to poor service.

I think this experience is relevant for all business owners but especially automotive dealers.

Many dealers I work with to inspect and fix their processes are losing sales and service revenue every month due to inconsistent customer experience. Many assumed their customer service was consistent. Upon further inspection, we found a framework was in place but employees felt they could flexibly implement it, and management was not consistent in inspecting their performance. This adds up to millions of dollars a year lost to the bottom line.

In the auto industry, customer experience takes precedence because every Ford dealer has exactly the same cars and trucks as any other Ford dealer. The same holds true for every Chevy, Nissan, Kia, and any other automotive brand. Just like each of these restaurants had the exact same menu, it was the experience being delivered which will determine if customers return and recommend your dealership.

Business owners should review their customer experience to see how much money they are potentially wasting on poor service. There are many indicators or a poor customer experience, but it can be narrowed down to a few common ones:

  • Campaigns driving customers to confusing websites
  • Ineffective process for handling internet inquiries
  • Missed phone calls being transferred from one department to the next
  • Not updating customers on status of servicing their vehicles
  • Customers waiting for paperwork thus not enough time to explain after-market products and services for new vehicle owners.
  • In store experience of salespeople who lack training, having to have managers help them out, thus confusing customers as to who they should listen to.

To solve this issue, work backwards from the experience you want your customers to have.

  • Document what you want experience to be in specific actions
  • Dedicate a set budget for training your team every month
  • Hire outside consultants or trainers to help both short and long term with process
  • Assign a manager who is responsible for inspection, measurement & accountability to process
  • Position managers physically where they can see customer interaction with employee
  • Hire enough staff to handle the business effectively

Without an end result as a beginning point of reference, you will hope the product outweighs poor service or you will lose money trying to make up for poor execution.

Either way, your customers will not return and will share their poor experience with others, thus losing potential customers.

In the coming months and years, those businesses who focus on experience and saving customers time will win loyalty and great word of mouth. Great customer experience is reviewed and trained every day, and has to be earned every day at every customer interaction.

Please join me in November for the Automotive Analytics & Attribution Summit in Florida. I will be sharing specific ways to rethink your customer interaction with my workshop,

“Updating Your CRM and Showroom Processes to Maximize Digital Retailing” Information and tickets can be found here.


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