Car Dealership Horror Stories…we’ve all heard them, and many of us have even experienced them first-hand; but how prevalent are they? Surely, if horror stories were the norm, the masses would riot to force the hand of change. Since we have yet to reach that point, we have to assume that there is such a thing as a satisfied customer.
But, at the end of the day, not all dealerships are created equal. Car dealerships may go about their business in an honorable manner, looking to build relationships that assure repeat business. On the other hand, a dealership located next door may employ sales tactics designed to yield results in their own favor. But, then again, the point of (any) business is to turn a profit, isn’t it?
So where do we draw the line in our assessment of dealership practices? Simply put, the line in question is one of ethics. Every day, tactics both subtle and severe In the following video expose, Philip Reed, a senior editor for edmunds.com shares his findings, after going undercover in the automotive industry.
So how do we discern the good from the bad?
Any dealership that makes an effort to put the customer first stands to enjoy a return on their investment of effort. But how easy is it for the common car buyer (let alone an inexperienced one) to know the difference between a true customer-centric buying experience, and a carefully disguised one that only benefits the dealer themselves?
For a truly attentive customer who understands the importance of their own buying dollar, here are 5 things you MUST look for in a dealership.
Transparent Sales Process: Inevitably, there will come the point when your salesman needs to ‘talk to their manager’ or ‘make a call.’ At the end of the day, these are everyday industry power plays. If you’ve performed your own due diligence, you should be able to spot any disingenuous behavior or prevalence of game-playing be it in terms of pricing, financing or other contractual fine print.
Transparent Trade-In Practices: If you are looking to trade in your vehicle, we hope that you’ve done your research. Understanding the perceived value of your trade-in empowers you in negotiation. That said, don’t fool yourself. Kelley Blue Book is far from the automotive bible, and the dealership does need to factor in their own detailing costs and margin for resale. Just do your homework, and refuse any kind of game-playing.
Customer-Centric Environment: This means more than just complimentary coffee, donuts and Wi-Fi. At the end of the day, dealerships should be assessed on how much of their environment and practices are built around assuring the customer’s satisfaction. Those car buyers willing to inform themselves and approach a purchase practically, should never underestimate the strength of their buying dollar.
Timely Support: Little things are big things. Communication, follow-through, accountability; if present, each one of these things can ensure a customer’s lasting relationship with a dealership. This starts during the buying process, and continues through the inevitability of scheduled maintenance and/or repair. From timely return-calls, to extended shop hours and 24/7 support, an accommodating dealership can make all the difference.
Incentive Programs: Don’t you deserve to be rewarded for your business? We think so. many dealerships offer loyalty programs designed to maintain their relationship with you in-between sales. Such programs might include complimentary services, such as oil changes or detailing and even accrual programs with discounts to be applied to your next purchase. Read the fine print, and see if such programs are worthwhile to you.
While there are countless other considerations that many of us have ‘learned the hard way’, assessing a dealership on the five points listed above cover many of them. How does your last buying experience measure up with these in mind?