Ok, I'm a process guy. I love when things work more efficiently, so you can imagine my annoyance with spending 4 or more hours at a car dealership. Add in the fact that I buy a lot of cars and you can imagine I've developed quite an opinion over the years. I know we have some dealership folks here on Oppo so I'm interested to hear your thoughts on the following mini-rant. I realize you all are doing the best you can, this is targeted more towards the larger corporate dealership network and automakers in general.
How can I help you? (hour 0)
I know this is basic customer service, but I like to be greeted as soon as possible. Obviously with staffing shortages and busy afternoons, that can't always happen. But I've managed to walk around a SHOWROOM for 15 minutes or so without anyone asking if I need help. Obviously I can, and do, ask to speak with someone, but in a business where I'm spending tens of thousands of dollars, I like a little attention without asking for it.
TIP: If you can afford to, have someone who just works the front door, Wal Mart greeter style. I went to look at a Mini once and they had that setup, a guy basically got my requirements as to what I was looking for, how long I had to spend, and then found a salesperson for me. They were super busy and I had to wait 5 minutes or more, but I got immediate contact and knew that they knew I was there.
What Brings You Here Today? (hour 1)
I realize not all buyers show up with something in mind. I do. If I am at a dealership, there is a good chance I have the title to my trade in my pocket, along with the payoff. I am ready to buy if I like what I see. This is where the process really starts to falter. I understand that sales personnel are trained to follow a certain process, I get that. But it takes hours to get through most of the time so I find the need to move things along.
TIP: Offer to evaluate my trade while I am test driving the new car. Nothing bothers me more about the process (well that may not be true, stay tuned) than having to wait for my trade to be appraised after I get back from the test drive. How about some multi-tasking folks? Again, I understand that not everyone is ready when they walk in and you don't want to push too hard too fast. But when someone has their shit together, get yours together and move thing along.
Let's Talk Numbers (hour 2)
Ok, we know I want your car, we know how much you're going to give me for my car, or at least the initial offer. At this point it's a numbers game. If you can get me where I want to be, I'll sign. If not, let me know its not going to happen and I'll move on. I have had some great experiences where this happened quickly and even a few where they said "sorry, there is no feasible way we can get where you need to be" which I respected. I wasn't happy, but at least they didn't have me spend another hour or two haggling, and watching the sales person walk back and forth between his desk and finance, only to be finally told the same thing.
TIP: Make it quick, I know you have other customers you may be helping out with and you guys run all over the dealership getting various things done. But I really dislike sitting at your desk staring at the wood laminate and playing with my phone while you stand behind the finance manager trying to get a cheaper price on the new car, or worse, standing behind the used car manager trying to get me more for my trade-in (I know you are on kbb.com looking at the "poor" value even though my car is super clean).
I appreciate the back and forth dance that we do, and part of me enjoys it. Just don't drag it out, despite whatever study says that the longer you keep me there, the more likely I am to buy. That's not true, the longer you keep me there, the more annoyed I get about losing half my day because things run so inefficiently.
Time to Sign Some Papers! (hour 3)
Now on to paperwork. I'm sure most of the stuff we have to sign is required by someone, somewhere. But dear Lord, can't the dealerships petition to have it reduced? I know it's less than it was 15 years ago (although the printers are still the same...) but it still takes forever. And that's once you are done waiting for the finance person to finish with the person ahead of you, type everything up, and then summon you to their office. There is no tip here unfortunately, I realize you are hamstrung on this one, but there has to be a better way.
Conclusion, or Have You Been to Our Website?
My best car buying experience out of the 20 plus vehicles I have purchased over 20 years was Infiniti of Annapolis, which isn't far from my house in MD. I have no affiliation with them, my cousin doesn't work there, they were just provided a fantastic car buying experience. It consisted of the following steps from me expressing interest to driving away in a new G35S sedan.
1. First I submitted a "I'm interested" form via their website, said what car I wanted, black G35 sedan, manual, sport model. Oh and I expressed preference to use email vs. phone.
2. Received an email back (vs. a phone call like normal) from their internet sales manager, letting me know the car I was looking for is in stock and the price is $XX,XXX. This was a very good price and beat others I had visited in person and compared well to what I had seen online.
3. I replied back saying, great, I have two trade-ins. A 2006 Focus ST and a 2005 350Z Enthusiast Model. I also provided the salient details, mileage, condition, equipment, etc. I was overt about the paint peeling off the bumper of the Z, but as I pointed out, they can fix that cheaper than I can.
4. He replied with "great, we will give you $XX,XXX for the Ford, and $XX,XXX for the Nissan". Both great prices that were pretty high on the KBB scale.
5. We did the back and forth a bit, I haggled a bit, but to this day believe what he initially sent was very competitive. I filled out their credit application online.
6. After everything looked good, and all still without setting foot in the dealership, I replied that I was ready to sign.
7. He replied with "Great, the paperwork will be ready". And they literally had everything ready, I did not have to re-fill out the credit application and wait for it to be processed. I did not have to sit through any "Would you like tire warmers, upgraded brake fluid, and a warranty that covers space debris" pitches, I just sat down and signed where the "sign here" stickers were.
Done, in and out in 20 minutes. They even sent a dealership guy along with me to pick up the Z, which was back at my house about 40 minutes away. In the end the sales person spent less time on the transaction, I spent less time on the transaction, we both won.
So to answer Orlove's question from October, yes I would buy a car online. Transition dealership to true "showrooms" where there are a good representation of each model available that we can come in and look at, kick the tires, and test drive. Let me do the rest via a computer. It's faster, cheaper, and will save me another afternoon of sitting in a dealership.
Next up: Sales person automotive knowledge! AKA: When you say "SVO" instead of "SVT", I know you don't know WTF you are talking about.
(FYI, Automatch's thread, Orly? How's That Working Out For You? got me thinking so I wrote this up. Thanks for the inspiration!)