If you ask any dealer or OEM what their primary business goal is today, they'll likely tell you "generating car sales leads." In fact, lead generation has been our industry's primary goal over the past 25 years since the launch of the internet.
Over the past two decades, we've used technology as a one-size-fits-all solution to drive automotive consumers to our brands and stores. All the while we’ve forgotten that buying a car is a very emotional and personal process.
We've ignored the importance of automotive customer experience at a time when customer satisfaction is the single biggest differentiator for success in our industry – today, and in the future.
Common Problems with Car Sales Leads
One of the biggest downsides to traditional car sales leads is that they miss the big picture. Traditional lead forms solicit basic contact information and a declared vehicle of interest, without revealing the answers to three very important questions.
- Who is the primary driver of the vehicle?
- How will the vehicle predominantly be used?
- What features are most important to the primary driver?
The second problem with lead forms is that we expect consumers to know the precise vehicle that meets their needs, despite the fact that nearly 17,000 make/model/trim combinations have been manufactured in the last six years alone.
The sheer volume of online information that consumers must sift through in order to make their decision only adds to the confusion.
Finally, when it comes to car sales leads, our industry continues to play a numbers game – the mindset that it's worth the effort to sift through a large pool of low-quality leads in order to get a few people through the door.
In reality, this approach wastes a lot of time and money. Instead, we should focus our resources on creating an exceptional automotive customer experience.
Human Interaction - HI Is the New AI
We've let AI replace HI at a time when quality human interactions are critical to our success. It's time to get back to the basics when it comes to the ever-personal automotive purchase.
In your very first customer interaction, introduce yourself by highlighting the reasons why the customer would be smart to buy your brand, from your dealership. Provide transparent pricing information when they ask for it.
Answer all of the customer’s questions in a timely, professional manner. Ask questions yourself. Find out who will be driving the vehicle, how it will be used, and what features are most important to the primary driver.
Listen and learn.
Next, provide information about other vehicles in your inventory that match their needs and wants. If you have comparable used cars in inventory – including off-brands you have recently taken on trade – provide that information, too.
Finally, remember that your website should be a seamless extension of your showroom, whereby visitors can find the same helpful information, tools, services, and inventory that you would offer in-store to assist them with their research.
If they start a process online (like completing financing paperwork or valuing their trade), provide a seamless transition into the showroom without interruption. Customers shouldn't have to start the process all over again when they arrive at your dealership.
The Trade Is the Gateway to the Deal
Studies show that the used car trade is the cornerstone of a replacement vehicle purchase, yet the trade-in process is challenging and confusing for most consumers.
That's because our industry continues to rely on price ranges generated by algorithms that ignore a car's unique characteristics. There are many factors that impact value beyond standard year/make/model, mileage, and condition information. These can include optional equipment, color combinations, vehicle history reports, seasonality, regional supply and demand, parts costs, repair costs, and many more.
Live mobile appraisals, on the other hand, connect consumers with experts in real time who understand the factors that impact value across all makes, models, and markets. Instead of price ranges, they provide a transactional cash offer your customers can use as a down payment towards their next purchase at your store.
These are some of the most qualified car sales leads of all – backed by a great automotive customer experience – given the fact that consumers have interacted with live experts to remove the pain from the trade-in process.
The same mobile technology can also put your team directly in touch with the customer for one-on-one communication before they've ever set foot in your showroom. There is no substitute for deeper customer engagement. While technology has improved many aspects of the car buying process, it's not the end-all-be-all for providing an exceptional automotive customer experience. Instead of treating your customers like car sales leads, be a sherpa to guide customers to the best car for their needs. They'll reward you for it.