Car dealerships don’t offer spas, pools, or fancy rooms for overnight stays.

Still, auto retailers could take a cue from the upscale Ritz-Carlton hotel chain.

A dealer and a representative from a car manufacturer agree on this during a Reuters webinar, “Rethinking the automotive customer experience”.

Ritz-Carlton trains employees to focus on personalized customer service, something worth emulating at dealerships, says Amanda Skura, head of digital experience technologies at Audi of America.

She praises the Ritz philosophy of ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.

“And if you had this model at the dealerships? » Skura (photo, left) said, recommending a measured approach in dealing with car buyers. “You want it to be, ‘I’m here when you need me.’ But you don’t want to chase after people in the store.

David Long, executive general manager of the Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Hansel Auto Group, calls Ritz-Carlton his favorite hotel chain. He cites his attention to detail.

“If you had requested extra towels during a previous stay, there will be extra towels in your room during the next stay,” he says. “It’s part of their system.”

Although dealerships don’t offer fluffy towels, they can still add a personal touch.

“If someone bought me 10 Acuras, I should know their preferences,” Long says. “When they come in for service, make their favorite coffee and pastry. Dealers need a system for that.

Customer relationship management software systems can help in this regard by keeping track of customer preferences, rather than relying on the memories of dealership staff.

The so-called customer journey has changed, largely because of digital auto retail, says Skura, who focuses on automotive e-commerce at Audi, Volkswagen’s premium brand.

“In the beginning, you had a linear course,” she says. Not anymore.

“The customer journey is more like a map of the constellation” because “there are so many entry points,” says Skura, who recommends making car buying flexible by being both online and in-store.

David Long.png Long (photo, left) quips, “Only one thing has changed in auto retail – everything.” He adds that the bad news is that some dealers didn’t get the message.

With so many auto consumers buying and researching extensively online, the once-standard dealership sales model of trying to coax buyers into the store as soon as possible and then putting them through a step-by-step sales process predetermined, is disappearing.

Some dealerships still use the “get them in here” approach, Long says. “But that’s not what customers are asking for.”

He adds: “The golden rule has become the platinum rule: do for the customer what he wants, how he wants and when he wants. It has to be a purchase process, not a sale rigidly structured process.

Steve Finlay is a retired editor of Wards. He can be reached at [email protected].


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