4 Min Read • November 13, 2023
Car Buyers Eager to Shun Idle Time, Not Dealer Showrooms
Most dealerships are hyperfocused on building a better buying experience for their customers. Contrary to popular belief, a better experience doesn’t mean shunning the showroom for an entirely online sales process. It means eliminating idle time and dealer rigmarole that stretches showroom visits into endless hours of haggling, paperwork and high-pressure pitches for insurance products.
Consider that our 2023 Friction Points study revealed 91% of shoppers bought from a dealer. So, car shoppers are still coming through the front doors. However, idle time kills satisfaction. The longer customers wait during the negotiation period and to get into the F&I Office, the more dissatisfied they become with the entire experience.
According to our study, the best experiences are those that take no longer than two hours, where customers feel every question is answered so they’re confident in their purchases. That may sound like a contradiction so how do you make the experience both comprehensive and fast? The answer: Leverage a technology-enabled sales process that makes both buying and selling a car easier without sacrificing quality.
Satisfaction-Killing Friction Points
Study after study shows two areas where customers want dealers to do better: price negotiation and the Finance Department. When a customer hears “Let me go talk to my manager” and “Let’s go over to the Finance Department,” dread sets in.
Our research found the most troublesome tasks were waiting on a salesperson and waiting alone, most likely to get into the F&I Office. The longer customers sit idle and time in-store ticks up to a two-hour mark, the lower their satisfaction with the overall process.
Faster Deal Making
The pandemic pushed car dealers to step up online research and buying tools. However, dealers entrenched in old-school sales culture may use websites to merely maneuver buyers into the showroom. This feels like a bait-and-switch to customers who’ve taken the time to complete some of the purchase steps online, only to show up in the showroom and start over.
The most effective way to ditch idle time in deal making is to use the same digital retail tool in the showroom that customers use from home. Yet only 30% of dealers are doing this. Why? Fears of compressed margins and losing control over the process are common. However, the most effective digital retail tools have built-in, dealer-specific guardrails for deal terms.
If you can capture and keep the customer’s journey updated before and after they enter the store, it’ll move customers more quickly toward a sale, without sacrificing the quality of the experience. A customer who sits side by side with a sales associate to review vehicle details, explore financing options and complete a first pencil can ask questions along the way and get the transparency they want to feel comfortable about the purchase. Best of all, there’s no unnecessary time waiting as a sales associate runs back and forth to the manager.
Opportunity remains strong in the F&I Department, but again, idle time frustrates customers who are then less likely to sit through presentations and purchase products. While it’s true that some waiting time is to be expected, it can be mitigated when you include F&I in the modern retail process.
Present products earlier online and in-store in the buying journey to help customers move faster through the process once they’re in the office. Upfront product education, with a focus on protecting the vehicle investment, can give customers transparency as well as set up the F&I Manager for conversations that are meaningful to customers.
According to our study, if a customer waited more than 30 minutes for F&I, their Net Promoter Score (NPS) dropped nearly in half. Idle time tanks the likelihood that customers recommend your store to friends and family. Introduce F&I information often and early, and equip customers with tablets to further review products while they wait on the F&I Office if you want a proven strategy to mitigate the negative effects of idle time.
Don’t buy into the misconception that customers are eager to shun showrooms. What they want to shun is idle time. Tackle the friction points you know drag out time in the showroom and you’ll create a better buying experience for your customers.