The title says it all really, that’s the well-used phrase that Sales Managers use. Any Sales Executives worth their salt will only stand half a chance of a signed order if the potential customer is placed at the helm and offered a chance of the all-important test drive. It’s the point where the customer is allowed to “bond” with the vehicle and, of course, decide if it’s the car for them. If you are in the market for a car, you simply need to get a feel for what you are letting yourself in for – after all, would you buy a pair of shoes without trying them on?
That said, if you have previously driven the motor you are looking at, you have saved an hour of your time by not having to wait for an ill-prepared Sales Executive to find the car, find their fuel card, dig the vehicle out of a badly-arranged forecourt and try to find where the trade plate fairies have hidden them. However, for 90 per cent of potential customers, the test drive is the second most important part of the sales process behind the actual cost of the vehicle itself. As mentioned, it’s your chance to like or dislike the car not to mention a good way for the Sales Executive to assess whether you are hot to trot as it were.
A local couple stopped me a few weeks back to ask what I really thought of the all-new Vauxhall Astra 1.6 SRi diesel which was parked on my drive. My answer was a definite “it’s a belter” which it really is – it’s not simply the best Astra ever, it’s actually a damn fine motor car in almost every respect – and built here, too. We chatted for a short while and then I invited the couple concerned to have a look around inside and out – they seemed suitably impressed and we parted with me telling them to go and have a try and judge for themselves.
Well, that was a few weeks back and Mr and Mrs Uptheroad walked past the house walking the dogs this very morning. They came over for a chat and recounted one of the worst examples of customer service known to mankind – and I’ve seen and heard some in my time – but this one was quite amazing. They have gone on to purchase a new Golf purely because of the way in which they were dealt with and made to feel special. To digress, it’s also very true for a person to purchase a car purely on the customer satisfaction alone rather than the vehicles actual abilities – this is why the likes of Lada, Hyundai and Skoda did so well despite their once motley ranges of a few years back.
Anyway, getting back to the present, the aforementioned couple did, indeed, opt to go and have a look-see at a new Astra at a dealer which is about an hour away. They walked into a busy showroom only to be ignored for the best part of twenty minutes and, when they did actually speak to someone, it was they who had to seek out a member of staff. The first person to talk with them made a gruff remark stating he was a Sales Manager and not a Sales Executive, but did point them in the direction of a chap sitting at a desk. They asked a few probing questions about the car but, at no point, did the man ask from this pair of potential customers for any names or contact details
A request for a test drive was made and it was here their patience finally ran out. The sales chap disappeared and his Manager came and sat with them asking if there were actually in a position to buy there and then. This is simply not on as a massive number of potentials turn into confirmed orders on the back of a good test drive in a talented car. How many of you have bought an armchair/Hi-Fi /PC /new kitchen or a tumble drier purely on a whim or because of a good deal? Human beings act on impulse and, should you be spending the thick end of £20K on a car, a no-obligation test drive is a must.
The Manager’s statement was then clarified by him explaining that they could, indeed, have a test drive but only on the condition that, should a good deal be worked out, they must commit there and then. This is pressure of the highest order and the husband of this couple quite rightly replied back that this line of enquiry was concluded there and then. They stood up, walked out, drove back to Horsham and accidentally found themselves driving past our local Volkswagen dealer. They popped in for a browse, were treated like King and Queen and bought an ex-demonstrator Golf BlueMotion – simple as that!
So, our hard-working lads and lasses at Ellesmere Port loose out because of a crappy dealer, but it’s more serious than that. The couple in question will possibly never consider a Vauxhall again purely on the past experience – that’s how it goes. Back in the day, when I was peddling Vauxhalls, I once telephoned a previous customer to advise them of the then all-new Corsa, but was sworn at and verbally harangued – why? Well, because the parts man who once dealt with him was rude. Vauxhall dealers should be maximising every opportunity with this all new Astra – at last, they have a car that really stands toe to toe with the best of its class.
However, this issue is by no means unique to Vauxhall. I have experienced some seriously dismal attitudes in all brands of vehicle and, at one time, was even badgered to death by someone before I had even got both feet through the showroom door when attending an interview for a Fleet Sales Manager’s role – and that was with BMW. Because little differs in cost or specification with most volume manufacturers, the only way to win is by how you do it and how you treat people right – and the best bit of this statement is that it costs nothing to make someone feel valued and special.
I still hear of sales staff treating customers as a hindrance rather than their lifeblood – all this despite of a crippling recession wiping out many dealers not that long ago. Walk-in customers are, in fact, getting as rare as a 25kg sack of rocking horse manure thanks to e-brochures and other important information being nothing more than a click away. Good customer service is what makes or breaks a business – any business in fact – and it breaks my heart to hear that car dealers seem to learn sweet nothing from their own past experiences when times were hard.
If it wasn’t for the unsociable hours I sometimes think of going back into new car sales… I’d wipe the floor and make a killing from these blow-dried idiots who masquerade as Car Sales Executives. Mystery shoppers do exist in the trade but, there are seemingly not enough of them to scare the wits and shape up the slacker showrooms. More direct manufacturer involvement is the way forward I think…