The Three Laws of a Connected and Deal-Centric Retail Workflow

Today’s typical car buyer spends around 60% of their time online, and visits just two dealerships before making a purchase.*

It’s a surprising statistic, and one that accurately reveals current changes in buyer behavior. It is, in fact, a simple and powerful reflection of what consumers want: An experience that begins at their convenience, and connects the online world to the showroom. We know this thanks to a mountain of car buyer feedback. Yet just when we think there’s a clear path to follow, we realize that each customer navigates through this journey differently – and so does each dealership. The key is to create a flexible, deal-centric approach based on three basic tenets, a path that improves the buyer experience and increases profitability.

1. Start the Deal

Through all the changes driven by technology, there are a few basic laws of the deal, beginning with this: Customers start online, and they want a quick and easy dealership experience. As such, they wind their way through your website or a third-party site, and ultimately arrive at your showroom ready to make a deal.

What happens next depends on you. But one thing seems sure: they want the car they picked online. In fact, 74% of shoppers know which car they want to buy before they even arrive at the dealership, and 47% prefer using online forms that carry over into the dealership dialogue.* The all-important piece to the puzzle is the connection – that connected solution where technology enables your team to link the online work done by the shopper to a fast and satisfactory showroom sale. This is today’s buyer’s journey, and with shoppers spending so much time online,* it’s more critical than ever to provide a coordinated experience – one that requires a direct digital retailing connection to your showroom workflow.

Connect to Speed, Efficiency, and Integration

But let’s face it: no matter how well connected the process is, breakdowns happen that put the deal at risk. This is especially true now, with time being such a priority for buyers. For example, asking them to wait around while your staff manually enters data into a credit app is basically inviting them to find another dealership.

So, while picking up where the customer left off is vital, moving into an efficient and fast workflow that includes the credit bureau and application phase is a critical part to the buyer’s journey. Your credit app and bureau should speed up this process, and not hinder it, by pre-filling required data fields** and by connecting to a large network of lenders. That sounds pretty simple, right? Of course, it’s not. The seemingly basic task of selling a car to a customer is, today, a complex and at times frustrating experience that drains the entrepreneurial spirit from managers and salespeople. Avoiding this takes a truly integrated system of checks and balances. For example, an effective compliance program isn’t just about being compliant with federal regulations, it’s about doing so within the sales flow for every deal – the same way every time – and without compromising profitability. That includes oversight of everything from Red Flags to privacy notices, digital document storage, adverse action notices, and more. Again – it’s about making the connection to a fast and integrated in-house workflow.

2.  Structure the Deal

Structuring and finalizing details of the deal should also be a fast and friendly process – an opportunity, in fact, to increase profit per vehicle and heighten the customer’s enthusiasm. But today, the reality is far different – customers associate this part of the deal with emotions like frustration and anxiety.*** Ultimately, structuring the deal is about finding profit. A deal structured the right way provides maximum profit and customer satisfaction through a process that begins with desking and finishes with menu selling.

Simplify the Conversation

From a quick first pencil to a proposal engine that handles virtually any type of deal, your desking solution should deliver a fast, transparent, and accurate experience in a simple way – one that lends credibility. A good desking tool helps by accurately building upon the deal framework that’s been established online. This way, your sales representative can make sure this all-important discussion establishes a positive relationship, one that carries into the aftermarket experience.

“Time kills deals. We wanted a more seamless process that would enhance our customer experience.”

— Kevin Cook, General Manager Straub Automotive

That’s important, because today most people do not like the menu selling phase. As per a recent Cox Automotive study, the timing of when F&I options are presented creates confusion and frustration for buyers who believe they have already finalized their deal/payment.*** It’s a critical issue that impacts overall satisfaction rates and profit per vehicle. The best way to solve it? Collaboration and transparency. Simply sitting down with the customer and having a data-driven conversation about their preferences – and by giving them control to accept or reject appropriate products – creates an interactive, pressure-free environment.

3. Transact the Deal

The buyer’s journey truly is a journey, one that winds its way through virtually every corner of a dealership. And for every one good thing that happens, one or more disastrous moments can occur that plummet customer satisfaction and negatively impact your CSI. It’s not just about sales and the customer relationship anymore – though that remains vitally important.

Today’s fast pace and tight market puts added pressure on the transactional systems that finish the deal and get the customer on their way. These background workflows must be built with speed and accuracy in mind – and must be truly integrated from sales floor to F&I area and business office. Electronic contracting and registration and title processes not only help you reduce costs and catch errors, but speed the transaction – a key customer demand. That’s a must-have improvement that can make a significant difference during the transactional phase of the deal, when the customer is anxious to leave and get through the final steps.

Electronic Efficiency

By now it’s an established fact of automotive retail: dealers cut expenses by using electronic contracting. What’s more, they can also enhance the customer experience. Because it leverages data and digital connectivity, this technology can speed funding, cut interest expenses, and improve cash flow. It also helps to eliminate the cost and hassle of re-contracting, by replacing the traditional and mistake-prone approach of manual data entry and calculations, paper contracts with “wet” signatures, and overnight delivery of funding packages. Electronic contracting via a secure digital platform is, today, the way most consumers prefer to handle the signing and documentation aspect of any transaction – including an automotive purchase.

This same value can be found with registration and title. Smart workflow management doesn’t stop with sales and F&I. In fact, title clerks and controllers in the business office have a critical role to play after every sale. Reg & Title can, in fact, be challenging and time-consuming – which makes it important to leverage capable solutions that provide an accurate calculation of taxes and fees, as well as offer extensive, automated error-checking. Combine this with a robust mix of local experience and advanced technology that features fast deal audits, a user-friendly application, and expedited data entry with DMS import, and you can create a powerful, lasting impression with your customers.

Technology as a Partner

Today, technology is a partner in how you start, structure, and transact a deal. If your workflow streamlines the amount of time spent for all parties, if it helps to reduce the cost of doing business, and if it improves the overall experience, chances are it will help to consistently execute satisfying deals, create efficiencies, and empower people to create stronger connections and build lasting relationships. After all, the third, final, and most important law in today’s technology-driven sales market is that it is still – and always – a people business. Technology simply makes the connection, and the possibilities, stronger.

Jason Barrie is Associate Vice President, Market Performance Dealertrack F&I and VinSolutions, Cox Automotive brands. Read his bio here. 

*2017 Cox Automotive Car Buyer Journey Study
**Pre-populated data of required credit app fields.
***2016 Cox Automotive Emotional Connections Study

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