When it comes to buying cars, there’s been a big shift. Customers know more than they ever did. The salesman is taking a back seat – and a certain amount of brand loyalty has been left by the wayside.
I’ve never really been a massive car fan. I know about them, I drive them. But I don’t covet cars and I’m not a tinkerer under the bonnet either. So I thought I’d look into what dealers are doing to get – and reward – loyalty. And find if the wealth of options when it comes to owning is helping this loyalty or not.
Beep beep n beep beep (yeah)
I’ve bought five or six cars over the recent years. One BMW. One Fiat 500. One Audi. One Ford. Two Renaults. Nearly always cash or part-ex. And recently, I got a VW Polo (despite the Diesel controversy) on finance.
I’ve worked on car brands for years. And I found out while working on Nissan recently, that people don’t really think of cars as the second most expensive thing they’re ever going to buy like they used to.
Getting a car on a contract is as usual for some people as getting a new phone on a contract. Armed with this knowledge, and best Essex vowels and glottal stops, I went to the VW dealer to get me ‘ands on a new mota. (And to see if finance could drive loyalty to the car marque).
Hello John got a new motor?
Car dealerships can be daunting. You think you’re going to rip you off. All that malarkey of going off to speak to the guvnor about best prices sticks with you. But those experiences seem to be more aligned to buying cars outright. And might be something that’s going out of fashion.
Getting a car on finance feels different. At no point did I feel I was being ripped off. It felt wrong to query the overall price when it was just £150 a month. I even decided I’d pay a little more for metallic paint and alloys (which used to be one of my massive bugbears – “why does it cost more to use a different paint?” I ranted to only myself).
So, I’m beginning to feel a lot better about the getting a car experience.
My question here from a creative in a CRM agency might have been, “ah, does leasing a car increase loyalty to a customer – to keep them coming back?”. I’ll come back to that later.
Here’s my road to getting a car on finance.
- Go in. Choose a car. The nice sales fella had an iPad and configured the car and immediately sent me a pdf of what I’d chosen. To look at later. No hard sell. I looked at the pdf. Yes, that is a car.
- I said OK, I’m interested in leasing/PCP/finance options. “Ah,” says Neil “here’s how that works”. And he explained it to me very clearly. So I asked him to write it down. And it was no clearer. But it seemed to make sense.
- The odd bit here, is that he scribbled it down on a piece of paper with a chewed biro. This is when he should be woo-ing me: I’m closer now to buying. And I’d rather have the very complicated graphs about depreciation and repayments and deposits and mileage to look at later at home.
- Anyway, what he scribbled down made enough sense for me to say OK, let’s do it. (Although, in retrospect, I might have just been stopping him from talking).
- So, paperwork, ordering, blah blah blah. Came in a few weeks later and there it was, in the middle of the showroom. “Are you excited?” Says Neil. “Oh yes” lies me. It’s a nice car, but I feel like I’m just borrowing it for three years.
Six months down the road
It’s about 6 months later now. I had one call from the dealership seeing if everything was OK after about 2 weeks and that’s it. The car (mostly) still smells nice. It’s quite tidy inside which is unusual for me.
But nothing that happened during the process that keeps me loyal to VW.
All I left with (apart from a car and a big basket of nearly off fruit) was a pile of terms and conditions and agreements. I don’t know where they are. I have no idea if I said I’d do 3,000 or 5,000 miles a year.
There were definitely moments on the purchasing journey where I could have had my loyalty tickled and teased – and even more since. But those ways to get me back in were missed – almost if they were relying on the fact that I would simply because I got the car on a lease.
In summary then, what could (and should) they have done better…
- The customer (me) could probably do with a bit of handholding pre-and-post sales. Leaving me with more information to digest at my own time, and keep hold of (rather than file and forget where it is).
- You know a lot about me, why I needed the slightly bigger car because I have two teenage kids (who’ll be driving soon). You could speak to me after the sale to get me to come in when my son needs a motor.
- You know I have another car and it’s an MPV. You could nudge me towards one of yours.
- You could keep in touch with me – remind me of dates and miles and services and stuff. At the moment, my car tells me it’s time for a service (not because it starts breaking down).
- You could be keeping me warm. Tempt me with newer models, concept cars.
- I know mobiles are different, but when we worked on the renewal journey for Carphone Warehouse, we planned out 18 months of activity – discovering the different ways people behave at different parts of the journey. That was for a phone contract worth £300 or so. Surely it makes sense to do it for cars worth north of £15000.
- Maybe I’d feel different if the free basket of fruit wasn’t so manky
-Simon Martin, Creative Director