In an age full of choices, customer experience is key. And technology is the catalyst for creating the types of experiences today’s consumers have come to expect. New technologies—from mobile, tablets, and other smart devices—have permanently transformed how, when, and where people buy. Not to mention that Amazon and other tech-savvy e-commerce companies have fundamentally changed consumer buying behaviors. And because millennials have largely grown up with these types of sites and can manage all their social media in one place at their fingertips, a seamless customer experience has become an integral part of how they make purchasing decisions. According to McKinsey, in 2025 about 45% of car buyers will be millennials, so now’s the time to get to know this audience and understand their buying behavior and habits.
So how does this apply to the auto industry? Simply put, millennials expect an Amazon-esque experience across all their purchases—including car buying. Unfortunately, today, 87% of consumers dislike the car-buying experience in the dealership. This could be due to the traditional car-buying model, which often creates various points of friction: multiple hand-offs, slow processes, and a lack of transparency in structuring deals. Luckily, by adopting a modern car-buying experience, you not only improve customer satisfaction but it can also help you stand out amongst the competition.
And it seems like consumers are eager for it. Today, 95% of customers are already starting their car buying journey online in some capacity—from browsing vehicles and customizing with add-ons to filling out their credit application.
Let’s face it, first impressions are lasting impressions. So regardless of where or how a consumer starts their car-buying journey, having a streamlined experience between online and in-store is fundamental to your success. Not only will this attract new car buyers, it also goes a long way for helping you retain your current customer base. And when it comes down to it, it makes good financial sense to keep your current customers happy. An analysis by Bain & Company shows that it costs 6 to 7 times more to win a new customer than to retain one.
These days, people expect buying a car to be like buying anything else—simple, fast, convenient. To do this right takes much more than standing up an online experience or signing up for social platforms. It starts by transforming your dealership from within by adopting a model that aligns naturally with the omnichannel experiences your customers have come to expect.
Here’s how you can create a convenient, transparent, and seamless experience for consumers with single point of contact.
A single experience across every platform, channel, and device
Single point of contact is not a concept that’s specific to the automotive industry, but it’s one that works well in this space. In the simplest terms, a single-point-of-contact approach is exactly what it sounds like—one person who handles a customer interaction from beginning to end. The primary benefits of the single point of contact model include:
- Reducing friction in the car buying experience from online to in store
- Improving flexibility in the car-buying process to save time in store
- Eliminating unnecessary steps between sales and finance
- Increasing transparency in structuring deals
- Empowering salespeople to take on a more robust role
All this requires adopting new processes and restructuring the traditional ways of doing business. But today’s consumers have many choices and the dealerships with the best car-buying experience are poised to win them over and close more deals.
Here are four ways that a single-point-of-contact sales approach coupled with technology can help you realize these benefits and make them your primary differentiators.
1 Personalized approach
Nowadays consumers are more than comfortable thoroughly researching in advance—before they ever step foot into a dealership. And as mentioned above, 95% are already starting the car-buying process online. When people are ready to come into the store, they’re looking for an expert perspective on what they already gathered.
A single point of contact approach empowers salespeople to provide that added level of insights into what the customer already knows. But it takes having the right technology to do so. With a solution like Upstart Auto Retail, all of your customer’s information is automatically synced into your CRM, so when they come in, you can easily see what actions they’ve taken and where they left off. This gives you insights into what kind of questions to ask in person and where they might need a bit more guidance.
With an iPad in hand, a salesperson can go through everything from browsing vehicles and selecting F&I products to submitting a credit application—all in one platform and all without ever leaving the customers’ side. No matter what type of questions come up, from adding products and protection plans to providing the right loan offers, the right digital retail tool empowers your salespeople to answer confidently and guide customers through the entire deal.
2 Transparent interactions
Trust is the most valuable piece of currency for any business, and automotive is no exception.
Unfortunately, only 32% of consumers have a high level of trust in salespeople, meaning most people don’t feel that they are an honest source when it comes to making a purchasing decision.
As the old adage goes—trust is easy to lose and hard to regain. So where do you start?
Transparency. This is perhaps one of the fastest and most effective ways to change the narrative and win customers’ hearts and minds. But to do this right is no easy feat. In large part, it means rethinking the customer car-buying journey and taking a more holistic approach via a single point of contact who builds one-on-one trust with the customer.
Instead of jotting down numbers on a piece of paper that leave most people perplexed, show the financial information upfront and let car buyers decide what makes sense for them.
To do this right, you’ll need a digital retail platform like Upstart Auto Retail that gives you full visibility into the financial components and the capability to structure deals, including terms, APRs, discounts, and down payments in real time—side-by-side with customers. Not only does this foster trust by allowing customers to feel involved in the deal, it also eliminates the back-and-forth that can often leave people wondering what’s going on in the back office. In other words, it creates transparency.
3 Consistency across touchpoints
In the last decade, there have been a wide variety of technological improvements in the automotive space, making cars safer and more reliable. But the same standard of innovation is lacking when it comes to the car-buying process.
Now’s the time to focus innovation in the car-buying journey because consumers are not only ready for it, they’re demanding it. On average, customers switch between online and offline channels at least four times, and they expect to pick up where they left off without interruption. The transition between these experiences could be the difference between a customer completing or abandoning the deal.
If a seamless customer experience is key to success, then consistency is the foundation on which it’s built. The single-point-of-contact approach integrates every touchpoint on their car-buying journey into one central source of communication. In other words, if a car buyer starts their journey online, browsing and selecting make and model, you should be able to track, note, and resume exactly where they left off when they show up to your showroom. Upstart Auto Retail not only makes it easy for car buyers to build deals at their own pace, it automatically syncs their information on your platform.
This seamlessness saves time for both you and the customer and reduces inconsistency and inaccuracy. So no matter how or where a customer interacts with your dealership it feels like the same experience.
But how do you know you’re being successful? You’ll know when all channels work together to create a holistic experience that guides the customer further along their car-buying journey, faster and more smoothly.
4 Flexible car-buying experience
When you ask people how they’re doing, they’re likely to respond, “busy.” With countless things vying for our attention, flexibility is paramount for a modern car-buying experience.
So why make people come into the store if there’s a more flexible option? Up to 65% of surveyed [car] buyers said they would consider buying a car online. And according to a study by Progressive, saving time was one of the top reasons customers enjoyed the online car buying process. Of consumers who actually bought a car online in the last couple of years, 78% found the experience to be satisfying.
With the millennial market becoming your primary buyers, it’s crucial to note that buyers under 40 were more likely to buy a car online than those over age 57. What’s even more interesting is that of people 25-40 only 26% said they purchased a car in the dealership.
All of this is to say flexibility is key for the modern car-buying experience. And single point of contact is the main ingredient for getting this right. However, we can’t forget about technology.
In order to implement a single point of contact approach, you’ll need a digital retail solution that enables your customers to transact remotely. Solutions such as Upstart Auto Retail offer live chat, video calls, and even virtual tours that can help you guide car buyers through the entire process from selecting a vehicle to finding the right loan all in one platform without ever requiring the customer to come into the store.
Want to learn more about how you can transition your dealership into a single point of contact model? Visit upstart.com/dealers.