Showroom hospitality: improving customer experience in the automotive industry

Improved customer experience is considerate to buyers with kids

You want to improve the customer experience at your dealership showroom, but where do you begin? Here are some tips on elevating the showroom experience for a more comfortable, hospitable, and trustworthy encounter. 

Create an inviting environment  

When a customer walks into a dealership, you want them to feel relaxed and welcomed. Take cues from spaces that already do that well, like restaurants and hotels. While OEMs guide most of the showroom’s layout and design decisions, there are still ways to elevate the experience within the outlined aesthetic. Even subtle rearrangements of furnishings or decor might make a difference. 

In-store marketing can speak to buyers’ needs, too. Signage or looping videos that showcase online and in-store digital convenience capabilities, as well as your ability to custom-order a vehicle during times of low inventory, make customers feel heard and understood. 

Then move on to a simple, yet sometimes tricky, element of any modern hospitality space: Wi-Fi. Your customers are likely checking email, social media, and maybe even researching their vehicle while they wait. They might also have kids in tow that need a little entertainment. Provide fast Wi-Fi so there’s no frustration in connecting or surfing. Wi-Fi’s also beneficial if the customer is browsing on your dealership’s digital retail platform. 

Improved customer experience is considerate to buyers with kids

Take a look next at your waiting area refreshments. Can you swap out basic bottled water and vending machines for something more enticing? Customers may especially appreciate local choices from their favorite brands—and those local brands might cut you a deal to help them with their own exposure. 

Coffee and tea, perhaps crucial to maintaining a high-energy experience, doesn’t have to be basic either. Consider a curated selection that pulls in cues from your locale, OEM, or other unique characteristics. A branded travel mug can up the game, too, with a dealer souvenir the customer will actually use every day. And what about snacks and juice for the kids?

With the environment elevated, move on to the sales team’s presence. 

Prioritize soft skills 

Let’s talk soft skills, or people skills. Are your salespeople putting in effort to make guests comfortable and feel refreshed after they’re checked in, or are they hurrying off and leaving the customer to scope out a seat and anxiously await their return? A couple minutes of hospitality at the front end of an experience can make a world of difference. 

That initial check-in, too, can feel more special and personalized when the salesperson can snag the customer’s information and deal progress instantly. A quick glance at the digital retail tool on an iPad can inform the salesperson on key details—and make the customer feel like their arrival was anticipated and tailored. 

Improving customer experience means never leaving the customer's side

Beyond introductions, these skills can be applied as the customer progresses through their deal. Empathy should lead the charge. With the stress level of Americans higher than ever, the last thing they want is another high-pressure situation. Economic factors, personal situations, and even finding the time to come into the showroom can be difficult. 

This capability of digital retail to allow a salesperson to stay in control of their deal without leaving the customer’s side can bring down customer stress. Salespeople can take that concept further by switching their mindset from sales to consultant, a more empathetic role. They may play the part of a careful listener more than they’ll act as a product showcase. This can focus more on the experience of car-buying as a personal journey and cars themselves as experiential objects. 

Extend this empathy to the follow-up communications, too. Make sure every call, text, or email is thoughtful, respectful, and remains helpful while widely avoiding annoyance. How your teams approach a follow-up can define the rest of the experience. So being careful not to ask for information that was already shared is crucial. So is keeping track of their progress, reiterating your understanding of their needs, and reaching out in the ways and frequencies they prefer. 

Customer experiences improve with a single point of contact sales model

Single point of contact sales models tend to make this consultant mindset easier to embrace. Digital retail also supports the consultant, letting the app handle most of the deal details and workflows and freeing up the consultant to make human connections and positive experiences. 

Employees who thrive in this sort of position may not come from a background in auto sales, but rather hospitality, luxury retail, or technology companies that offer experience centers. Some sales managers have even been known to send teams to high-end hospitality training such as the Ritz-Carlton’s.

Another key element of the sales team’s empathy is getting the deal done quickly and with no surprises. 

Make the process faster, easier, and more transparent 

It’s safe to say everyone involved wishes the car sales workflow was easier, faster, and more transparent. All of these aspects help improve the customer’s experience and can be influenced by the sales strategy set by the manager, as well as the individual approaches taken by everyone on the sales team. 

The soft skills above can help the salesperson identify what the customer needs and progress them through the deal with speed, efficiency, and respect for the time as a top priority. That doesn’t mean skipping important sales opportunities or product familiarity moments. But it can mean being proactive about queuing up the next stage, set of documents, or conversation. 

And while it might seem like a no-brainer, having their test drive parked out front with the climate control set is a simple way to make a positive lift in the experience. They can also choose a route that most efficiently exposes the customer to the kind of driving they do most often. 

Speed, simplicity, and a no-surprises deal workflow are also supported by a digital retail platform. It allows the customer to drive themselves through their car buying journey at their own pace. It also allows salespeople to jump in when the customer needs them—seamlessly—whether online via live chat or in the store, with an iPad in hand. For many customers, completing much or most of the process at home on their own device might be their optimal experience—and it’s your opportunity to make that available for them. 

Transparency and simplicity in auto retaill with customizable payments

While making the selling workflow more efficient and easy to navigate, digital retail also brings transparency buyers love. As they browse, build, and compare virtually, they can then transition to payment options and see a complete, detailed breakdown of the line item charges in their deal. With digital retail, salespeople can also stick by their client while they hash out details with their manager, thanks to instant messaging capabilities. This helps build a more trusting and comfortable relationship. 

It’s not impossible to drastically reduce the time it takes to close a deal, especially with the right tech tool. In fact, one dealer using Upstart Auto Retail realized 86% faster sales with the tool while increasing gross profits 40%. Another Upstart Auto Retail client saves 90 minutes per sale and closes 15% more deals thanks to their embrace of digital retail technology. 

Taking cues from the hospitality industry can go a long way in improving the showroom customer experience. Beyond soft skills, the hospitality industry itself is turning to more and more technology to elevate customer experiences, and dealership managers should take note.  

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