Most car dealership Internet customers focus on price but donâ€™t fixate on it, according to a study on consumer buying habits.
Price is a hurdle that needs to be cleared, with 74% of survey respondents citing it as important.
But after that, whether a store offers quality customer service is a big factor in most buying decisions, says the study by Outsell LCC, an Internet sales and marketing firm.
â€śYouâ€™ve got to be in the game with price and payments, but then customer service is the key,â€ť Outsell CEO Mike Wethington tells Wardâ€™s.
The study says most customers are willing to pay extra for high levels of customer service, and dealers who offer it can increase profit margins on vehicle sales.
â€śOnce the price barrier is crossed, a consumer who experiences a high level of service will be more inclined to buy a vehicle at that dealership and pay more,â€ť says Sahill Merchant, an Outsell researcher who oversaw the study.
Nearly 67% of survey respondents showed a willingness to pay an additional $100-$500 if they receive excellent service at the dealership. Leading that group were shoppers at high-end dealerships.
High-line shoppers are more determined to buy a particular vehicle. In contrast, most average Internet shoppers purchase a different vehicle than the one they initially shopped for, the study says.
High-line vehicle buyers are much more specific about the model and options on a vehicle. Other customers often are still inclined to purchase a similar vehicle at a dealership that offers them a good experience, says the study.
Men and women car shoppers are different, but not that much, says Merchant.
â€śMen and women pretty much want the same thing, but women fear they are at a disadvantage at a dealership,â€ť he tells Wardâ€™s. â€śThe greatest pain point for women is the feeling that the salesperson isnâ€™t treating them fairly. Men feel that too, but not as great.â€ť
Exceptional dealerships understand customersâ€™ individual needs and recognize differences, Wethington says. â€śThey view every customer as unique.â€ť
Excelling at that are many dealerships in the 51-store Hendrick Automotive Group based in Charlotte, NC, he says.
â€śRegardless of race, gender and economic standing, a good dealership is customer-centric,â€ť Wethington says. â€śEveryone is treated with respect. Itâ€™s understanding differences, but treating people equally.â€ť
He recommends stores create a satisfying car-buying experience for Internet customers at the beginning of the sales cycle by offering timely information through an active online sales channel and live chats.
Doing that reassures shoppers their needs will be met when they go to the dealership, he says.
Outsell is based in Minneapolis, eight blocks from the University of Minnesota, which is a major source of its job candidates.
â€śWeâ€™re interested in bright, young people interested in a sales career,â€ť Wethington says. â€śWeâ€™ve gone from a staff of 20 to 50, and we expect to be at about 100 at the end of the year.â€ť