Recently I was in a plumbing supply store. I needed a small, custom part for my kitchen faucet. This is what greeted me:
That’s right. A bunch of white guys in dress shirts and ties, answering phones at desks with paper catalogues, and wood panels on the walls.
Seriously. I had to check my phone to make sure it wasn’t 1980.
Wait. It gets better. After being gruffly greeted at the counter, my helper spent 20 minutes asking 3 different guys before finding the reference to the part I needed. Then he went in the back of the building to their warehouse only to return and declare that the part wasn’t in stock, had been discontinued, and couldn’t be acquired any longer.
Now that’s extreme, but it got me thinking: Surely we’ve done a better job in the car business keeping up? In my days back in the late 90’s I remembered the end of the parts microfiche days. Don’t know what that is? Go on a quest to find out. I always find the exploration of the technological or cultural references backwards to be insightful.
Think your dealership is up to date? Would your customers say so? Consider:
How far online: Have you recently bought anything else other than real estate or a vehicle online? Pause and picture the process you encountered in your mind. Did your shopping process involve the vendor showing you a colorized photo of the vehicle, generic data (i.e. VIN decode), list price, and asking you to submit your information so they could get back to you with a real price, leaving credit, financing, incentives and after-market sales for when you visited their physical facility? Carmax just announced the pilot roll out of direct online shopping. Are you using microfiche and web lead forms when the competition has ecommerce that allows consumers to shop and buy online – cars and parts?
Would you be your “friend” online? I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, LinkedIn, MySpace, Flickr, De.lic.i.ous, and countless blogs and forums. I know how to use these technologies, but I’ve been around long enough that I’m skeptical of next-ware that is going to change everything. Twitter and Facebook brought about regime change in Egypt and hopefully Libya. Does that somehow make them effective advertising tools for car dealers? My question is (and I don’t know the answer): who has sold what with this stuff and for what effort put in? It’s a blog. Post your experiences.
Other uses of social media? We live in a lottery society, so I’m sure there must be some benefit in the contest invitations I receive from car dealers or I’m sure the deluge of them would stop (please).
Sales Presentation Materials. I helped my Canadian brother in law buy a new Subaru (an Impreza WRX Limited) a few months ago from Richmond Hill Subaru. The customer quoting sheets were awesome. The best I’ve ever seen. Selling price, rebates, payment and lease options all clearly laid out. Very professional and able to be updated as we moved through the process (i.e. added his trade in). I know enough about the selling process and how to calculate a car deal to be dangerous, so other than surprising the finance manager by reverse-calculating the back end of the deal, everything went very smoothly.
I contrasted that with the paperwork from buying my 2003 Audi A4 Cab. I loved that car, but now it’s a write off. It flooded with water this spring during rain due to the improper installation of the convertible top, so I had the paperwork out. The paperwork was dated November 2002 and the car had just come out. I used part of my Reynolds severance check to buy it. It was a hand-written bill of sale, with the options hand-written. I’m quite sure as an industry we still span that spectrum of sales presentation materials from awesome, clear, and honest to hand-written. What do your dealership’s sales presentation materials look like?
What other examples can you think of in your dealership?
And then as a footnote I was thinking the other day of services and technologies (like the microfiche) that have gone away that I don’t miss. Here’s my list. Add yours in your comments.
Video rental stores. Thank you video on demand over the Internet! The idiocy of driving to a store, finding the titles alphabetically or by genre, renting a disk, worrying about availability and the ever looming return date. Click. Gone.
Cell phones as phones. I have a wife and two boys. We all have iPhones. The phone part of the bill is less than 1/3 of the total and collectively we have 1,000 minutes per month and only use 2-300 of them. But 15-20,000 texts and several GB of data per month, no problem. A phone with call display and numbers 0-9 would seem like an antique. I saw one of the old house phones with a cord and the rotary dial the other day. My 13 year old asked me what it was.
Desktops and Laptops are going quickly too. iPads, netbooks, and smart phones. Don’t believe me? Look at what people under 30 use.
Typewriters. I am old enough that I had to take typing in high school. I thought it was a completely useless course at the time. Couldn’t have been more wrong. Sorry for the things I said Mom. Probably the most useful thing I could have taken. Use it all day every day. No wonder they call it keyboarding now.
I could go on. I have many more. That’s not the point. This is a blog. Please add your input. I’ll leave you this final thought:
The world around us is changing. Technology is enabling everything we do and radically reshaping how we do a lot of things. In this context, how do consumers view your business? Do you look and operate like the car dealers they’ve stereotyped or are your image, brand, technology, and processes setting a different and more up to date image?
As Darwin said (I’ll paraphrase), “It is not the tallest, strongest, fastest, smartest, or any other -est that survives evolution: It is just the species which is most adaptable to change.”
What have you seen? What do you think? What’s going on out there?
How well does your dealership adapt and embrace technological and process change?