Cautionary tale where nobody gets hurt – except the dealership

This actually happened.

A couple recently goes into a dealership knowing exactly what vehicle they want to purchase (a 2015 SUV with leather interior, large touchscreen and sunroof).

In less than an hour, they’re ready to go – except for the visit with the F&I guy.

And that’s where things start to go a bit pear shaped. About 90 minutes later, after they escape, the salesman runs through the vehicle’s electronics in the service area and turns the couple loose.

What’s wrong with this picture of couple driving off in their new car?

Completed sale, right? Commission earned, profit made. Mic drop. Over and out.

So, what’s wrong with the dealership’s performance – aside from the 90 minutes the couple spent in the F&I office (which shoppers say they hate about the car-buying experience)?

Your time is up. If you couldn’t answer the question, go to the back of the line for now.

In this story, nobody – salesman, sales manager, F&I guy, receptionist, night watchman – introduced the couple, who had just purchased a $38,000 vehicle, to someone from the service department. That department, where a most new-car dealerships make a high percentage of their profit, was closed, although it was early evening and the sales team still was working.

This is not a good thing, according to experts cited by Jim Leman at Ward’s Auto online.

Take the measure of your sales-to-service, new-customer handoff.

“The first place we stumble in establishing a long-term relationship with the customer is at vehicle delivery, the sales-to-service turnover,” consultant Dean Estep recently told Ward’s Auto.

“It isn’t done, period, at many dealerships, because the sales person’s pay is not tied to service-customer retention,” consultant Gary Edwards said to Ward’s. “Where sales and service staffs do this well, nine out of 10 new buyers come back to the dealership for that first important appointment.”

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? But there’s one big problem for dealerships, according to Edwards.

“We know that 55 percent of cars delivered today are delivered after the service department is already closed. That’s a problem for first-service success. If your dealership is going to be open to sell customers a vehicle, your service department should also be open to service customer’s vehicles.”

Introducing a new customer to the service department is not an option.

One solution is to make sure salespeople “take an active interest in working with the service department to get the car buyer in to meet the service department as soon as possible.”

“Requiring sales staff to participate in getting every new-vehicle purchaser introduced to the service department must be a condition of employment,” Edwards told Ward’s. “And the sales and service staffs must be held accountable for complying.”

“This drives the importance of dealers working with their sales and adviser teams to create the kind of delivery attitude and messaging that conveys the importance to the team and to the buyer,” said Estep.

Or not, as in the case of the couple above, which didn’t hear from the dealership until it was time for the vehicle’s 5,000-mile checkup. Months later. By email.

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