Sometime last year, we ran a series of posts on the shopping experience for jewelry, electronics, skincare and cosmetics, high street apparel and other premium goods.
Adding to that series is this post on the experience of shopping for mid-segment cars. A few months ago, my husband and I were in the market for a mid-segment car, more specifically a sedan, with automatic transmission, ample legroom in the rear and boot space. Our consideration set consisted of Honda, Volkswagen, Skoda, Nissan, Toyota and Ford. We are both car enthusiasts and had done our research prior to visiting these dealerships for further information on the cars and test drives; not only this, through our conversations with the sales persons we’d made it amply clear that we knew about what we were looking for in the car and that we already knew a fair bit about the cars themselves.
Given below is a summary of our experience at various dealerships :
- Knowledgeable staff, understood what we were looking for and told us exactly about that, weren’t gimmicky or trying to sell us anything we did not care for in our car.
- Not only was the sales person prompt in attending to us, but when we needed assistance or needed questions answered by the accessories or finance person at the store, they were quite prompt in showing us seat cover options, color options, or different EMI plans, etc.
- Ample waiting space and engaging reading material at the showroom.
- While the first interaction was impressive, the same cannot be said for the follow-up conversations, where we had to end up waiting for longer, cars weren’t ready for test driving, the formalities for the test drive took longer than expected. Finally when we decided to go ahead with the car, the payment formalities took too long, the car registration personnel were not professional, in the meantime the prices got revised and there was no communication for the same and eventually they did not even deliver in the stipulated time period.
Not-so-good: a few examples of what we didn’t like at other dealerships
- Despite prior appointments with a specific sales person, the person was either out for another meeting or was on leave on that day.
- Some sales persons did not know their cars at all. For simple questions, they needed to refer to the brochure or call their manager to answer our queries. Similarly their accessories and finance teams weren’t prompt with answering our questions either.
- Despite taking prior appointments, the test drive cars were either out for another test drive or were still being prepped for the test drive.
- Did not have ample seating space in the showrooms, so we were kept standing and waiting to be assisted.
- Did not understand us, their customer, at all. In some cases, they did not really talk about the features of the car, instead demonstrated things like how to take the driver seat back and forth, how to turn on the AC and audio system, etc. Now if they understood us, they’d have also understood that we weren’t first time car owners and did not need to be shown such obvious things. In the bargain, they did not focus on the more important or uncommon aspects like fuel economy or sports gear or valet lock feature or parking sensors, etc.
- One of the companies called us up with a new deal everyday!
- Called up everyday to find out if we’d reached a decision despite making it amply clear that we’d get back to them the following week (‘cause we still had other cars to check out). Sometimes we got multiple calls in a day from different car/ accessories sales staff to ask the same questions.
Our verdict: Overall, a C. Major scope for improvement. While speaking to a lot of the sales representatives also realized that the attrition rate in the industry seems quite high; as only 1 out of the 6 sales people we interacted with had been with their company for over a year, rest had been employed with the firm for only 4-6 months.
- Roshni Jhaveri
[Disclaimer: This post deals mainly with one aspect of the shopping experience – interactions with the sales staff. Also, the list of outlets visited for the purpose of observation is not exhaustive.]
It also seems that the most qualified salespeople, and people who actually know cars and some of whom LOVE cars, prefer to work in the higher segment cars. This could be because their knowledge adds a lot more value to purchasing those cars than it might in mid-segment cars. In JLR (Jaguar Landrover) for instance – not only did the salesman know about JLR cars but knew the ins and outs of their competitions’ cars, and knew their competition’s salespeople. Also, people buying mid-segment cars might not make a decision based on the buying experience which is why the dealerships focus more on giving better deals than having better qualified staff. On the other hand I know people who have opted to buy a Jaguar instead of an Audi because the experience in the JLR showroom was much better. That experience played a role in the decision that the buyer made. When all other factors are a tie – the experience you have in a showroom plays an important role.
Am absolutely zapped that you managed to find the time to comment on the post yesterday !! I thought you’d be totally busy.
Really like the point you make – a very interesting distinction between different customer segments, variables that are important to them and hence what sellers focus on. Am going to discuss this with you in a little more detail sometime and then write a separate post on it. Very interesting point.
what car did they get? did they go with the best ‘experience’ or the pre-td favourite?
Roshni, the author of this post, is on leave right now. But you’ll have your reply in a few days.
In the mid-segment car we ended up going for the one we thought met our needs best – the Honda. I must note that their post-sales service has been great. We have been getting periodic calls reminding us that the car is due for servicing etc. It just might be that Honda sales are down compared to other cars and servicing charges accounts for a significant chunk of their revenue.
The fact that Honda does not have diesel variants will, however, would deter us from venturing into their showroom in the future because of higher running costs and a poor resale value.
Thanks for replying with the info, RJ.