Lexus Plus: Failure to Launch?
"The Decision Maker"
By Katie Mares CTDP, MCATD, CPSA, CSP
Retailers and automakers are slowly making the switch to one price sales models with the goal to make the car shopping experience more comfortable, more streamlined, and efficient.
But what does that mean to a customer and more importantly the female consumer?
Automakers seem to think that negotiation-free and transparent pricing is what makes this ‘easier ‘ experience come to life. While transparent pricing programs like a one-touch experience is an excellent start to bringing the auto industry out of the dinosaur age and redefining the car shopping experience, it still isn’t enough to get a consumer to say yes; especially The Decision Maker; The Woman.
As recently stated in an article by women-drivers.com; in 2018, women will spend an estimated $445 billion on new cars at franchised car dealerships and an averagely sized dealer sells 819 total new and used vehicles annually to this market segment.
I have stated this before, and I will state it again; the number one reason a woman will walk away from a purchase at a dealership is that she doesn’t like the way she was treated.
Here's the kicker, once she walks out, it is tough (if possible at all) to get her back; and that is a lot of sales walking out the front door. How your sales associates approach and treat the female consumer holds more weight on her decision to say yes to you, the sales associate. The relationship she has with the sales associate is the number one deciding factor. Don’t get me wrong, the price is important. The quality of the vehicle is also an essential part of her decision as well. But I need you to remember that she has already researched the car she wants, the make and the model; she has mapped out the dealerships she will visit; the deciding factor becomes the interaction she has with you.
As I read about all these new programs coming out to ‘make the shopping experience easier’ for the customer; none of them talks about the tailored experience they will provide. What they do talk about is transparent pricing that the offer and how there is now a shorter shopping experience.
These programs and their marketing points got me thinking; are programs like Lexus Plus designed for The Decision Maker; The Woman? Are transparent fixed pricing and shorter purchase time all that customers want? My research says otherwise, especially for the female consumer.
Failure to Launch?
While retailers have seen some success with their pre-owned car sales transparent pricing strategy, the Lexus plus program has not been as freely adopted as they were anticipating.
Let’s look at Lexus plus program that is not taking flight quickly amongst its dealerships and those who have adopted the program; only 13/240 Lexus dealers are implementing it.
This shouldn't be as they are addressing everything the consumer wants with this program right? Wrong, the focus on price, transparency, and time; is very transactional thinking.
What about relationship building, earning trust and creating a tailored personal experience? Lexus Plus is a great start, but have they forgotten about
The Lexus Customer Satisfaction Philosophy:
It has been stated that Lexus customers’ experiences is what sets them apart, but with the introduction of this new program, it seems that there may be a disconnect between what Lexus believes and what is being executed and this could be the disconnect in the success of the program.
This is a common mistake made by OEM and dealerships alike when launching a new program. They often don’t truly take the customer's wants and needs into consideration. They operate from where they stand not from where the customer stands. If they lived by the ‘Platinum Rule; treat others the way they need or want to be treated’ rather then the ‘Golden Rule; treat others the way you want to be treated’ then they would see that the car shopping experience is designed by men, for men, and delivered by men. It doesn’t matter what fancy program you put out there if you don’t understand the female consumer and the physiological differences between men and women, without taking the perception of this customer segment into the consideration the program won't have traction with the most influential customer segment in the world; the woman.
While shortened time and better pricing seem like a win; the relationship you have with the consumer is what truly matters.
What she wants
According to women-drivers.com the Top 6 Reasons Women Report Buying from Their Sales Adviser are:
6. Can communicate the value of the vehicle
Women’s limbic brain is double the size of a mans, the relationship you have with your female consumer, the respect you show and the trust you earn is what matters. And just because you have a few great images of women enjoying the ‘experience’ on the website doesn’t mean that the woman will bite the bate. It is the relationship you earn that will get her to say yes.
So what do programs like Lexus Plus need to execute to have a sustainable change at CORE?
1. Journey Map the Experience;
Create brand standards that take the ‘platinum rule’ into consideration. It doesn’t matter what you think is an enjoyable experience; the voice of the customer is the only voice that matters!
No experience is ever ‘one-touch’ there is always an army of team members that make up a flawless experience; does everyone know the part they play in taking the ‘transactional experience into an interaction’? Does the dealership have a true one-dealership experience mentality?
2. EQ Training; people don’t remember what you say or do; they remember how they felt during the experience. Knowing and recognizing this is crucial when serving the female consumer. Sales Associates needs to be nimble and be able to pivot on a dime to the emotional needs of the consumer.
3. Leadership Accountability;
One-touch programs like the Lexus Plus Program means BIG change for leadership and team members. From scheduling to new standards, moving from specialist to generalist (there is a lot more riding on the individual employee now). How the leadership trains, coaches, and holds his/her team accountable will make or break a program. For programs that are being flowed down from the OEM it is essential that they have a training plan, accountability plan, and evaluation plan in place (along with the mechanisms for follow up on execution) for any program to see sustainable change.
Change is Good
While it excites me to see the auto industry taking strides to move from transactional customer service to an interactional approach the customer deserves I have a word of caution; if you are still focusing only on the dollar, the price, the transparency you will never win the hearts of your female customer segment )or customers in general). Further to that if the program is not designed through the lens of the customer and not trained to ensure consistency, then slow adoption and less then stellar sales will be the outcome. Change is good, a program that is sustainable and makes a difference in the lives of your customers is better.
Katie Mares CTDP, MCATD, CPSA, CSP is available to train your organization and brings her expertise to the automotive industry. She is a dynamic speaker at Women in Automotive and Digital Dealer Conferences. Among her offerings:
- Program Development
- Brand Standards
- Leadership Development
- Coaching Sessions
- Retail Workshops
- In-Dealership Implementation
- Ongoing Support
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