Lexus Plus- The Retail Journey Through a Woman's Eyes
By Katie Mares CTDP, MCATD, CPSA, CSP
I recently wrote an article called Lexus Plus- Failure to launch?
In this article, I questioned the program that Lexus launched two years ago yet has only had 13 dealerships sign up for and participate in it. I thought it was only fair that I experience a Lexus Plus dealership to validate my research and suggestions; so I did.
This past week I flew to the USA and did a little in-person research. I went into a Lexus Plus dealership (in which I will not name) and was utterly disappointed that the experience lived up to my predictions.
My husband and I drove up to the dealership, parked the car and started heading for the front entrance. The signage was beautiful, and the dealership was clean, well maintained, and very customer friendly. But don’t let that description fool you, because the customer experience was the complete opposite; a well-maintained facility isn’t enough to wow a customer.
We walked into the dealership; my husband was greeted right away which is no surprise and he was asked if he’d like to speak to a consultant. I recently did a study with female consumers who have purchased a vehicle within the last 1-2 years and the respondents stated that 100% of the women who shopped with a male counterpart said that the man got greeted first! I expected more from a Lexus Plus dealership and was let down.
My husband let them know he was interested in speaking with a sales consultant and with that we started walking around the dealership and waited over 5 minutes before a sales associate approached us.
Now, that timing isn’t so bad; however, 7 sales consultants were standing around doing nothing (apparently, they weren’t Up’ so they couldn’t help us), they didn’t look up, didn’t smile or acknowledge my husband or me.
And did I happen to mention that the sales associates were all MEN?
Finally, our sales consultant approached us. If I could describe that moment awkward would be the word I would use. He only made eye contact with my husband, didn’t make an effort to ‘break the ice’ or show that he was happy to be helping us. He did ask “why are you here today?” and I answered, "I am looking for a new car". I described to him that I was done driving the ‘mom’ SUV and I was ready for a sports car that was going to be fun! Guess what he showed me? A Sedan…
The Lexus Experience Redefined?
As I continued to give the sales consultant information about myself in hopes, he would jump on a detail to create a connection, or become more curious about me and my husband there was nothing! No attempt to get to know me and establish a relationship.
Lexus plus states that there is only one of us because there is only one of you. (See the screenshot below from their website.) I can tell you there was no attempt to get me in the Lexus that was right for me and no effort to get to know me to achieve this promise.
The experience at a Lexus Plus dealership has not redefined the car shopping experience; at least not from the woman’s point of view. It is a fancy bow that has been put on a poorly wrapped present.
Here is the journey through my eyes and where there can be an improvement.
The Lexus Plus Greeting
Sadly, as I mentioned, my husband was greeted first by both the receptionist and the sales consultant. There was no sign of excitement, passion, or care.
The Lexus Plus Needs Assessment
What needs assessment? Curiosity didn’t exist and in my opinion was the number one reason I found the experience to go downhill and stay there. Without getting to know your customer and being truly curious about their needs how is a sales consultant ever going to get the customer into the right Lexus for them?
The Test Drive
This was the most underwhelming test drive I have ever been on. First, when I passed him my license, he made absolutely no comment that we were from Canada! He again had a lack of curiosity to get to know us or our needs. We asked to test drive the LC 500 as I wanted a sports car (and am actually in the market for one; it is a toss between Lexus and Tesla…can you guess where I am going?).
The test drive is one of the peaks in the car shopping experience; it is supposed to be fun! During my test drive I was trying to figure out if maybe I got a new sales consultant; nope seven years senior at this dealership. I asked about the Lexus Plus program, and he said he liked it and that it reduces negotiation and increases transparency. His response solidified my predictions about the program; the focus is on price, not experience and this is a losing game plan.
The Lexus Plus Follow up
Once the test drive was complete, I was expecting to be asked for our contact info for a follow-up; no attempt was made. I had to ask for his card and said we were going for dinner to think about it.
There are many touchpoints on a customer's car shopping journey. If you don’t consistently provide an interaction throughout the journey one or two highlights won't be enough to win the customer over.
I Stand By My Recommendations
While shortened time and better pricing seem like a win; the relationship you have with the consumer is what truly matters. The only way you are going to gain that relationship is by genuinely wanting to get to know the customer and being curious about their wants and needs.
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 man's, 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.
Lack Of Curiosity Killed The Experience.
All and all I felt like an inconvenience to this sales consultant and I wasn’t worth his time.
Lexus Plus says they are transforming the car shopping experience. In my opinion, they have gone backwards.
There was no effort to get to know me, no effort to make the car shopping experience fun or memorable which ultimately lead me to feel disappointed. A lack of relationship = little trust; which is how I felt leaving the dealership. I wasn’t about to spend six figures for an experience like that!
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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