Cars Don’t Have to Come from Vending Machines

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Ted Ings

Executive Director, CPI @ted_ings

You do not need to pull cars out of a vending machine to offer a world-class experience that is in alignment with today’s buyer. 

There are several other solutions within reach on the dealer level that can be just as appealing if not more to your potential buyer. And while the vending machine purchasing services might deliver a car to their house, there are still key elements missing such as the financing of the vehicle, warranty options, service options, and most importantly the trade-in value to name a few. One of the services that your dealership can offer which will have a positive impact on your bottom line is at home test drives. Allowing your customer to fit you into their schedule.

At Home Test Drives? How does this work? How will this impact my dealership? 

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A recent article in Automotive News tells the story of a dealership doing just this: 

Virginia Toyota store trims transaction time

"Virginia dealership McGeorge Toyota says it shaves up to five hours off the vehicle purchase time for customers who want to shop at home.The store's McGeorge @Home vehicle sales and delivery service lets customers shop, test drive and complete a vehicle purchase without visiting the dealership whether they live in the dealership's home city or a state away."

Time is the new currency and customers do not wish to spend an entire day at a dealership to purchase their next vehicle. So it is essential that we work towards finding a means of working with our customer's expectations going above and beyond what they expect. And in doing so, it offers us flexibility in the way we approach customer service. 

One of the most significant areas of opportunity we have on the dealer level is the vehicle test drive.

Where in many cases, the sales consultants are not prepared for the customer - this, of course, is especially true for showroom visits - in which case the customer can wind up waiting as much as fifteen to twenty minutes before they are even able to test drive the car. 


The faster we can get the car ready for the customer - for them to go on their test drive - the better chance we have in working out a deal with our customers. That said, while you can work on your lot ensuring that all of the vehicles are gassed up (best practice is a minimum of a ¼ tank) we have to look at the test drive differently. That is offering an at home test drive.

This concept might sound foreign or unattainable at first glance, but it is not. Think about this for a moment, if you had the option - as a customer who has just spent hours comparing vehicles online - to have a car delivered to your house to test drive, wouldn’t you take advantage of that opportunity? You most likely would. Well, so would your customers! 

As for how this process works, the customer would be able to easily select online - within the VDP - “schedule at home test drive” where they can choose the time and date. In which case, the sales consultant - or BDC - would call the customer confirming the time. Making sure they have done a needs analysis which will assist in making sure the sales consultant brings the right vehicle for the test drive. Once they have selected the car, and the sales consultant or BDC agent has confirmed the time you make sure your sales consultant gets the vehicle delivered on time. Knowing that if you fail to show up and or are very late the customer will not just become frustrated, but they might lose their interest. 

It is also a best practice that the sales consultant complete a full walk-around with the customer making sure they have pointed out all of the features the vehicle has.

In doing so, the customer will not only feel more confident in the car, but they are also subconsciously imagining their brand new car in the driveway as their neighbors are scoping out what is going on. Just think of all the OEM commercials in which the customer is touting about their new vehicle in the drive-way! All without having to visit the dealership. Priceless. 

How to manage the At Home Test Drives? Who tracks this? Does the Sales Consultant go to their house? Do they go on the test drive? 

This might seem out of reach or too much work to organize on the dealer level. But the fact of the matter is that today’s CRM’s have several ways of allowing your sales consultants to schedule tasks. Not to mention, the practice of “on-site” visits is not uncommon in Business to Business Sales. So it is time that our industry take notice of how effective this can be in the way we approach customer service. 

It is also best practice for the sales consultant to go on the test drive with the customer.


But that should not be much of a challenge considering that you would be driving the vehicle to the customer's house. And the customer is most likely not going to expect or want you to be standing in their driveway as they test drive the vehicle. That said, the test drive - as you very well know - can make or break the customer's experience. Wherein, because you took the time to perform a thorough needs analysis, you already know which features are important to the customer. Making sure to point them out on the test drive. Another added benefit of doing the test drive from your customer's house is their being confident or innately comfortable with the location. In that, they are already comfortable in the vehicle because they are driving from their house which is familiar territory. 


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The sales process does not change. The Sales Consultant still performs a Needs Analysis. The pressure is off on the customer's turf. 

Just because the customer is test driving the vehicle from their house does not mean the Sales process has to change. In fact, it does not change. Nothing changes regarding the sales process. What does change, however, is the way in which we approach customer service. That is instead of chasing these unrealistic ideas of what customer service means on the dealer level - you pivot, and offer something that is new, but relevant. 


An actionable item that can become an instant success with the customer. Another added benefit of the “at home test drive” is that the customer is not on the lot looking at several other vehicles. Nor are they on their phones “showrooming” (the act of looking up other vehicles), but instead they are engaged with you, their sales consultant! Allowing you to focus on offering your customer an incredibly personalized experience. 

So how to get this started? Everything is in the details. 

The best way to get this started on the dealer level is to first select which sales consultant will be leading the project. By choosing a lead sales consultant, it will help with the buy-in needed to make the program a success. Once you have selected the main sales consultant, you need to take the time to explain the program. Making sure that they understand it is not a new process, but only an enhancement of the “test drive.” Once your sales consultant gets the hang of it, you can add on. However, as mentioned above it is best to work with one or two sales consultants first. Taking the time to iron out any of the fine details that can otherwise put a wrench in the works. 

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