Is your Brand Experience Designed for the Decision Maker?

Is your Brand Experience Designed for the Decision Maker?


I walked into my local dealership for a routine servicing on my vehicle, while I waited I wondered into the showroom and watched the interaction between the sales associates and the customers. I watched two female and four male customers all looking at cars and needing assistance. There were four Sales Associates on the floor, all four of the Sales Associates went directly to the male Customer. I continued to watch and wait to see when either of the female Customers would be served (or I would be served). It took 15 minutes for the females to be acknowledge, and when they were acknowledged the same approach that was take with the male Customers was use with the female Customer. Both female Customers got noticeable frustrated and left the dealership with no regard from the Sales Associates.


From my car shopping experience, I have come to realize that the auto industry is a male dominated industry, however this experience got me to thinking and led me to do some research on how dominated this industry actually is by males and what impact that has on the customers experience in a dealership and their sales.


Through my research my observations were solidified, the car buying experience is delivered by men, for men with very little regard for the female Sales Associate or the female buyer.


Research shows that 84% of the decision makers when buying a car are women, however only 18% of the Sales Associates in dealerships are women, leaving the car buying experience to be delivered by men. This question came to mind- How can you expect an increase in customer loyalty, referrals, and higher close rates when the ‘customer’s experience’ is tailored for the male shopper and the majority of the buying decisions are made by a woman? That seemed like a huge disconnect to me and as a customer experience consultant this troubled me. I began to dig deeper into the car buying experience offered at dealerships.


I found that dealerships are transnationally sound. From the sales process to the F&I process and everything in-between dealerships are very buttoned up. However, there is a lack of training and commitment towards turning the transactional process of purchasing a car into an interaction, using soft skills, and showing compassion and empathy towards the Customer. If we want customers to be loyal to us (both male and female), then we need to connect with them on an emotional level speaking to the limbic part of the brain- where decisions are made. Simon Sinek States that “People don’t buy what we do, they buy why we do it”. Customers don’t buy what you do (selling cars), they buy the trust and relationship with the sales associate and the brand (why we do it).


Their Perception is Their Reality

When it comes to perception — seeing, feeling, hearing, sensing things — there is no such thing as objectivity. The customer sees, hears, and feels from where they stand, not from where you (the Sales Associate) stands.


There is often a big gap between what experience we are providing and what the Customer thinks he/she is receiving.

A study by management consulting company, Bain, calls this disparity the “delivery gap.” In a study of 362 companies, Bain found that 80 percent believe their firm offers a superior proposition (experience). However, only 8 percent of customers held that same view. The extent of this difference is extraordinary.

We may think we are providing an experience that is welcomed by our Customers when in fact we are providing them an experience that we feel is right for them.


A Radical Over Throw

What if the auto industry took a step back and approached the Customer Experience from a different point of view? What if the dealership designed the Consumer Brand Experience from the decision makers point of view, flipped the lens and provided an experience that is tailored to this demographic?


The golden rule that grandma preached as we grew up; treat others the way you would like to be treated is a thing of the past. The higher standard that is demanded by Customers in this day in age is the platinum rule- treat others the way they want to be treated.


By designing your Customer’s Experience from their point of view, you would be able speak to what the Customer sees, hears, smells, and feels and ultimately close the “delivery gap” between perception and reality.


Understanding your Customers (and the decision maker)

I challenge you to take a close look at your Customer segments and create a customer profile for each of them. Go deeper than age, race, career and understand who your Customer is as a person. For example: Where do they shop, what social media do they use, and how do they spend their free time. This is the first step to seeing what the Customer sees and only then will you be able to understand how to provide an experience that will resonate with the them.


With women holding 84% of the buying power in terms of the decision to purchase from you, you should ask yourself, would you sell a car to your wife, daughter, or mother in this fashion. It is essential to recognize that showing compassion and empathy play a huge role in how the female decision maker will feel about their interaction with you or how the husband, boyfriend, or son, communicates how they felt during the process. We need to speak to the emotions of our decision makers in order to speak to the limbic part of the brain that controls their decision making. Your Customers won’t remember what you said to them (they have already done their research), how you said it to them, they will, however, remember how you made them feel and that is what will form their perception of their interaction and time with you and the brand.


We strive for Increased customer satisfaction, close rates, and referrals yet we often forget about the softer skills needed to provide an experience that warrants these results. We forget that the world is full of transactions and when a customer comes into the dealership, they want an interaction, especially the woman behind the decision.


Even when a man stands in front of you in the dealership, know they are going home to discuss this purchase with the woman in his life. I have made the decision on each of our family car purchases and I can tell you that I purchased from a dealership that made me feel important in the decision-making process. I choose my dealership based on the relationship they created with me. The world of customer experience is changing, we can no longer deliver an experience we think is great, we have to deliver an experience that is right for the customer and decision maker.

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