There is plenty of buzz nowadays in the automotive industry about the customer experience. Everything from improving the in-showroom experience, to the finance experience, online experience and the service experience; mostly by using technology and the proper training of employees in how to properly interact with customers and treat them … well, better.

Justified of not, customers simply don’t like visiting car dealerships. This has been an uphill battle for dealers who have been fighting to overcome this for decades. Many customers are still jaded about the trustworthiness of car dealers in transactional situations.

I recently read an interesting article that applies to this problem of the customer experience at auto dealerships. If you’ve never heard of the Adobe Summit, it’s a well-regarded event put on by a highly reputable company and attended by some of the most intelligent people on the planet. Almost every PC uses some form of Adobe software, even if only the free Acrobat reader for PDF documents.

A nugget in an article about the conference, which was posted on Enterprise.com, includes a question posed to a researcher at the conference who works at a company that studies the auto dealership customer experience. He was asked how car dealerships measure their customer experience. The answer? They simply look at the nearest competing dealership’s customer experience and make the experience they offer slightly better.

I’m certainly not a rocket scientist or a researcher, but it would seem logical that looking at a nearby dealership’s poor customer experience and making yours “slightly” better would not mean you now have a great customer experience, but rather that you’re “not as bad.” Your dealership is now merely a little better than the next guy. It’s kind of like the difference between an “F” and a “D.” They’re both still failing grades that won’t make a parent proud.

So, what’s the answer?

Perhaps some advice from McKinsey can help, a firm that advises automotive manufacturers and suppliers, construction equipment makers, and other industrial producers how to improve global operations, drive performance improvement, and seek growth opportunities. In a recent article they provide some excellent insights about how to truly discover and improve your customer experience, rather than simply guessing. They name three core elements that can deliver impact and truly transform your customer experience.

  1. Measure experience at the customer journey level, rather than at a transactional level.
  2. Invest in technology that continuously monitors and provides feedback in real-time from customers, both in-store and via online channels, such as social media.
  3. Ensure that your organization has a “continuous-improvement mind-set” rather than thinking your customer experience goals are complete.

While McKinsey is not specifically referring to car dealerships in this article, the advice they give is sound.

The key to creating and sustaining a great customer experience is doing whatever it takes to understand your customers’ opinions, perceptions and pain points. So, it’s worth continuously reaching out to finding out what is needed and wanted from your customers and potential customers and acting on that to get a competitive edge. Rather than just thinking you know what they are and acting on that.