First impressions count



In this column, we hope to raise awareness to the importance of creating a positive first impression, and how that can impact customer loyalty and sales at any automotive dealership. According to Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov (authors of First impressions: Making up your mind after 100-ms exposure to a face), “It takes just one-tenth of a second for us to judge someone and make our first impression, with confidence in impression formation increasing with [the more] time taken to form the impression.”

One-tenth of a second! That time is invaluable, knowing that the customer has a myriad of touch points throughout the facility. Many of these touch points are “controllable factors” that will create a lasting impression on your customers, if (and only if) they are managed effectively.

Here are a few examples:

  • Customer Parking — is it hassle free? The customer should be able to drive into the lot without any interference (i.e. pylons or parked cars), and easily identify where the customer parking is located. Is it clearly marked with signage and are the designated parking spaces available and free of any garbage or debris? Also, considering the harsh winters that many Canadians endure, are the spaces within close proximity of the entrance and clear of ice and snow?
  • Sales/Service/Parts Reception — every customer wants to feel “welcome” and valued when they enter a dealership. It could be as simple as a “hello” to acknowledge their presence, and to let them know your team appreciates their time. Every customer gets excited to pick up their new vehicle, but not many customers look forward to bringing it in for service. Ask yourself, do you really believe that your customers feel the same sense of value from the time they take delivery of their new vehicle, to their 100k service, and beyond? Is your facility clean and uncluttered, and do you have a waiting area that provides a relaxing atmosphere? The ownership cycle continues to lengthen, so it’s critical that your team understands the importance of creating loyalty with your customers.
  • Servicing in style — take your service to the next level and find unique ways to make the customer realize you appreciate their business. Loyalty program? Rewards program? Demo days to drive the latest models? Find that emotional connection with the customer so they can see the value and the savings, in dealing with you. Does your facility include marketing materials that clearly define and offer the programs available to them?

The items listed above will have a lasting impression on your customers and will ultimately shape your dealership’s identity. The good news is that they are factors that you can influence, if they are managed effectively and reviewed on an ongoing basis. Look at your facility as if you were a third set of eyes.

Perhaps you can play the role of an “Undercover Boss”? The popular TV show, in its fourth season on CBS, provides a medium for the “Boss” to see his company from the eyes of a customer. Sometimes the truth hurts, but the reality is that you have to identify any weaknesses or gaps in the process in order to establish a credible dealership identity. Have fun with it, but take your findings seriously.

They will play a pivotal role in shaping your identity and establishing a model which focuses on maintaining customer loyalty and employee engagement. After all, if the staff are engaged and aligned with the dealership identity for improving customer satisfaction, they will be motivated to create a positive first impression for every customer.

CAD-avatarMonte Weis, President of Weis & Associates, shares his design and facility expertise with dealers, via the leading industry journal, Canadian auto dealer magazine. A selection of articles are reposted here with permission.