What other ways can dealerships be improved?
Sitting at the dealership while a car is being fixed can be one of the worst experiences in life. Unless it's at a luxury dealership, chances are refreshments will be limited to terrible coffee and dealership-branded bottled water. Even if the dealership has good coffee and a comfortable chair, waiting to find out how much money the latest thing to go wrong in the car will cost is not a fun experience. So, how could the dealership experience possibly get better? Is there anything that can be done to make it not suck?
A dealership in Gainesville Florida may have cracked the code by opening up a satellite location of Chick-fil-A in its customer lounge. Milton Martin Toyota has entered an arrangement with a local Chick-fil-A franchisee who handles all of the details of setting up the counter. The food is brought in fresh, several times a day. The dealer serves a paired-down version of the menu with biscuit sandwiches and yogurt parfaits in the morning, and the chicken sandwiches for lunch. In an interview with Automotive News, dealership General Manager Tommy Martin said "it's a convenience for our customers" and "a lot of people will plan their service visits around it."
This made us think, what are some other ways that the dealership experience can be improved? Obviously, throwing food at people is a great way to distract them from spending money on their cars. An expensive service may not seem so bad if the dealer is serving you a delicious steak while you wait. Opening up a full restaurant in an upstairs area could be a great way to make waiting at the dealership better. Another interesting way to keep customers entertained is to add more connected features. Most dealers have WiFi, but what if they also offered a bespoke network to stream movies and shows for free?
Customers could connect to the internet and have a nice library of shows and movies to stream. It might be nice to kick back and catch up on some TV show binge watching while waiting for a service. Entertainment might be an OK distraction, but car enthusiasts are a bit different than normal people. While the average car owner would be content with passing the time in front of their favorite show, car enthusiasts will make the most of their time at the dealer by checking out the latest models on the showroom floor. Do, what if the dealer had an exclusive, no-pressure section where you could test drive the newest models while getting a service?
We think that the best way for a dealership to entertain customers and keep them coming back is to offer test drives of the coolest new models while they wait for service. When someone brings in their BMW 320i for service, take them out for a quick blast in an M3 to show them what they should spend their money on next time. This way, the customer gets to do something fun while waiting for their car and the dealership is more likely to get them back as a repeat customer. Some dealerships could even add to the experience by constructing a "testing area" where customers can try out a new car and experience the handling and acceleration.
It doesn't need to a be a full-on autocross, but if the dealer has enough space, it could carve out a small area where customers can push the cars a little. We think that this would be a great way for luxury and non-luxury carmakers to impress their customers. This plan could even work for Toyota who could let customers try out the new 86 while their Camry is getting an oil change. We found a few dealerships in the US that do have a testing area like the Naperville Auto Test Track in Illinois. This dealership network has its own testing facility (pictured below) to test cars in a closed environment.
These are just a few ways to improve the dealership experience. Some companies, like Tesla and Lincoln, have made it so customers don't even have to go to the dealership to get a car serviced. Instead, they offer programs where they pick up the car and drop off a loaner so customers are not inconvenienced at all. This is also a great way to make the dealership experience not suck, but we want to know what your ideas are. Let us know in the comments section what you would want to see the next time you go into a dealership.