“Hey Alexa, order me more shampoo. Also, can you get me a trade number on customer Smith, make sure that our inventory is up to date online, improve my service drive experience, skyrocket our profitability, and find out why John didn’t show up today? Thanks, Alexa!”
Anyone else tired of hearing that Amazon, Apple, and Google should be the gold standard measuring stick for any business objective or industry? It’s gotten out of hand. Your dealership, your business model, your corporate culture, the customer experience, your online presence, e-commerce strategy, and just about anything that you can think of. Did you know, the utopia that is the Amazon, Apple, & Google trifecta has the answer to all business problems you could ever imagine? If you can be just like them, you’ll win at everything forever.
Forgive me for the snarky hyperbole, but let’s face some cold hard truths. Buying a car will never be like buying a pair of socks. We’re not in the business of competing to serve up the most relevant search results for “how do I make potato soup?” or get more likes than the Instagram egg. Our products have usage lifecycles that last about the length of 6 iPhone releases (and stay relevant long after your phone is a paperweight).
Yet, this myth persists. The idea that because customers can have Alexa buy them shampoo online, have Siri give them directions to a concert, or download the latest single with 1 click, that buying a car should be just like that or at least close. While we can certainly learn about consumer behavior from these interactions, I am here today to say that buying a car should not be more like these interactions. It can be BETTER.
Consultants, industry gurus, and keynote speakers are trying to convince dealers to be more like these companies when their business model and products are just not relevant to the purchase journey of an automobile. I am a firm believer that businesses should look at other industries to learn valuable lessons and strategies, and this is undoubtedly the case with elements of what the Silicon Valley giants can apply to the auto industry. However, let’s take a step to evaluate what auto dealers can do to be the best at their own game, before trying to change the rules to be like another.
The sequel to this dialog (Part 2 of a 5-part exploration) will be a look into 3 industries that are NOT solely tech-focused that the auto industry can benchmark and spare you from trying to emulate the tech worlds hype inducing myopic approach to business in the 21st century. So, don’t install those nap pods into your employee lunchroom just yet and put away the customer self-serve Kombucha tap. Here are some highlights on what you have to look forward to:
- Real Estate – The two most expensive things most people will ever buy: #1 Their house and #2 their car. People shop for a new home or apartment in the same fashion that they shop for a new car. They already have an idea of what they want, they research where to get it, and they study how much it will cost them. In the case of home purchases, the majority also need financing just like a car. The similarities to the auto industry are uncanny. Inventory listings, display pages, search radiuses, quality photography, and how most have an “agent” to purchase something. We’ll explore how what is real estate doing differently than we are that works and what can we learn from companies like Zillow or Realtor.com.
- Hospitality – No industry knows how to better deal with the public than the hospitality industry. Indeed, there are highs and lows in terms of customer service examples. However, companies like Disney, Montage Resorts, and Virgin are all pioneers in taking the customer experience to a more positive and fulfilling place that creates zealous brand advocates worldwide. Like it or not, most customers view buying their next car about as positively as getting their next root canal. We’ve got our work cut out for us. I will dive into what we, at the dealership level, can implement from customer service innovators like Richard Branson and Bob Iger, not necessarily the tech disruption stalwarts like Jeff Bezos or the late Steve Jobs.
- Grocery Retail – Another industry that is in the thick of disruption from tech, many retail grocery stores are suffering from tightening margins and online competition. The popularity of meal and grocery sites such as Blue Apron and Peapod.com have grown in popularity. However, there is still fight left in the retail sector. Especially for those who can deliver a more involving customer experience, better produce, and a unique approach. Some have not clung to tradition but have embraced the disruption of competition by one-upping them at their own game.
I look forward to hearing from those of you interested in this topic and encourage you to comment if you have ideas for industries or examples of business that I can include that are truly outside of the “tech” box. I would have just included them all in one great post. However, I had to follow my own advice. I took a page from another industry that suggests sequels are a guaranteed way to keep people coming back. I wonder what industry that could be…