What Buying a Car Taught Me About Customer Experience


My new ride, just before it became covered in wintry Cleveland mush and road salt.

Marketers, take note: I just bought a car. Well, that’s not important to you. What’s important is how I came to this decision as a consumer, which I think everybody can learn something from. Wait, you’re saying, my audience is other businessesthis doesn’t apply to me. Oh, but it does! Who makes the purchasing decisions at companies? Chances are, it’s a human being. And just like purchasing a car for an individual, purchasing a service contract or piece of equipment for a business is often a significant investment, one that requires care, evaluation and a process.

So, what was my situation? The day after totaling my car courtesy of black ice and a flip onto a snowy highway median (I’m fine, thankfully), I found myself in the market for a new car. While I went into the dealer with a desperate need, I wasn’t a desperate buyer. First off, word-of-mouth (and the fact my dad was my driver) brought me to a particular dealer and salesperson: A man at the Bedford Auto Mile who had recently sold no fewer than 5 cars of a particular make to family or friends of mine in the past 6 months. Consider I hadn’t even met him yet, but already knew his reputation and more importantly, the reputation of cars he sold for satisfying the needs of particularly discriminating buyers (trust me, you can’t hustle my dad and don’t even think about messing with my youngest sister). Lesson 1: Reputation and social proof go a long way.

Secondly, once I arrived, I expressed to my dad and the salesperson the minimum requirements I was looking for in a car. This automatically disqualified most models as excessive … OK, call me no-frills. Let’s just say I’m easy to please, but all-wheel drive was a priority given my previous night’s experience and Cleveland winters in general. Lesson 2: Determine the buyer’s minimum requirements, and don’t waste time talking about things beyond his/her likely interest. This narrowed the selection down to 2 models, one slightly bigger (and sturdier) than the other. As you might suspect, after crushing my previous vehicle (and living to tell about it), I opted for size/strength. From there the only question was: Do I want to drive the car off the lot or come back a couple days later?

So, the car was chosen, but what caused me to take the plunge to buy it right then and there vs. another dealer or another make with similar characteristics altogether? (Yes, I may have had a minor concussion from flipping my car the day before, but let’s leave that part out of it.) Customer service. From the salesman down, every person I came into contact with at the dealer had a great attitude. They were polite, welcoming, and appeared to be genuinely interested in why I was there and what my needs were. I could see their devotion to customer service reflected in their interactions with other customers, too. The entire place had a very pro-customer vibe to it. In short, the atmosphere—along with the recommendations of family/friends I trusted—made me comfortable enough to buy immediately. Lesson 3: Positive experiences with people representing your business make customers more likely to buy from you.

Buying a car obviously is a big investment, but like any investment, at some point you start envisioning the experience of using it over the long haul and what long-term value it will give you. At that point, the calculation is less about cost than it is about how much happiness, security and lack of hassle that purchase brings vs. the alternatives.

So, marketers, does any of this sound familiar? When all other things about your product or service are equal, create an exceptional customer experience, and customers will gladly give you their money … sometimes even sooner than you expect.

About Fathom Team Member

Leave a Reply