As Henry Ford stated, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
Technology changes in our industry faster than many of us can keep up with. It seems like new services and innovations pop up weekly. Do we know which innovations consumers are sure to like or not? Of course we don’t. We can’t actually know until they end up liking them – or not. And they don’t know what they want until they see and experience it. Back when Henry Ford built cars, nobody even knew what a car was, or how this “thing” would improve their lives. Once cars started passing horses and became affordable through manufacturing — only then did our society adopt and embrace automobiles.
Let’s look at a modern example of this. Prior to Uber, was anybody (aside from the founders) clamoring for a ride-sharing app? Nope. Well, today many companies provide this service and auto manufacturers are rushing to provide cars or partner with them. Customers didn’t know that Uber was something they wanted… until they did.
So how does this apply to car dealerships? If we don’t know what the customers will want next — and they themselves don’t even know – then how are we supposed to make decisions on which technologies to embrace, services to offer and experiences to provide?
Five years ago, who would have thought that technology would develop to the point that we can complete the entire vehicle purchase process online, from beginning to end – customers can now purchase a vehicle without ever stepping foot in a dealership. Well, now they can and there are many companies – from industry disrupters to large mainstream automotive vendors – that offer this service directly to consumers, or through auto dealerships.
Will it take off and become the next consumer favorite? That verdict is still out. The point is that the only way to know what YOUR customers want is to see if they end up liking it. However, you can also try it out and ask yourself whether you’d want it if you were a customer. When testing new customer-facing technology how about doing a sort of secret shop. Become your own customer and experience it yourself for the first time. Is it something you’d like? Also have some other staff members of different age groups test it out. Any vendor trying to sell you a technology product should be happy to oblige. Then reconvene and discuss. It doesn’t matter how much it costs — until you know it’s something that your customers will want. Figure that out first.
Many would tell you to ask your customers what they want and act on that. And that is also a great best practice — in fact it can help identify customer pain points and process issues. However, in the same way Henry Ford didn’t listen to what customers wanted before producing his car – being open-minded to change, and always on the lookout for new technology that can enhance the customer experience and your business, could well keep your dealership ahead of the competition and provide a unique selling proposition.
Staying ahead of the competition and up to date on technology that works well to give your customers a better experience is important. Customers see other industries adopting new ways of interacting with them and will either love the technology – or not. Pay attention to what consumers start to like OUTSIDE of the auto industry in terms of technology. This is one strategy that could help you find and adopt technologies that drive improved results in your dealership. At the same time, look for technologies other industries start to offer which YOU like because you, in the end, are also a consumer.
When companies anticipate consumer wants and needs before the consumer even realizes that need, they build loyalty. And that is the magic happening right there.