DEERFIELD, Ill.-What is it like to shop in your dealership? The answer might surprise you.
Training seminars, marketing promotions and advertising campaigns are worthless if the shopping experience is lacking, according to Rob Mancuso, vice president of Western Diversified, an insurance company that offers a decoy buyer program called MysteryBuyer'.
At the request of TIRE BUSINESS, his company recently completed a survey of the shopping experience at six independent tire dealerships located within 30 miles of the Chicago suburb of Deerfield.
``Overall, I think the results are good, but people skills seem to be lacking,'' Mr. Mancuso said of the surveys his decoy buyers had completed.
Typically, companies use the MysteryBuyer program after contracting with Western Diversified to send anonymous shoppers into an outlet. The shoppers act as typical customers but complete a survey following their visit that notes such items as the appearance of the store and personnel, the time it took to be waited on and the quality of the sales experience.
During this survey, however, Western Diversified sent its shoppers unannounced into the dealerships seeking tire prices and/or oil and filter changes. Because the dealerships were not knowing participants in the survey, their names have been withheld.
How did the shoppers describe their experiences?
``It's not a litany of things done wrong; it's a litany of opportunities missed,'' Mr. Mancuso said, summing up his thoughts on the survey outcome.
On a five-point scale ranging from ``very good'' to ``very bad,'' the dealerships averaged ``good'' ratings with regard to their appearance and location and the appearance, attitudes and friendliness of their customer advisers.
Customer greeting time was under one minute in every situation, Mr. Mancuso said. But half of the service advisers failed to introduce themselves and half, again, failed to ask the shoppers for their names.
``Not introducing yourself-huge mistake, huge mistake!*.*.*.*To not do that is tragic,'' Mr. Mancuso stressed. ``And the only thing worse than that is not asking a customer's name up front.''
Overall, the survey suggested tire dealers could improve customer satisfaction and sales penetration through ``proper adviser introduction and asking the customer's name early in the write-up process, (placing) more emphasis on interpersonal communications during the write-up process and (paying) more attention to customer satisfaction at the time the bill is paid,'' Mr. Mancuso noted.
In fact, when asked, ``Did the cashier handle the payment courteously?'' only 20 percent of the MysteryBuyers said ``yes.'' However, Mr. Mancuso qualified those responses by saying most of the shoppers also noted the cashiers were not ``discourteous,'' either.
All but one of the dealerships looked at the customers' cars and current tires, explained the benefits of their tires (other than the cost) and explained any additional charges included in their prices.
Despite, in some instances, poor customer relations, the shoppers said they would return to five of the dealerships for additional purchases and to four for additional automotive service work. They said they would recommend five of the six dealerships surveyed to others.
Overall, the dealerships scored ``good'' ratings, but Mr. Mancuso said that is a common occurrence.
``We always in our travels try to preach how bad the average is. Do you know how easy it is to look good?'' he said, noting many of the changes the survey suggested are cost-free. ``But it takes someone in that facility to stand up and say: `You know, damn it, I'm not going to stand around and be average!' ''