July 18, 2015
My wife and I are contemplating getting a new car. Last weekend and again today we did some test drives. At the first dealership we visited today we had a very good, low-key experience. The salesman met us in the lot, answered our questions, and wasn't overly pushy. Nor did he try to be familiar or ingratiating. After making a copy of a driver's license he let us test drive the vehicle we were interested in.
At the second dealership we had to go inside to find someone, and were then lead to a pint-sized office where a mild interrogation began. Where did we live? Would we be buying the vehicle together or just one of us? After giving the salesman my phone number I watched him access some kind of public records database service to pull up information about me. When he tried to circle back around to the finance question again, I explained that I knew he had a boss and a script, but that we were only interested in test driving a vehicle and that all the other items on his list could wait. He relented and got us a demo model to drive.
One of the dealers was Nissan (where we drove a Rogue) and the other was Ford (where we drove an Edge and an Escape). Prior today I would have bet money, upon hearing a tale like this one, that Ford was the invasive dealer and the Nissan was the low-key one. It was exactly the opposite. Ford was relaxed and pleasant while Nissan felt invasive and heavy handed.
As a member of the information technology industry I am very well acquainted with the idea of user experience. Car dealerships have a history of very poor, adversarial, user experiences. Particularly American marquee automobiles. After today's experience I am ready to believe that American car companies have improved their approach to treating customers, and that the off-shore brands are falling behind.
At least for the two dealerships we visited today, the Ford dealer beat the Nissan hands down for the user experience.