The mystery shop, car dealers and cherry picking

There is a major issue in car sales today, which dealers and manufacturers continue to wrestle with, and that’s “burning leads” or “cherry picking”.

Although most manufacturers now incentivise their dealer network to ensure compliance, there is still a reliance on people which often leads to failure and therefore financial penalties.

It doesn’t seem to matter what processes a dealer has in place there always seems to be someone who has a bad story to tell and it is usually along the lines of;

‘I went to the car showroom and told the sales guy what car I wanted to buy and that I had a car to trade in, how much I wanted to spend and could they call when there was something suitable. They took all my details and said they would ring in the next day or two, and I never heard another thing from them since!

Sounds familiar doesn’t it? But trying to understand it is probably slightly more complicated. Most sales people by the nature of what they do are always looking for the easy option, to them it’s a numbers game; the more people they speak to the more their chances of selling a car. All the better if they can find a buyer who is right at the end of the buying process and may have been elsewhere and not been able to complete a deal as that’s the ultimate easy sale.

Often, however, the process of buying a car will take a lot longer and the fact that large sums of money are involved of course makes it vitally important to the customer but often it’s just another notched up deal to a sales person.

To keep control of standards and to try and combat this kind of selective retailing car dealers and particularly manufacturers have for a long time participated in the practice of “mystery shopping” and these campaigns have become more sophisticated as the years have gone by.

The “mystery shop” forms another element of a dealer’s “back end” bonus, where the dealership is assessed by the manufacturer in its handling of prospective customers. It is usually carried out by an independent company and is either by telephone, internet enquiry or filmed walk-in enquiry (yes the “mystery shoppers” do wear concealed cameras!). The mystery shoppers work to a pre¬defined script and sales people are scored on the quality of the information they provide and the skill with which they handle the encounter. Increasingly, manufacturers are imposing greater financial incentives for excellent results and harsher penalties for non¬-compliance.

The modern-day car salesman has a lot of “boxes to tick” and largely this is down to the manufacturers, these days, wanting to keep control of everything. They want control from manufacture all the way through to where and how a car is sold. The “mystery shop” is just one way in which the manufacturer can achieve this control. By stipulating and engineering the sales process and then offering incentives and penalties (carrot and stick) to make sure it’s adhered to, they can make sure they retain control of the whole process.

The problem inherent in the concept of mystery shopping and its execution, however, is that it does not seem to take into account that on any given day even the best sales person can be caught out or a dealership be short staffed. For example if a showroom is very busy and a sales person is between customers or trying to keep up to date with other prospects it may just at that precise moment a mystery shopper enters the fray, just when there is no one available to deal efficiently with their enquiry. This ultimately leads to a failure and this failure leads to financial penalties and disciplinary action for the hapless sales person.

As with anything like this, where the stakes are so high, common sense needs to prevail. If you’re a buyer and you want to see the very best service a dealership can offer, next time you visit a showroom take a carelessly concealed hidden camera with you.

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2 Responses to The mystery shop, car dealers and cherry picking

  1. admin December 11, 2009 at 10:47 am #

    via @DealDrivers on Twitter

    “@in51der interesting article. Every dealer is having to run very lean on staff and it’s hard in terms of maintaining the processes”

  2. jeffrey bayes January 12, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    I have been employed in the motor trade in sales on and of for years and been shopped many times i think i would make the person you would want to employ to get the best resuls from any dealer

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