How’s Your Service? A different kind of car shopping experience…

photo by Axel Buhrmann via Flickr

photo by Axel Buhrmann via Flickr

I suspect I’m not alone in this, but I hate car shopping – in my experience the stereotype of a used car salesman generally runs true, overly slick hard core salesman who is pushing you to buy something that may or may not work out for you. It’s kind of like gambling but with people you don’t like or trust…and there’s no upside. The best you can hope for is that you don’t get screwed too badly.

And the experience is usually pretty painful – from the ineffective but still annoying ‘negotiations techniques’ to lots of waiting and painful paperwork. We actually had one dealership hold our current car hostage when we took a test drive – they were trying to force us to keep their car overnight…and didn’t want to give us our car back! And unfortunately that’s just one example of many over the years of bad car shopping trips.

With that background, it was a pleasant surprise this weekend when we had a positive shopping (and buying) experience with King’s Auto in Overland Park. We were in the unfortunate situation of having to replace a car that we’d only had about 6 weeks – our kids got rear-ended leaving school…luckily everyone will be alright (some hobbling and soreness for a while) but the car was totaled – leaving us in need of another shopping trip. Thankfully this one went about as well as you could hope for – we don’t pick up the car until next week, but I’m optimistic that we ended up with a car that will work out well for us.

What drives a positive car shopping experience?

There were several things that Kings Auto did to make it a positive experience – and many of those things would apply to most businesses – as you read through this, are there things here you could apply to your business?

1. Positive Reviews online

We started our shopping process the way most people do these days – we went online to see what we could find. I ended up on and came across several vehicles that fit our criteria that were nearby at Kings Auto – and then I checked out the reviews of the dealership which were overwhelmingly positive – which made me comfortable with the idea of checking them out in person.  *Note – I later found some negative reviews on Yelp for their service and repair business but that didn’t really impact what I was looking for, which was to buy a car.

When people find your business online, what kind of opinions do they see? How does that information impact you?


2. Friendly and Positive Greeting

King’s Auto is family owned and in our case, the owner (and his son) were the only ones there on a Saturday morning. Although it’s a fairly small lot, there were 2 or 3 other groups shopping at the same time…so reasonably busy for just 2 people to handle. Despite that, the owner greeted us warmly and asked us how he could help. His style was friendly and not pushy – he gave us plenty of room to just wander around and check things out first.

What’s the first impression (in person) that people have of your operation? Is it warm? Cold? Friendly? Rude? Have you made any efforts to purposely create a consistent impression?


3. Educational but not Directive

Since this was a car for our kids – we weren’t looking for anything fancy and we had a definite price point that we wanted to stick to. Since we had done some research online, we were aware of a few options but the owner asked us what we were looking for and suggested some additional options. Most of them were above our price point, but it didn’t feel like he was pushing us…it was more making us aware of what else he had that was close to our criteria (on a small lot there wasn’t a lot that was under our price point).

What’s your sales style? Do you focus on helping or on selling? Which do you prefer when you’re shopping?


4. Make it Easy

After driving a few different cars (he just gave us the keys and let us go – no paperwork at all) we ended up with one that was a good fit. The price had recently been reduced and it was in good shape. We had seen the Carfax report but they confirmed all the information without us asking (where the car came from, what kind of maintenance history it had, # of drivers, etc.). From there is was a fairly painless 20 minutes or so of filling out the required paperwork and paying (they even took Discover – which made it very easy). All in all it was quick and easy – they clearly knew what they were doing and had it down to a simple process.

Do you focus on the customer’s experience? Have you done the work to make it easy for them?


Customer Experience matters…a lot!

There are a lot of elements to worry about in a growing business, but the top of that list should be the customer’s experience. In today’s connected world, a bad experience is easily shared and nothing will impact a business more than a bad (or great) reputation. In fact, engineering a great, consistent customer experience is probably the best marketing you can do – and yet it’s generally not done very well.

When’s the last time you thought about your customer experience? Do you agree that it’s critical? What else could King’s Auto have done to make it a better experience? (In my opinion there are some small things, but they got the big stuff right). We’d love to hear your thoughts – let us know what you think.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach