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Dealers That Teach Buyers About Technology Can Become Irreplaceable in the Process

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Consumers are presented with cars brimming with technology. Yet many don’t know what to do with it once their vehicle is delivered and they have driven off the lot.

J.D. Power says that 20 percent of new car buyers it surveyed said they never used more than half of the 33 technology features they were asked to report on. What’s more, most noted that if they didn’t master a specific technology within 30 days of purchasing a vehicle, they were highly unlikely to ever use it.

That’s quite a bit of technology going to waste. And therein lies the opportunity for dealerships and their sales and service teams.

According to a just-released survey by the New England Motor Press Association and the MIT AgeLab, contrary to popular myth, many consumers are interested in learning about technology during the time of the sale as well as on the vehicle delivery day.

The nearly 3,000 survey respondents had differing opinions about what technologies they were most interested in. Older drivers wanted to learn about technologies that would help the driver – for example, lane-keeping assist, emergency-braking assist, advanced cruise control – while younger drivers showed a keen interest in fully-autonomous technologies that went as far as driving the car without human input.

Every age group was clear on one thing, however: They’re not being instructed on how to use the technology that’s in their cars today. And they want to be.

Sixty-three percent of survey respondents said that they learned to use existing technology by reading the owner’s manual. Another 59 percent said they also learned by simple trial and error.

Both of these options work fine generally, such as in learning how to pair a phone or find the SiriusXM band. But some features, such as technologies that take full control of braking under emergency conditions or influence steering inputs when the car comes out of a lane, are potentially lifesaving. Yet in many cases, consumers say, they are not educated about what these and other technologies are, how they should expect them to operate, and what benefits they will realize by using them.

If used as a guide, the AgeLab survey makes clear that consumers do want more education from dealers on the technologies in their vehicles and that sales and service personnel can greatly enhance the overall buying experience by providing it.

According to AgeLab, only 24 percent of car buyers say that they received technology instruction during the delivery process. Thirty-five percent of those surveyed said that they would welcome instruction then. Similarly, only 14 percent of survey respondents said that vehicle technologies were demonstrated during the sales process, with more than a quarter saying that they would like to receive feature demonstrations at that time.

Of course, sometimes desire comes up against hard reality. Providing vehicle technology instruction can be a challenge for dealers simply because of the limited time that consumers want to commit to visiting showrooms.

A recent DealerRater – J.D. Power study showed that 67 percent of luxury buyers and 62 percent of mass-market buyers said that two hours is the outside limit of the time they’re willing to invest visiting a dealership. Half of buyers indicated that the ideal duration is somewhere between one and two hours.

Generally speaking, such relatively short visits leave little time for car technology education. But for sales and delivery staff, there remain ways to make the most of this compressed on-lot time and enhance the buying experience. The secret? Know your audience.

The AgeLab report notes that 65- to 74-year-olds strongly prefer being taught how technology works during the sales and delivery processes. Younger consumers, however, say that that they can live without retail-level instruction, but would appreciate direction on where they can learn about technologies on their own.

An easy solution to address this latter buyer’s needs might be to simply point them to your OEM’s website. But possibly a better, more engaging solution that could tie them closer to your dealership might be to cut a few instructional videos yourself, post them on your website or YouTube channel, and email the link to these younger customers (and those in other age brackets as well!) as part of your regular post-sales activities.

In the final analysis, though, what both of these surveys make clear is that there is no one-size-fits-all means of providing technology education to car customers and prospects. However, making shoppers aware of your dealership personnel’s proficiency in providing technology education via individual employee profile pages, can be an additional inducement toward bringing an in-market shopper into your showroom instead of your competitor’s.

What I learned long ago about our industry is truer than ever today: Cars are still sold one at a time, between two people. Make that bond even stronger by communicating the value of the vehicle technology you are offering and your ability to talk about it knowledgeably.