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Newsflash: You are taking too long to sell a car

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It’s no secret that just about everybody who walks through your door has spent a lot of time researching the car or truck they want to purchase. They’ve done a lot of legwork ahead of time, and by the time they show up to see you, they’re ready to roll. Suddenly, the process slows down and they’re waiting three and four hours to take delivery. According to a study by J.D. Power and DealerRater, they’re not happy about it.

Consumers are accustomed to making purchases in record time. They can build a kitchen in two hours at IKEA. They can order every appliance in the house in that time at Lowe’s. They get preapproved for half-million dollar mortgages in minutes, and they can sign every bit of paperwork to take possession of a new house in an hour. They’re willing to give you two hours to make an automotive purchase, but not four.

According to the study, for 67 percent of luxury buyers and 62 percent of mass market buyers, two hours is the outside limit of the time they’re willing to invest sitting at the dealership. Half of buyers indicated that the ideal duration is somewhere between one and two hours.

That wait time has a dramatic impact on customer satisfaction. Take less than two hours to complete the entire transaction, and the average satisfaction score is 861 on a 1,000-point scale. Once the time stretches to two or three hours, satisfaction drops to 844. Stretch it to four to five hours and it’s a dismal 807.

To be sure, a transaction like this takes time, but there are marked periods where you can strive to cut the time the customer is in the dealership. In the survey, customers reported that they were spending an hour driving and selecting a vehicle to purchase, and then negotiating its price. They reported spending 30 minutes signing paperwork.

The remainder of that time – 90 minutes – was spent doing absolutely nothing but waiting either before or after the paperwork process. There’s were you need to focus your attention. Granted, preparing paperwork takes time, too, but shaving 10 or 15 minutes off, and striving to make the entire process two hours long is the key to a satisfied customer