With High Regard—What Buying a Mattress Taught Me About Customer Service at the Dealership

by Carol Marshall

Recently, I set out on a quest for the perfect guest room mattress set. This mattress would be used around six weeks out of the year, mostly by our elderly parents when they visit. I had a decent budget, but I certainly didn’t want to spend more than a thousand dollars. As you can imagine, a name brand was crucial to field any potential commentary from the in-laws. I was a shopper who knew pretty precisely what she wanted — a consumer on a mission. So, I set out to test a few options in-store to make sure I got just the right set. 

What I discovered after a weekend of shopping in and out of mattress stores shocked me.

"If You Look at Our Website, You'll See…"

Every time I had a question about anything at a store, I got the same answer. "If you look at our site, you will see the…." Whether I wanted to know about measurements, specs, warranty, etc., was irrelevant. It was bizarre, like I was in some alternate reality. What was happening? Is this real life? I was in the store, ready to buy, and I was being sent to a website to find answers about an item the business had in stock. 

This experience got me thinking about the car buying process and the glaring signals that auto shoppers give us when they're ready to make a purchase. What if instead of a mattress store, I was at the dealership with the clear intent to purchase a big-ticket item, literally cash-in-hand? How would your team treat me?

Understanding where shoppers are in their journey is critical. If they have taken that step to engage you in a conversation, that is a clear sign that they are ready to move forward and buy. That conscious decision to interact with your dealership should be regarded highly and with great care. No matter how many folks on the lot or in the showroom have said, "I’m just looking,” we know they are never just looking. 

How Are You Treating Your Online Customers?

Being constantly redirected to a website, while frustrating, highlights just how much we, as a society, rely on websites to conduct commerce in various forms. Just as you promote your physical showroom to attract buyers, you should want your website to accomplish the same. Does it showcase your business in a way that entices people to learn more? What are the current specials? Does it clearly explain what sets you apart from everyone else? This sentence reinforces the role of what websites should be in terms of business. The experience I had at the mattress stores reinforced my belief that your website should be an extension of your business — a place to turn casual shoppers into excited buyers. 

Imagine a customer visiting your dealership website to “just look” and gather information. Now, imagine they’re treated with such attention and respect for their time, that they are eager to get off their laptop or phone and test out the merchandise in person. In the era of customer experience, we can and should be able to offer this kind of engaging interaction for our customers. But, you need to start making all customers — both on and off the lot — a priority.

How does the time and money you spend on sales training (i.e., phone training, product presentation, and sales process) compare to the attention and development you offer the team greeting online shoppers? When those potential customers start getting the service they deserve, more of them will turn into actual customers at the showroom. 

NOTE: The in-dealership team must be knowledgeable about those online interactions, and every employee must be clear on what kind of experience to give those customers moving forward. That’s the only way to provide a seamless transition from the online showroom to the physical store. You spend so much to bring in buyers; you need to capitalize once they are there. 

Leads Aren’t Always Opportunities

Just capturing a name and contact doesn't always ensure a sale. I gave both in all the places I shopped. It was asked at the start of the conversation and I was happy to give it. I expected to receive the assistance I needed to complete a purchase.

Likewise, generating a lead from your website is easy. People are more familiar with chatting online, and they’re accustomed to putting in phone numbers and email addresses on forms. But, it’s just as easy for shoppers to ghost you during follow-up if they didn’t feel highly regarded during the interaction. Placing a box on your site to capture phone numbers won’t capture sales. A positive experience that moves that shopper into a state of readiness to buy from you is what they are seeking and waiting to happen. Don’t make them wait. Whatever attention and experience you are not providing is just one click away to a site that does.


Carol Marshall

Carol Marshall is VP of Operations at ActivEngage, Inc. and has been helping ActivEngage become an industry leader for the past ten years. She has over 20 years of industry experience and has held positions with national organizations such as Mazda N.A. and AutoNation, respectively. A cancer survivor/fighter and a world-class super mom, Carol's strength and resilience only make her a stronger leader.


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