Bringing Technology and a More Desirable Experience to Mercedes-Benz ShowroomsGiancarlo Perlas December 10, 2015
What are your childhood memories of automobile showrooms? For me, the showroom was the end of a ritualized journey. In what became an annual event, my father would wait for the new Ford models to arrive at the dealership. We would enter a balloon-filled building, be greeted quickly by an eager salesperson, and typically be handed a brochure before we approached the new models.
If my father was contemplating a purchase that year, we would test-drive the cars, haggle with a salesperson (often making offers and counteroffers scrawled on a piece of paper), and possibly continue those negotiations with a sales manager. Assuming that a deal was concluded, we would wait for a finance officer, be subjected to aggressive efforts to upsell service/maintenance options, sign copious numbers of financial documents, and finally be handed the keys.
Years later, when I purchased my first car, the experience was not substantially different, nor has it been for most of my purchases thereafter.
Early on, the leaders at Mercedes-Benz USA realized that world-class experiences require a consistently appealing dealership environment. Enterprise-wide dealer upgrades were well under way through their Autohaus program before the Driven to Delight transformation. Accordingly, Steve Cannon and his leadership team focused their efforts on modernizing technology, streamlining the customer journey, and making the experience as easy as possible for customers in Mercedes-Benz dealerships.
Their efforts have been well received by Mercedes-Benz customers such as Dr. Wendell McBurney, who notes, “I bought my M-Class in 2012. I had spent four hours at a Cadillac dealership looking at the SRX and had to go through all sorts of contortions to get them to focus on my needs rather than their needs. I had to meet the sales manager and the service manager. I had to meet this person and that person. I had to jump through hoops in order to get to the bottom line. In fact, I never did get to the bottom line. After giving up and going to the Mercedes-Benz dealership, it took only 30 minutes to agree upon our new M-Class.”
Similarly, Mercedes-Benz owner Paul David notes, “My wife and I spent a lot of time researching our car purchase online. Since Mercedes-Benz offered more videos than any other car manufacturer, we appreciated Mercedes-Benz technology and learned a great deal about the safety of their vehicles. In fact, Mercedes-Benz provided heartwarming, personal videos about people, their cars, and how the safety of their vehicle saved them in accidents. After researching over the Internet, I went into the dealership and took a test drive. That’s when I realized that even the amazing videos did not do the cars justice.”
Mercedes-Benz owner Steve Levine also appreciated the substantial amount of information he received as part of his Mercedes-Benz online experience, as well as the proactive nature of the dealership staff. “A couple of months before the lease was up on my Mercedes-Benz, my salesman called and asked me to come in to talk. I went into the dealership, the salesman showed me a couple of cars, we drove the new model, we talked for about half an hour, and two hours later I walked out with a new car. We basically traded keys. They made me such a good deal, and without haggling and without involving the sales manager. The salesman had the authorization to go ahead and make the deal. I’ve never bought a car so fast in my life. That was a really great experience.”
The people at Mercedes-Benz USA took charge of changing and improving a broad suite of programs, processes, and technologies geared to connect with the discerning Mercedes-Benz customer base. In fact, Dietmar Exler, vice president sales, notes, “We saw two trends coming together—increased information availability and a strong desire on the part of consumers to have unpressured product access. A long time ago, you had a limited amount of information available on new cars, so the dealership was the place to go to learn about a vehicle. Today, everything about a car can be found online. However, it is one thing to read about a car’s benefits and features and quite another thing to experience them. We have generations of people wanting to come in to experience what they have read about and seen online. They don’t want to be sold. They want to go from information to experience.”