User Experience, Customer Experience

My wife and I are shopping for a new car.

We research different makes and models from friends, family and the internet of course. There is a lot of data in the wild, which simplifies our buying journey to the point that we are able to hone in on the exact model we’re looking for.

One fall morning, we visit a local car dealership. Upon arrival, we’re “greeted” by two folks who sit slumped behind a large counter and pay us no mind until we interrupt their conversation and ask for sales help. Had I been throwing money in the air as I walked in, I’m not sure that they’d react any differently. (This may be a really good indicator for our economy.)

We finally meet our salesperson, Tyler. He’s unkempt, bleary-eyed and before long he admits he’s “looking to get out of sales”. ‘Perfect,’ I think. ‘We’re looking to quit driving automobiles.’ This is a match made in heaven!

We provide him with our personal information although we’re unsure why he asked or why we acquiesced at this point in the process. Anyway, he has my driver’s license, social security card, ATM card, credit score, shoe size, list of fears, recent prescriptions and a copy of my passport. So that should do it.

Our salesperson asks if we’d like popcorn. When I stand up to retrieve some from the popcorn machine he remarks “Assuming we made some today.” That is a fair disclaimer. (There was popcorn.) We discuss the car we’re interested in.

Finally, we reach nirvana, or a sea of new, shiny cars neatly organized within a giant lot. Our salesperson walks briskly five strides in front of us. We assume he’s walking us to a car and not walking home. He casually mentions more than once that he’s going to “just use Joey’s keys”. Joey: If you’re reading this, Tyler has your keys.

When we find the car we’re interested in, we’re pleased with both the exterior and interior: Smart/sleek design, comfortable seats, practical features and the requisite new car smell. So far, so good. It meets our requirements and even provides us with pleasant surprises we weren’t expecting. Overall, our expectations of how the product would look and feel have been exceeded.

Before long, we are cruising down the highway, doing our best to assess something that we’ll have for the next ten-fifteen years in ten-fifteen minutes. The test drive is a resounding success. We even have an opportunity to open the windows and really take in the driving experience. Both my wife and I take turns test-driving and can see ourselves owning, driving, enjoying this car. We loved the LS model!

This is the LS model, right? Over the next thirty minutes we’d sort through the different variations with Tyler. Apparently, various combinations of letters and numbers correspond to different features and prices. Once we sort this out, we move on.

Back in the dealership, we return to Tyler’s desk. It is time to negotiate pricing. Tyler logs into his computer and begins querying. He reads out the inventory, corresponding pricing and then potentially plays a couple games of solitaire as we follow along like a pair of cats watching tennis on TV. Tyler seems to want to stick with the MSRP price. We advance the negotiation by using the average costs we discovered online. Tyler reacts like we either asked for a free car or stabbed him with Joey’s keys. We hold firm, confident our request is reasonable. Eventually Tyler exits stage-right to find a new actor for this nine-act play.

We then meet “The Closer” (who calls himself “Bill”), Tyler’s counterpart. Bill ambles over with a printout offer. The only problem? Bill’s offer reflects the list price of the car (also known as the MSRP), which is exactly what Tyler offered. No one in the history of car-buying pays the MSRP price for a car. Now, we are in a state of shock.

Discouraged, we politely decline the offer and get up to leave. Before we can escape, Bill scurries back to see if “they” can do something about the offer. It was unclear if “they” was another level of sales management, the Banker from ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ or the Illuminati. When Bill returns, the next offer is better. Unfortunately, we are still traumatized (and almost offended) from his original offer. We politely decline and say we’ll think about it. The Closer remarks that it’s the end of the month and that he has “40 more customers waiting for him”. He walks off. Tyler is daydreaming about his life as an Uber driver.

As users of a product, we seek incredible product experiences. As customers, we expect incredible human experiences.

My wife and I are still shopping for a new car.

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