Room at the Top: Becoming a Leader in the Customer Experience

Forty years ago, the general consensus was that the quality of cars would become relatively equal among major OEMs, and that the franchise that could find the right formula to satisfy customers at the retail level would gain a significant advantage among its competitors. 

Fast forward to today, and we see that the consensus was pretty much correct. Quality among major OEMs is similar, yet no brand has emerged as the leader in retail customer satisfaction. Many individual dealers from across the brand spectrum do a fantastic job satisfying customers, so why is there no clear winner?


First, let’s look at what has prevented a leader from emerging:

Not Investing More Money: OEMs and dealers, in many cases, do not spend the necessary money to satisfy customers when a vehicle is out of warranty.

Lack of Employee Empowerment: OEMs and dealers do not give unfettered empowerment to employees to satisfy customers regardless of the cost.

Misplaced Management Focus: Most of the OEM and dealer-management focus is on sales and profit, not on the customer experience.

Product Issues: Known product problems cause customer dissatisfaction, which is not always addressed by the OEM or the dealer. This can lead to a lack of trust.

Buyer’s Remorse: Many customers find that they are dissatisfied with something in the buying or service process, but they aren’t always asked or don’t speak up.

So, how can dealers do a great job satisfying customers despite these obstacles? Here are my observations from over the years:


The best dealers hire the best people to serve customers. They believe that employee satisfaction leads to customer satisfaction, so they take great care of their team.


Great dealers assisted by customer-focused OEMs empower their employees to satisfy customers. They don’t need permission; they just do it.


Customers want a good and  fair deal when it comes to the sales and service process. They know that a business needs to make money, but they often have a good idea of what to expect to pay and won’t tolerate unreasonable prices.

Listening Skills

Great dealers hire people who listen and are empathetic to customers’ needs and wants.


It’s not enough to do the right thing—you must exceed customers’ expectations. Great dealers do this every day.


Customers don’t want to wait, and they want sales and service on their terms.


Customers don’t just want value, they demand and expect it. Great dealers deliver.

All of us in this industry are aware that consumers have all the information they need at the click of a button. So transparency, fairness, convenience, and satisfaction are expected.

Now that I’m with AutoAlert, I have learned that software tools designed to help dealers obtain high-performing sales and increased profits often result in increased customer satisfaction and customer retention as well.

Here are just a few specific examples of how our tool does that: We let dealers know when lease customers are tracking to go over their mileage allowance, providing an opportunity for a helpful conversation that will save them money on penalty charges. I’ve seen many happy customers get a new car for a lower payment than they currently have, and others come away happy when their interest rate was reduced in a return to a good credit rating. Many customers who have received a large service bill (most of us have been there!) get an opportunity to have it paid and get into a new vehicle. How’s that for service? We also see customers get more money for their trade-ins than they expected.

One way that dealers can overcome today’s obstacles, create consistently positive customer experiences, and stand out among the crowd, is by employing software that makes transparency, fairness, and convenience almost automatic. Happy customers are sure to follow.

Jim Benintende

Chief Operations Officer at AutoAlert
Jim Benintende

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