• Holly Chasan-Young

Baby, Can't I Drive My Car?

At Wonderbolt, we’re often musing about customer experiences that are lacking - experiences that we just know could be better- and pondering how we might right the ship. Or in this case, the car: The used car industry is under the gun, and one of the nationally-known players is right here in Richmond.

With strong retail roots, a disruptive origin story, and close to 25 years in business, this company has a strong digital platform for online car search.

They operate close to 200 brick-and-mortar car stores nationwide. And while we've hearing about plans to take their digital platforms to the next level, we think their in-store customer experience has languished, and fails to deliver what could be a phenomenal experience.

My husband recently bought a car from these good folks and we noticed a number of friction points. I will point out just a few:

  • Entering the store, several staffers stand around, looking us up and down as we enter. This hardly gives us the warm fuzzies. We unsure where to go or whom to address. Awkward.

  • Peering through the showroom windows towards the cars on the massive lot, we’re eager to meander. Hold up - we’re told our salesperson must be with us at all times. Well, that’s a disappointment - we’re “in here” and "out there," the cars seem less approachable.

  • Our test drive involves clumsy logistics - getting in and out of the car several times, storing clunky physical security tags - all before we can exit the lot.

  • It’s late on winter’s evening and dark. Finding our way back into the lot, post test-drive, we find the roads are unlit; the signage unclear. We come close to missing the turn back into the store’s parking lot altogether.

At Wonderbolt, we like to examine possibilities through the “how might we” framework. We also smash unrelated ideas together to give rise to unexpected solutions.

In this case, let’s introduce the paragon of customer experience: Disney, where the ultimate goal is to make people happy.

  • How might we make the car buying experience more like a trip to Disney World?

  • How might we embed “moments of WOW” into the car shopping experience?

  • How might we evoke celebration from the moment a customer walks in the door?

Thinking within this frame, a few tip-of-the-iceberg ideas:

  • Upon walking in, we hear upbeat, road-trip music. A friendly greeter ushers us in, offers us water or coffee, and we briefly chat about our hopes for our next car

  • Based on our online search, 3 cars are in queue waiting for us to drive

  • We’re also invited to freely browse the car lot on our own. We'll receive an iPad to communicate during the car browsing - we’ll use that to call for assistance if we have questions

  • We're handed a polaroid camera to document the cars we like. Fun! We can’t resist taking a few goofy pictures and sharing some giggles

  • Custom brochures (or electronic bookmarks) give us additional details on any cars we're serious about, including options within the nationwide inventory

  • Entrances and exists should possess gravitas. Consider the twinkly, iconic Disneyland entrance. This is a significant purchase - it needs some love - dramatic lighting and hardscaping, etc.

Even if the lead-up to purchase is great, your vehicle and its subsequent performance will always be equated with where you bought it.

But we believe the store experience presents a fantastic opportunity to build lifelong customer relationships. Rather than designing around task, process, and loss prevention -what would happen if we started with customer delight and worked backwards from there?

Signing off,

Wonderbolt Labs

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