Everything I’m doing, reading and hearing at the moment in the world of dealer marketing seems to include the same three words – seamless, customer and journey.


The marketing community has got a bit giddy as we all map journeys, identify critical touchpoints, drool at retargeting opportunities, pinpoint moments of truth while also binding the full nine yards together with metrics and conversion tracking. Job done, we put the kettle on, pat ourselves on the back and wait for the inevitable uptick in enquiries and sales.

When we don’t see the results we’ve been forecasting, we tend to overlook the most obvious issue; let’s call it “the human condition”. Basically this covers all the things that make people, people: bad moods, distractions, illness and any other explanation for those occasions when things don’t go to plan, processes aren’t followed or the customer service becomes, frankly, just a little bit pony.

Here at hps, we’re currently engaging in our biggest ever programme of non-brand-aligned mystery shopping and we’ve been surprised, confounded, amazed, baffled, dumbfounded, elated and depressed (in equal measure) by what we’ve found. Our mystery shop recipe is a closely guarded secret, but essentially it uses new methods to allow different brands, business sizes and types of business to all be compared on a level playing field.

As we make our way around the country, we’ve observed all kinds of differences, similarities and parallels. But what we’ve noticed above everything is that the entire customer experience is completely at the mercy of all those individuals in the showroom, call centre or marketing team.

Before I go on, and in the interests of balanced reporting, I’ve got to say we discovered some true excellence on display. Step forward Josh in the North West, who was quite simply one of the best sales execs any of us have ever dealt with. Clone him and any business would be away to the races when it comes to hitting target.

Now for the bad news: top to bottom, premium, mainstream and those on the path to premium, it didn’t matter who the brands were, at least 25% of all enquiries were ignored.


Extrapolate from that and you may well require a bit of a lie down when you start attributing a value to the marketing waste implicit in that one toe-curling stat.

If you then went on to measure the speed and quality of the response (i.e. has a “next action” been agreed), an incredible 45-50% of enquiries were not handled well enough to allow them to be plugged into the DMS for any ongoing lead management.

Then, throw in some incidentals like reluctance to offer a test drive, phoning when an email has been requested and not answering the questions asked in the original enquiry.

Bearing all this negative baggage in mind, you get the sense that no amount of puffery around a customer journey, in all its seamless glory, can make up for the ensuing hiccup when the soft pink squidgy thing called Dave can’t even get round to answering an email.

The worst thing is that I wasn’t really surprised and I suspect, if you’re reading this, you won’t be either. And yet we all continue to turn our focus away from simple, bog-standard enquiry management issues as we’re inexorably drawn towards the dazzling automated digital stuff.

Not anymore. I know where I’ll be suggesting our clients focus as a priority in 2018 before they do anything else involving those three words at the top of this blog.


Associate Director and all round Petrolhead

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