Automotive Mystery Shopping – 2 crucial questions that it answers for dealerships

For dealerships who want to find out how we can help them to monitor and improve the performance of their team, please get in touch now on 01392 984224 or by email using for a no-obligation initial chat.

For those who are interested, below are some of our thoughts about why Mystery Shopping, and Video Mystery Shopping in particular, has always been so valuable to dealerships.

About the automotive industry / “motor trade”

The motor trade is reliant, more than many industries, on both the sales skills of staff, and great customer service.

The impact of them both on the performance of any motor dealership is obvious, and not just to those who work in the industry.

A vehicle is a major purchase for most people.  The decision process can be lengthy, and might involve a lot of research before a person ever sets foot on a dealer’s forecourt.

But whether or not that’s true, from a potential customer’s first contact with a dealership, there are many factors that can affect whether a sale takes place, and the profitability of that sale.

This article aims to look at some of those factors, and look at why Mystery Shopping, and particularly Video Mystery Shopping has proved so useful to the automotive industry.

(N.B: please see this other article relating to B2C and retail sales which is also highly relevant)

The details make so much difference

As most people would acknowledge, in this sort of sales situation, the detail of exactly what is shown, said, suggested, and offered to customers at each stage, is all important, as well as product knowledge and how customers are treated throughout the sales process. These things all have a huge impact on the outcome of each interaction.

And this is precisely why Mystery Shopping has been used by motor dealerships for decades.

It has helped them to improve their results by ensuring that more customers buy from them, that those customer spend larger amounts, and then feel pleased enough with the transaction to return in future and recommend the business to others.

Results like that are clearly nothing but good news to any dealership or any business.

Not feeding old stereotypes

Automotive industry sales person


While many many motor dealerships and their staff are rightly appreciated for the great service they provide, the industry is still affected by some long-term stereotypes. Having staff being seen as “typical” is still probably not a good thing! Dealerships have to convert prospects into customers and maximise sales values, but they also have to be seen as honest and fair.

Like almost every other industry, the internet has changed this one forever. Reputations are ever more important, hard won, and potentially fragile.

The public are increasingly savvy, and intolerant of conduct that seems anything less than professional, honest and open.

There’s generally considerable choice too: customers don’t have to spend their money anywhere they don’t feel they will be appreciated and treated with respect. Customers can buy from anywhere in the country (or outside of it!) with relative ease and a considerable amount of legal protection.

(An increasing number of sales are prompted by internet searches, and are taken a long way or all the way to towards completion by phone, which is a good reason to make ample use of phone enquiries.)

If customers aren’t impressed with the service they recieve, they’re more likely than ever to go elsewhree if they can. If they feel wronged they also can, (and often will) do damage to a dealer’s online reputation.

The Crucial Balance

The balance that needs to be struck involves performing as well as possible in terms of sales, while also demonstrating integrity.

Or, to put it another way:

Ensuring that staff effectively build relationships and consistently identify, seize and maximise sales opportunities, while making sure the customer is completely satisfied, with the process, and with the final deal that’s agreed.

(and of course avoiding anything that could ever be seen to be remotely unscrupulous).

So, how can a dealership strike and maintain that balance?

Of course, in a business like a motor dealership, the management team set the culture, the expectations and the standards that need to be met by other staff.

Training, supervision and monitoring then are key elements, but these can take up huge amounts of time, and time is a very limited resource.

The two questions that Mystery Shopping can answer for automotive dealerships

There are two very important questions that Mystery Shopping (and particularly Video Mystery Shopping) can help motor dealerships to address:

1: “are the methods and values that are promoted by management being properly absorbed and reflected by all staff?.

and potentially

2: “what is it really like to be a customer on the receiving end of the methods and values that are actually being demonstrated by staff”.

They are both important questions.

If the answer to the first question is a consistent “yes”, then the owners or management team are being effective in terms of training and supervision.

But even if this is the case, second question may be one worth considering. But this will always be up to the dealership in question.

However, by providing clear, objective and in-depth customer insights, Mystery Shopping can help automotive dealerships to find useful answers to those questions, and to then make real improvements in both customer satisfaction and sales.

Benefits and responses

Mystery Shopping reports are typically first studied in the context of “how are customers being treated?… are staff doing what we’ve told them?… are they maximising sales?”, and reports (and certanly Video footage) can definitely answer those questions, and normally highlight potential improvements.

Another natural result of the in-depth feedback that’s produced by mystery shopping is based on the fact that success often leaves clues: it can reveal clearly why certain staff perform well, and why some staff don’t.

An obvious benefit then is the highlighting of staff training needs. This can provide benefits when carried out on an ad-hoc basis, but an ongoing programme of Mystery Shopping will also allow for the monitoring and benchmarking of staff performance and compliance on an ongoing basis.

After studying some objective and detailed customer feedback, some businesses may also choose to review and revise the expectations they place on sales staff and other staff: maybe some new, better ways to do things will suddenly become apparent.

Over time, some more subtle potential improvements might be identified as being required or advantageous. Standards can be maintained long term and ongoing improvements can be made possible. The potential gain from Mystery Shopping must depend partly on how information is interpreted and acted upon.

Multiple touchpoints and staff interactions

Normally, and ideally, a customer will interact with several members of staff and departments within a dealership just on the initial purchase: and after their initial purchase the customer will return for servicing, and ultimately to trade in for a new vehicle once again.

Of course, to create and maintain such a long-term relationship between the customer and the dealership it’s crucial that, as well as the sales person, the customer’s interactions with all staff are handled appropriately, and the service that’s provided is of a consistently high standard. For this, all staff must be “on the same page”.

Some important things to consider in that context are: how convenient, stress-free and easy is the whole process for the customer? These things are often not given enough attention.

Automotive industry image

What can Mystery Shopping reports show you?

The value for dealerships from even a small number of visits and reports can be immense, the information can clearly show how to make many powerful improvements.

Reports for motor dealerships will typically cover the entire customer journey, before and during any visit to the showroom, and including interactions with all staff members (and machines where relevant).

The focus areas on the all-important sales people will include normally include:

  • Speed of responsiveness
  • Telephone skills
  • Interpersonal skills (face to face)
  • Listening and rapport building skills
  • Identification of initial customer requirements
  • Attempts to present potential alternatives
  • Skill in highlighting relevant features and benefits
  • Skill in building perceived value
  • Closing / pursuing a purchasing decision, and deal negotiation
  • Objection handling skills
  • Up-selling and cross selling, including servicing warranties and finance packages
  • Managing the sale process
  • Efficient completion of paperwork and any relevant procedures for a smooth customer experience

…and much more, including the overall impressions created by the “shopper’s” dealings with the individual and the dealership as a whole.

Mystery Shopping, like any performance measurement tool, is used to best effect when employed regularly, for consistent maintenance and improvements in performance.

Video Mystery Shopping

The automotive industry / “motor trade” is one where the use of Video Mystery Shopping has been particularly popular. Video Mystery Shopping can help managers to explore the customer’s journey in more detail, and examine the less tangible aspects of staff performance and behaviour.

Get in touch

Customerwise is focussed on providing Mystery Shopping (including video recorded) and consultancy services to automotive dealerships accross the United Kingdom. This includes new and used vehicle sales, servicing of all types, and dealers of specialist vehicles such as motorhomes and motorcycles etc.

If you own or manage a dealership, please get in touch firstly by phone on 01392 984224 or online, for an informal discussion on how we can help you to gain powerful insights into the experience of your customers, to help you to, in turn, improve both customer satisfaction and sales performance.

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Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor

Paul works creatively with a broad range of B2C and B2B organisations to help them find ways to compete more effectively.

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