Jackie Barrie, the Voice of your Customer, highlights the scale of the problem:

I was driving down the A21. Fast.

I was on my way to the funeral of a graphic designer friend. I’d offered a lift to a printer we both knew. He was late, so I was driving us both down the A21. Fast.

“You drive like a man,” he commented.

I asked why he said that.

He told me his wife was a 'rubbish driver' and he’d been quite scared of accepting a lift from a woman.

Sigh! That’s typical of the attitude I’ve had to deal with over decades of car buying, leasing, and driving.

I’m not THAT old, but I do know women tied themselves to railings to win the vote early last century. In the 1970s, we burned our bras in the fight for equal pay. Yet in the male-dominated world of car sales and leasing, women are still largely ignored.

Did you know that 50-70% of female customers report they are dissatisfied with their cars, and three-quarters feel misunderstood by car companies*?

This is despite the fact that UK licence applications by women have grown by 2.4% since 2011 while those for men are declining (women are predicted to overtake – ha ha! – by 2017). The trend is the same in Germany, while in the US, more women than men already hold a driving licence*.

If 80% of car-buying decisions are influenced by women, then why don’t car companies wake up and serve us better?

Here are just a few of the gender-specific things that have happened to me (I’m sure my experiences are fairly typical):

  • the day my new lease car arrived and the delivery driver warned me not to hit my alloy wheels against the high kerb. Would he have said that to a man? I don’t think so;

  • the salesman who couldn’t believe I could afford the car I was test-driving, because I was casually dressed on a hot day. He didn’t know I had a £22,000 budget. Simply because of his attitude, I spent it elsewhere;

  • the salesman who addressed every comment to my male companion even though he couldn’t drive and I was the one buying the car.

Women are as different from each other as men are. Some of us might be quite good drivers. Some of us might be rubbish. Not all of us like pink, wear fairy wings, or use our cars like giant handbags.

The thorny handbag question

On that subject, do you know why we carry a handbag? It’s because – unlike menswear – women’s clothes are not designed with pockets. That forces us to need a bag to carry money, keys, tissues and all those other things.

Now, when you get into a car on your own, the most obvious place to put a handbag is on the passenger seat. However, if you live in a big scary city such as London, you are not advised to do that as it’s too easy for muggers to break the nearside window, grab the bag and run off, while you are still struggling to get out of your seatbelt and give chase.

So you might put your handbag in the passenger footwell. That’s fine, unless you have a passenger. If that passenger is female, she will probably put her bag there too, so there’s not much room left for her feet.

The next best place for a female driver to put her handbag is to lean round and place it on the floor behind the passenger seat. Depending on the design of the vehicle, this is not always a particularly easy manoeuvre.

One car I owned had a storage compartment between the driver’s seat and the passenger seat. It was sold to me as an added benefit feature that I couldn’t get rid of even if I tried.

However, each time I reached round to put my bag safely behind the passenger seat, this annoying compartment got in the way. It meant I nearly dislocated my shoulder every time I got in and out of the car, and took away some of the enjoyment of driving it.

Why is it that cars can’t be designed to take account of everyday usability factors like that?

If manufacturers don’t build cars to be female-friendly… if marketing materials are not designed to appeal to a female audience… If salespeople are not trained to communicate respectfully with female customers… the majority of your customers will be dissatisfied. And no sensible business wants that.

In future articles, you’ll learn marketing tips, tricks and techniques that will make all your customers happier, especially us women.

*Source: Frost & Sullivan report (2014)

Jackie Barrie is a ‘writing without waffle’ copywriter, trainer, speaker and author based in the UK with clients all over the world.

She can be found at jackiebarrie.com or follow her on Twitter @jackiebarrie



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