Either way, you probably don't conduct online research in advance, and it's unlikely you care much about the service you receive from behind the counter. A chocolate bar is a low-ticket item that you might even consume before you get home.

But a car is the second most expensive item you buy in a lifetime (after your house), and the purchase process is rather different.

According to Google’s head of automotive, Hugh Dickerson, speaking at our IAFN conference last month, Innovation in the auto finance industry: technology, big data and business improvement, some 80% of people have not decided which car to buy when they start looking.

Graham Wheeler, CEO of Volkswagen Financial Services UK, stated that 75% of people research information online - but still seek the physical experience of sitting in a vehicle before making their final choice. He said 85% use their local dealership as a touch point, but a quarter were not satisfied with the process.

Everyone's money is as good as anyone else's, no matter who they are or what they wear. But not every dealership seems to recognise that.

Here are a few examples from my own experience:

Don't judge a book by its cover

When I was choosing a company car up to the value of £22,000, I arranged to test drive a Lexus. It happened to be one of the hottest days of the year. So, instead of wearing my usual softly-tailored corporate suit, I went along in shorts and a strappy top.

Based on my outfit, the salesman immediately made it quite obvious that he thought I was wasting his time.

"Where will the car be parked?" he asked me.

"On the road," I replied.

"Oh," he responded, "Only Lexus cars are usually parked on a drive or in a garage”.

I quite liked the car, but his snooty attitude completely put me off, so I spent my money elsewhere and doubt I'll ever try Lexus again.

Along the same lines, a local leasing contact told me about a scruffy looking man seen peering through the showroom window of a high-end dealership. Some of the salespeople wanted to shoo him away, but the manager invited him in. He turned out to be a wealthy business-owner who leased his entire fleet from them.

When in a hole, stop digging

I've written before about the fact that over half car purchase decisions are now made by women, but I had a sexist experience that put me off a brand forever.

When my new Audi A3 arrived, the delivery driver gave the clear impression that he didn't think it should be driven by a woman.

On arrival, he said: "Ooh, the kerbs are quite high in your road; you will have to be careful not to scratch the alloy wheels”.

Showing me around the car, I expressed surprise that there was a mirror behind the sun visor on the driver’s side. He said: "Ah, but you mustn't put your make up on in the fast lane of the motorway".

I asked him to show me the spare tyre. He replied: "Surely you’ll just call the AA or RAC if you get a puncture”.

I spluttered: "I DO know how to change a tyre, you know."

He responded: "Erm, perhaps a SMALLER woman would need help".

I was tempted to ask him to lie down in the road so I could test my forward and reverse gears over him.

By the way, I complained to Audi but never got a reply.

Superlative customer service

On the other hand, the service was so good the first time I bought a SEAT, that I leased another one when my original contract expired.

It was the after-sales care that really boosted my loyalty.

When I checked the car in for its annual service, they said: "There’s been a product recall on the safety catch on the bonnet, but don't worry, it's nothing serious. We’ll replace it at no charge.”

When I collected the car, they told me: "To apologise for the product recall, we've put a free pack of car shampoo and conditioner on the passenger seat."

A few days later, they sent me a satisfaction survey to complete.

Their service consistently exceeded all my expectations and gave me the impression that they really care about my custom – so that's why I went back and leased my current car there too.

Congratulations to WJ King, Bromley.

P.S. Graham Wheeler will be pleased to hear that last story. Perhaps he’ll even send me some chocolate (hint, hint).

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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