AskPatty Certified Female Friendly Logo

Indianapolis Star Features Ask Patty

Published Dec 26th 2006, 5:53pm by

Web site helps car dealers cater to female customers
By Sarah A. Webster
Women decide, or in some way influence, most U.S. car and truck purchases - more than 80 percent, according to some estimates.
 

But talk to women candidly about their auto-buying experiences, and you'll find that many aren't thrilled with their visits to showrooms.
 
Women still report being asked, "When are you going to bring your husband in? When are you going to bring your dad in?" and similar disrespectful questions, said Fara Warner, author of the 2005 book "Power of the Purse."
 
So what's a male-dominated industry to do?
 
Enter AskPatty.com, started by entrepreneurs who thought they could make some money straightening out the problem.
Data from J.D. Power and Associates show that the situation isn't as bad as some anecdotes suggest. Men pay a little more for their new vehicles than women do, and women are a little less satisfied than men with the maintenance and repair process at dealerships.
 
Many dealerships have already installed child-friendly areas, with toys and children's videos, and report doing their best to attract female salespeople and to treat all customers with respect.
 
But AskPatty.com, a New York-based Web site, aims to help improve the communication between female customers and auto sellers.
 
The site educates women about all things automotive, with a staff of female automotive experts who write articles and answer questions on repair, maintenance and car buying.
AskPatty.com also provides a unique service: certifying dealerships as female-friendly after they've passed a course on how to communicate with women, a continuing challenge to many salesmen.
 
Forty-nine percent of the nation's dealerships don't have even one female salesperson, a 2006 survey by the National Auto Dealers Association found.
 
To be certified, members of a dealership's sales team must read a book titled "How to Get Rich Selling Cars and Trucks to Women," and take a training course. Then they must pass a 134-question test, which takes about an hour to complete.
AskPatty.com gets about 20,000 visitors each month. About 50 dealerships have signed on for certification services. Dealerships pay $225 per person for 12 months of training and $795 a month for the dealership certification.
 
Steve Rajnert, 32, the Internet sales leader at Dorian Ford in suburban Detroit, took the initiative to get his dealership certified after finding the Web site earlier this year.
 
"They've actually given us a lot of information on selling to women," he said. "Women are doing a lot of the purchasing on their own. . . . Sometimes the women don't feel comfortable. This trains us on how to communicate a lot better."




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