The modern way to buy a vehicle: No-touch signatures and open reviews

While America adjusts to the new normal of a world with masks and social distancing, the need for personal transportation remains – and for some, it’s stronger than ever. Yet buying a vehicle has long required in-person communication, often followed by a request to fill out a customer survey a few miles long.

Over the past few months, Volkswagen has tackled both of those challenges with two new tools. Volkswagen of America and VW Credit have worked with CDK Global, Inc. to launch Sign Anywhere, a digital signature tool that’s among the first of its kind in the U.S. auto industry, allowing vehicle buyers to finish their financial paperwork with a participating dealer without having to visit the dealership.

The other step is a new system of customer surveys that ditches a long list of multiple-choice questions for a few open-ended questions that gives customers the power to give detailed feedback and post their review to and the dealer’s website.

The Sign Anywhere tool developed by CDK Global allows customers to remotely and securely digitally sign financial documents with their own computer or mobile device. While digital signatures are common in many industries, many laws and state regulations governing financial documents in vehicle buying have usually required in-person or “wet” signatures.

Volkswagen began planning to roll out this tool two years ago, but the COVID-19 pandemic sped up the deployment, and more than 400 Volkswagen dealers now have access in states where laws allow it.

“Customers are asking for flexibility and looking for peace of mind especially during this time, and Sign Anywhere helps provide that.” said Anthony Bandmann, President and CEO of VW Credit, Inc. “Planning to implement this technology began two years ago but since this pandemic took hold, we’ve accelerated our plan to make this a permanent tool for our dealers.”

If you’ve ever bought a vehicle, you know that post-sale surveys are part of the process. Dealers and automakers use these surveys to gather feedback and tackle any customer problems. Over time, many such surveys have grown to be a long list of questions asking for numerical rankings, with many customers advised to give only perfect scores.

That system often leads to a large percentage of surveys never being completed, said Erin Buhrmaster, Director of Customer Experience for Volkswagen of America, and was often cited as one of the pain points in the shopping process.

The new online survey rolled out to Volkswagen dealers in late January and features far fewer questions and  allows customers to describe their experiences without the barrier of a 1-10 ranking or multiple choice responses. At the end, customers are offered the chance to share their responses on and the dealer’s website.

“We’re focusing more on getting a word-for-word experience from the customer,” Buhrmaster said. “That gives everyone more insight, whether for addressing an issue or going back and praising people who deserve recognition. We stopped chasing a numerical score and started listening to what people had to say.”

And since the pandemic, the surveys have shown that the steps dealers took to handle a new set of challenges, especially at-home test drives and deliveries, have been well received.

“Customers have really been overwhelmed at the meaningful ways dealers have responded,” Buhrmaster said. “We have a lot of comments along the lines of ‘this is the best car buying experience I’ve ever had.’”