I’m not big on buzz words, but see one enough and it requires you take a hard look at what all the chatter is about. One of words that regularly appears in surveys concerning consumer desires in retail-car transactions is “transparency.” Simply put, it is the desire of the consumer to get the truthful information that they want, when they want it. Consumers are looking for straight answers to straight questions.
Now that puts the onus on the seller to be the one providing the information in order to establish credibility, and in this case it’s the dealership. In this age of instant gratification and totally accessible information, the consumer dictates the shopping rules. The ideology being established is “either you provide me what I want and need, or I will go find it somewhere else.”
Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily when correct and updated information is transferred, although there are still dealers today who fight this form of thinking as if it’s a death sentence. Some dealers hold on to the “how dare they” sentiment regarding customers who request detailed information, which in the past was considered sacred. Most dealers have made strides to understand that working with an educated customer often is the short cut to the sale because that customer has enough information to recognize value and truth, and feel comfortable pulling the “yes” trigger when they see it. Those dealers who fight it and are unwilling to yield information, take the long way home by subjecting the customer to what is now perceived as outdated, unwelcome and ineffective sales “tactics.”
Of course there are still customers, although numbers continue to dwindle, who still relish buying cars as they always have through the standard dealership sales process. The key is to recognize the difference, as more than 80% of customers are “Internet customers,” regardless of how they appeared at your dealership.
Basically, “transparency” has two parts with one complimenting the other. The first is an online presentation, beginning with a website that includes inventory listings, to a social presence and reputation management. Dealers should provide website tools for their customers so they feel empowered to make a comfortable, educated decision when it comes to their new- or used-car purchase, trade-in and financing options.
In addition, dealers should utilize social media to convey community participation and post customer testimonials to enhance networking among satisfied customers and foster new relationships with potential customers. It is imperative that dealers respond immediately on reputation management sites to address the good, bad and the ugly. Customers do not expect perfection from dealers, but they do expect attention.
The second part, addressing “transparency,” which is a natural progression or extension of online presence, is the necessity of establishing a consultative relationship. Human interaction most often either seals or kills the deal. The tone of all communication should be filled with choices, options and great customer service, which concludes with a vehicle that is perceived by the customer to have been purchased not sold.