It is no secret that customers are using the Internet to broadcast their buying experiences, and in doing so, directing customers toward or away from your dealership, many times without you knowing. More and more prospective customers are using feedback left online from those who have gone before them to help decide what to buy and where to buy it. The dealership experience and your lot’s reputation for one customer can impact many others before you even have a chance to speak with them.
Having joined the automotive retail sales world in 1980, I have developed lifelong friendships with many integrity filled, humble sales people, managers and dealers I am proud to call my friends. I know these are good, honest people. Sadly, the general view of our industry by the public is that of skepticism, and dare I say, total distrust.
The poor examples of a few should not negatively affect the masses that consistently do the right thing, conduct a fair business, establish lifelong customer relationships, stand behind the sale and understand that success means much more than a onetime sale. It is about time that the good separate themselves from the bad. It is about time that those who do the right thing are rewarded for their efforts. It is time to force the suspect to have to earn their way back into the customer’s good graces as opposed to the reighteous having to constantly defend themselves.
Things were much different in the past with most prospecting and selling primarily done face–to-face. The support of the dealer’s local community meant everything and positive word of mouth was the best advertising a dealership could get; it meant everything. While the setting in which business is conducted has moved online, the sales practices should not change. Integrity should be the backbone of any business as it drives repeat business and defines success.
What does that mean to your dealership?
Much of what we see as dealers attempt to get a handle on “reputation management” is reactionary. With the many social platforms being used by customers, dealers are forced to respond to online customer critiques, if and when they find them. There are many dealers unaware that there may be dissatisfied customers spewing venom online, justly or unjustly, that will influence whether your next prospect considers you for their next car purchase.
It is important to be proactive in separating the dealership and your individual reputation from the rest of the competition. It is time to take charge and let your satisfied customer’s voice be heard. Take charge, video a quick testimonial at delivery, post it on your website, find a reputation management tool that puts you in the driver’s seat and reaches out to your dealership’s sales and service customers for their candid feedback. If there are any issues with an unhappy customer, rectify them immediately. It is important to step up and gain the customer confidence you deserve for going the extra mile; this is the only way the perception of the business and dealership will change. While this change won’t happen overnight, when enough dealerships seek to claim what is theirs, new customers will be realized.
The bottom line is that there is no room or need to treat customers with anything other than respect. I know some of the responses will be; “buyers are liars,” “they force us to treat them this way because of the way they approach the sale,” or “there is no more dealership or brand loyalty.” My response: “No they’re not,” “no they don’t” and “nonsense.” All customers are directly affected by the way you handle the interaction and the way customers are treated is a choice made and instilled by the culture of the dealership. Wouldn’t you rather promote testimonials like, “I bought my last seven cars here,” or “I refer all of my friends and family here because (salesperson’s name) listens to me and treats me with respect.”
If you pride yourself on doing the right thing, then it is time to take back what is yours.