According to a recent study, dealers have room for improvement when it comes to earning customer trust. The 2017 AMCI Inside Trusted Automotive Brand Study found that no automotive brand scored higher than 50 out of 100 on the study’s trust index. And another study found that 81% of recent car buyers polled did not enjoy the car buying experience, with 29% indicating they don’t trust salespeople.
Lack of brand trust can lead to a decrease in sales and brand loyalty. So how can your dealership build customer trust? A critical way to do so is by hiring the right people. With so many of today’s car buyers completing extensive research online, by the time they decide to walk into a dealership, your employees are the only thing standing between your customers the final purchase.
Below, we’ve pulled together several ways you can adjust your people strategy to build customer trust.
Shift from Sales Roles to Product Experts
One way to support a top-notch customer experience is to rethink job roles at your dealership. With car buyers walking into your dealership with so much information of their own – and often dreading pressure from sales staff – traditional sales roles aren’t always as effective as they used to be. To address this, many dealerships now employ product experts, which focus on ensuring customers fully understand technology and other features of the vehicle post-purchase, rather than pushing the sale. This evolved role helps product experts build relationships and trust with customers, as customers will appreciate their product knowledge, recommendations and the product experience as a whole.
Beyond building trust with customers, the shift from sales to product expert roles can also help you attract more quality employees. In recent years, job seekers have become wary of the unpredictable, commission-based salaries associated with most dealership sales roles. To meet the expectations of today’s job seekers, many dealerships are switching from commission-based pay plans to base pay plus bonus plans – for both sales and product expert roles. This evolved pay plan can help your dealership attract employees who might not have considered a commission-based plan, and take the commission pressure off your employees, so they can focus more on customers’ needs.
Speed Up the Purchase Process
Today’s car buyers are spending less time in dealerships since they complete most of their research online ahead of time. This shift means cars are now purchased rather than sold – and the experience is more focused on fulfillment rather than selling. Without the negotiation and sales pressure, customers expect to drive off the lot quickly, rather than spending an entire Saturday in a dealership as they might have in the past.
To help customers get out the door quickly, some dealerships have opted for combining the sales and F&I parts of the business. While it takes some coaching up front and requires the right employee who can thrive in the combined role, combining the two is beneficial in many ways. It not only helps slash the time car buyers spend completing the purchase, but it also increases brand trust, because customers can build a relationship with one employee for the entire process – rather than being handed off from sales to F&I.
Solicit Customer Feedback
Post-purchase, reach out to customers to let them know their business is appreciated and feedback is valued. Leave printed cards at your dealership’s front desk for customers to complete on their way out the door. Or reach out via email a few days or weeks after the purchase to ask customers about their experience as a whole and their experience with your employees. If you do receive negative or constructive feedback, you can use it as an opportunity to improve operations at your dealership to improve operations for the future.
When customers trust your people, they will trust your dealership as a whole, which can ultimately lead to increased sales, as well as customer loyalty and advocacy. For more information on how to build the best team at your dealership, download our eBook, “Planning for People in Retail Automotive.”