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How to Rebuild Trust With Customers

Three hands holding wrists
Article Highlights:

  • Customer trust in automotive is low, but can be rebuilt.
  • Transparency, ease of use, and security help bridge the gap.

Any time we face an important choice, we seek support in the people we trust. In the case of purchasing a vehicle – easily one of the biggest buying decisions most people ever make outside of buying a house – people will consult family, friends, and even financial advisors.

But, why is it that consumers feel they can’t turn to their automotive dealer for good-faith advice?

The truth is most people are hesitant to trust dealerships. A recent Gallup survey indicated only seven percent of consumers have a high level of trust in car salespeople.

This lack of confidence leads to customers who are extremely hesitant to pull the trigger on a purchase. Instead, they butt heads with sales reps and try to haggle down prices. Often, your associate feels they have no choice but to offer a discount to avoid losing the customer’s business entirely.

This drawn-out back-and-forth occurrence shrinks your margins and wastes time you could be spending in more profitable ways. So, how do you turn skepticism into belief and secure real customer loyalty?

Clearly Present Payment Options

Between rebates, residuals, and incentives, selling a vehicle is never as easy as scanning a price tag. Unfortunately, a lack of transparency in how your sales team calculates payment options can lead customers to feel like they have to argue the price down to avoid getting cheated. It doesn’t matter that you’re operating in good faith – your customers have no way to verify that in the moment, and the stereotype of two-faced salespeople still persists.

Don’t destroy customer trust with back-of-the-napkin math and trips to “see what I can get my manager to do.” Instead, calculate and present a range of payment options with a transparent desking system that invites the customer into the process, walking them through the same steps your reps are taking to arrive at a price.

Make Your Paperwork, Work for You

Paperwork is considered a necessary evil in many industries, but that record of the transaction is the best way to hold both employees and customers accountable. Unfortunately, outdated document management practices can cause serious problems for dealers and their customers, ranging from time wasted scrounging around for misplaced documents to employees swindling customers out of millions of dollars.

An electronic document storage system can mitigate these organizational issues, eliminate the resource cost and time waste of paper storage, and reduce the risk of misused, damaged, or stolen files with secure access to documents. Knowing that your dealership takes security seriously will go a long way in keeping customers’ trust after you earn it.

In F&I, extensive contracts riddled with legal or technical jargon immediately make customers uneasy, and that discomfort only grows once the paper is tucked in a manila folder and shoved in a crowded desk drawer.

Make sure your F&I managers and customers are literally on the same page with an interactive tool to aid in presenting finance and insurance options. This is yet another step in the sales process in which empowering the customer can build trust, as they take a more active role in selecting products and payment options. After a successful sale, instantly store your digital documents on encrypted files that are easy to audit and can only be accessed by relevant associates.

When a customer signs their name on a contract after an honest, open sales experience, they’ll truly believe your company is bound by its principles, not just a piece of paper.

Don’t Make Your Customers Pay for a Confusing Payment Process

When it comes time to pay, you’re destined to encounter a variety of preferred payment methods, whether a buyer’s first instinct is to pull out a checkbook or thrust forward a smart watch.

Manually punching in a price, repair order number, or account information leaves room for human error that can incite distrust in an already cautious shopper. The risk of misreporting a value multiplies when you consider all the data entry points a purchase might require.

Take advantage of a secure payment system that accommodates multiple transaction types and offers customers frequent checkpoints so they can instantly approve each step of a transaction.

Nobody wants to feel cheated, and your customers never will if they feel in control from the time they set foot on your lot to the time they receive their receipt.

Transparency Pays Off

The demand for new vehicles may fluctuate over time, but the subsequent services you offer to your customers will bolster your profits for the long haul. Consumers crave honesty and will continue giving their business to a dealership that is open with them.

Loyalty is a two-way street and can’t simply be won with the newest models or the lowest prices. You have to build your entire operation on a foundation of open collaboration, empowering your customers while also giving them the confidence to rely on you. Invite your customers behind the scenes of your sales process, and soon they’ll be walking in comfortably like regulars at a local diner.

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Director, Reynolds Consulting Services

Carl Bennett is the director of North American Consulting Operations and Sales for Reynolds Consulting Services. In his consultant role, Bennett teaches automotive retailers in the U.S. and Canada how to achieve higher levels of success and better results in vehicle sales and F&I. Prior to joining Reynolds and Reynolds more than 15 years ago, Bennett worked in dealerships for 15 years as a general manager, finance director, and sales manager.

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