David Amerland was a keynote speaker at DrivingSales Executive Summit (DSES) 2015 at the Bellagio, Las Vegas where over 1,000 progressive dealers and industry professionals gathered for the most progressive event in the automotive retail industry.
David Amerland is an international speaker and author of eight best-selling books including “SEO Help: SEO Help: 20 Semantic Search Optimization Steps That Will Help Your Business Grow” and “Google Semantic Search.” Amerland shared his insight into how dealers can improve their sales and marketing processes by taking a hard look at the customer experience and consumer trust at their dealerships.
Amerland has multi-faceted prestigious background. He was trained as a chemical engineer, led a regional mini-MBA program for Rutgers University and helped shape marketing strategy for publicly-quoted tech companies across Europe and the U.S. Amerland sat down with DrivingSales News to provide insight to dealers about a wide-range of customer experience and customer perception issues. Amerland started by talking about company culture and perception. Amerland explained the need for customers to get a sense of the people behind a company.
“If you think about how we are hard-wired to connect with anybody, it happens on a person-to-person basis,” Amerland explained. “Today, we say people do business with people not companies and companies are made up of people. If we don’t get a sense of the people behind the company every time, we actually meet a company we are very reluctant to actually do business with them and you’ve got to ask why – why does this happen? It happens because we don’t understand the motivations of a company if we don’t know what it is, what the values are, who’s behind it, what drives them, what passions they feel, what problems they face.”
Amerland then touched on trust, a critical element to any business relationship, and certainly one dealers’ need to focus on based on the DrivingSales Customer Experience Study.
On the subject of trust Amerland said, “How do you create trust? To create trust in any kind of situation, you need two things. First, you need a long-term relationship, you need some kind of contact. If we think how that contact actually begins it begins from an advantage, in this case from a car dealership, but for any kind of business. It’s a proposition of advantage because the person comes to you is actually willing to trust you. If there was no trust to begin with like zero trust, we wouldn’t get anywhere.”
One company that has struggled with the trust of their customers is Volkswagen. Amerland talked about what dealers can take away from the VW scandal.
Speaking about the VW crisis Amerland said, “70-80 year-old company about to perhaps go completely under, simply because a small group of people allegedly within the company acted in a way that broke the trust of their customers. If you don’t change internally, if internally you don’t actually live your values, then it is very difficult to live them outside, to project them outside consistently and at some point you’re going to get tripped up.”
If VW is struggling with trust, Amazon.com is not. Amerland talked about what can be learned from Amazon’s vulnerability.
Talking about the Amazon customer experience Amerland said, “When you shop at Amazon you have Amazon’s no-questions asked returns guarantee. So basically if you don’t like something, if you don’t like the color, you don’t like what you bought, you just return it the next day and that’s it, you’re going to get your money back. If things go wrong, you send them an email they fix it within 24 to 48 hours. Arguably, this is a massive company leaving itself open to abuse. So they’re willing to be that vulnerable. Because they are willing to be that vulnerable, we are willing to trust them.”
Amerland also explained how much perception impacts relationships. If a customer walks onto your lot wanting a car but expecting a hassle, they may be on edge and ready to react to a hostile negotiation before they’ve even talked to any staff.
Talking about improvement needed for the dealership customer experience Amerland said, “They want a car, they need a car, and someone is actually willing to sell them one. And they’re approaching it in an adversarial way. What we really need to do is change their entire adversarial perception. When need to say what we do and what you want are the same thing. We want you to be satisfied with a purchase. We want you to buy a car, which will perfectly suit your needs. If we can actually get that message across, we’re changing the entire game. We’re changing the mindset that drives the industry and then, every customer experience is a win for the entire industry as a whole.”
Finally, Amerland talked about the need not for sales, but for customers with whom your store or group can evolve together.
“If your (customer) experience has been positive, you’ll have absolutely no problem in approaching a dealership,” Amerland explained. “If your experience has been negative, you take those negative misconceptions with you and that again, colors and taints the entire experience, and the whole thing feeds on itself.
What is the strategy at your store or group to help build trust with your customers? How do you think Amazon excels despite making themselves so vulnerable? How can dealers evolve with their loyal customers to better serve their needs?