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Derrick Woolfson

Derrick Woolfson Business Development

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ATTN: Transparency isn't so Transparent

We spend a lot of time reviewing ways to improve the customer's experience whether that is through surveys, studies, or reading endless reports. However, the one thing we tend not to discuss is the redesigning of the customer's experience. That is, instead of layering in small changes why not redesign the experience? One of the most significant changes in the automotive industry regarding the customer's experience in the last few years is the “digital retailing” sector. However, as we know - the digital evolution, itself, is not enough to change the customer's entire experience. In which case, there still seems to be a disconnect in what we are changing versus what the customer actually wants. That said, there is a conversation to be had - one that discusses some of the following topics.

Simply Saying You are Transparent Does Not Cut It. It is an Overused Ambiguous Word. 

It has been one of the biggest buzzwords in the auto industry for some time and in many cases still is, but what are we exactly being transparent about? There still might be some confusion as to what the customer wants transparency on. Such as the process of purchasing a vehicle, trade-in process, to the way in which a car is priced. So the question is, simply, are we ignoring the customer's actual request for transparency? Or do we on the dealer level have a different definition of transparency that we use to enhance their experience? 

In today's market, customers want answers. Think about it, with all of the apps and sites out there that give customers their credit history, rates, etc. they have more information than of what they are accustomed to, which does not mean that we can not make a profit. So the question is what are we actually transparent about? Some of the common statements are: we have low pricing, we do not play pricing games, we have OEM certified technicians, we care about our customers, to we have good reviews. All of which is great! There is nothing better than a good review; however, even when reading the reviews - those that are good - the customer still states that the dealer was “honest, straight forward, low pricing, but it still took three hours to purchase a vehicle” or “we are so happy we ended at (dealership). We visited multiple dealerships before making the purchase.” That says there is still a disconnect in how a dealer translates transparency. 

Instead of Talking About Transparency Let’s Focus on Being Consistent. Let’s Make the Buying Process Smoother. 

Perhaps five to six years ago dealers could get away with crazy pricing rules or other various fees. But things, as we know, have changed; especially for new vehicle sales. The OEM’s are much tighter when it comes to what a dealer can price their vehicles at as well as how the pricing structure works. That said, it is time to move past the word transparency, and look at changing the customer's experience online. To do so, here are two key elements to consider: 

The Process 

Many of us forget the nuances of purchasing a car because we live and breath the dealer world. So much so, that we spend more time defining transparency than actually taking the time to approach one of the most crucial aspects of purchasing a car; the process. I have yet to see a dealer create a video that explains the buying process. Wherein, it would be a short one minute to two-minute video that highlights how to buy a car. This is especially important for the younger generations who have not yet purchased their first vehicle. I can tell you first hand how many times I have dealt with customers who had not yet bought a car. They are often excited, but nervous. If we took the time - in the beginning, while they are doing their research -  and put them at ease by explaining the process, it could pay off for the dealership! Not to mention, it will save the customer several hours of their personal time as they do not have to go through the motions at the dealership, again, with another sales consultant who happens to have a very different sales process than of the one in which the customer initially spoke with. It is not a fun situation. 

Vehicle Display Page. Less is More. 

It is a known fact that the fewer options we have, the easier it is to make a selection. Yet more often than not dealers will have several call to actions on their vehicle display pages. So much so that it can become overwhelming for the customer to choose which one best meets their needs. And let us not forget that a customer is not very likely to select the “lead form fill,” and write a paragraph. Instead, they will perhaps choose “get quote,” which does not show in the CRM as “get quote,” where the sales consultant will call them and the customer has to repeat what they just asked; “get quote.” 

This breakpoint can cause for frustration on the customer's end; this example is “transparency” issues. Namely, the customer expects a response/answer that corresponds to what they are asking. It would be like me saying “is the car blue or grey?” and the answer was “what color are you looking for?” - It does not make sense, no? Avoiding this breakpoint in the customer's experience can have a profound impact on their perception. The better the customer's perception is of the dealer the better chance you have to close the customer. 

Bottom Line: instead of focusing on a word that gets lost in translation it is best to focus on actionable, attainable items that will enhance the customer's experience before they call into the dealership or make their visit. Remembering that just like us, we want answers to our questions. There is nothing more frustrating than asking a question and not getting a straight answer. Lastly, it never hurts to take a moment in the morning - before things get busy - and review your own website. Take a minute to put yourself in your customer's shoes as if it were your first time visiting the dealership, and ask yourself “does this make sense. Is the website missing anything? Does it have too much?” if you are asking yourself these questions it will help you make the necessary enhancements.

Once you have reviewed the website write down a list of things you would like to change at which point have one of your managers complete the same exercise. You can then compare your notes and make time to speak with your vendors. 

What does transparency mean to you? How do you enhance your customer's experience? 

Angela Mancuso

I love this post. It is amazing advice!


Derrick Woolfson

Thank you! 

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