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Seth Berkowitz

Seth Berkowitz President

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Your Secret Weapon in Closing the Deal: Third Party Validation

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It is rare to come upon a car shopper today who hasn’t used the Internet before (or during) his or her visit to a dealership. With the proliferation of smartphones and the growing population of Millennials in the car market, the trend is only likely to grow – and dealers can make it work to their advantage.

From our view, we at Edmunds.com see three different types of opportunities for dealers to use third party validation to close a deal, and we can offer some tips about what seems to work best.

Validating Prices and Product Information

We all know that shoppers use online data to research and validate pricing and product information, and that they are confident in the data they collect from reliable third-party sources. The content on your website and other customer channels should be consistent with the sources that shoppers trust.

Your technology people are likely familiar with the term API, and, for these purposes, it might be helpful for you to understand its basics. An API allows for sharing of data and tools between companies, and many of them are free. If you have a popular map program on your website, you’re probably using an API already. There are other useful tools available through an API, too, like comparators and trade-in appraisal calculators. There is also the ability for you to easily post a database of product specs, vehicle reviews and other robust content that can help round out your website offerings. Talk with your tech team about it.

But what about the customer who doesn’t want to go to your website but still wants to collect quick online validation before making a final decision? We at Edmunds.com have received feedback that accessing our site during a sale can pose a challenge for salespeople because shoppers may come upon information about a competitor or get distracted by the opportunity to do deeper research. As a result of this learning, we developed “Edmunds Express."

Earning High Dealer Ratings and Reviews

Word of mouth has always been an important factor in car sales, and now the concept has taken on even more significance as it relates to online exchanges between strangers as well as old-fashioned conversations between friends and neighbors.

Do you think that you can’t easily influence the ratings and reviews you earn online? And do you believe that most online reviews are negative? As the most established host of online dealership reviews, we can tell you without question that neither assumption is true.

The Edmunds Reviews Team analyzed a one-month period of dealership reviews posted on Edmunds.com, and found that over 90% of the reviews published were positive reviews for either the sales or service department, and the most common title for any review was "Great Experience."

Here are some of the qualities and experiences that were often described in 5-star reviews, and may in fact have motivated consumers to write them in the first place:

·        No-pressure, didn't feel rushed

·        Trustworthy

·        They listened to me

·        Quick and painless — the dealership made the process easy

·        Quick and clear communication (email or in-person)

·        No games

·        Final price was exactly as negotiated (no last-minute surprises)

·        Professional and polite salesperson

·        Attentive to customer's needs

·        Salesperson went above & beyond — locating a specific vehicle, delivering vehicle to customer, staying after hours, etc.

·        Extras offered by the dealership or salesperson: a cold beverage on a warm day, Wi-Fi, activities to entertain children, fresh-baked cookies, massages/manicures.

Turning Negative Online Reviews into a Positive

Of course, we recognize that not all online reviews are positive. It’s never easy to hear constructive criticism, especially when it is public and could affect your opportunity to earn someone’s business.

But online reviews that are sweet as sugar seem suspect, even in an environment as carefully moderated as Edmunds.com’s. Even the best businesses are likely to have a customer who may not have enjoyed their experience. Don’t overreact to a single negative review. Use this as an opportunity to learn and grow your business and to show your future customers how pleasant and responsive you are when a problem arises.

Gracious professionalism will be the smartest and most productive response to any negative review.  When appropriate, it is fair to civilly disagree and point out where you believe the experience was different or a misunderstanding occurred. It is always counter-productive to retaliate or respond with a nasty tone. Remember, your future prospects may be silently watching the online conversation, and they want to see you treating customers right. Ultimately, it can be to your benefit to respond graciously to criticism.

mark rask
This is a great read.....we have taken this approach at our dealership for some time now.
Seth Berkowitz
Thanks, Mark. Sounds like you are running your business in a smart way. Hope to meet you in person soon. I'll be speaking at the J. D. Power conference in Vegas in November. Will you be there?
Steven Kruger
Spot on.
Seth Berkowitz
Thanks for the encouragement, Steven. We always try to share insights that are applicable and productive.

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