Low Inventory? Essential Basics for your Dealership’s Future

It can be tempting in a season of low inventory and high consumer demand for your dealership to sit back and enjoy the ride. Sure, this strategy might make sense to you considering the immediate state of the industry. However, for too long, automotive, specifically car dealerships, has had a bad rap for not being trustworthy. And how you lead your dealership in this season can be the difference to ensuring your long-term success. Why? Because trust and transparency are imperative to winning today’s car shoppers.

Customers are far more likely to buy from a dealership they trust and where they experience transparency, especially in pricing on both the sales and servicing side.

How to Establish Trust and Transparency

So, where do you start? There are several ways to establish trust and transparency with car shoppers. Let’s start with the basics. And remember, it is good news if you are already running your dealership with these in mind. Consistent action in this direction now wins customers over the long haul.

Put Honesty First

We’ve made major strides in automotive to overcome the stereotype that car dealers are not honest, especially in price negotiations. But we have not arrived. Make your best effort to be upfront with customers, especially in inventory availability and price. And if you mess up – you know, over promise and under deliver — own up to it. Customers will forgive you for making an error, but they will be less likely to be forgiving if you slough it off. And if you do, you can be sure it will show up in online reviews. Stay on top of your online reviews, especially complaints, and make sure that you respond in a professional manner that owns up to mistakes, addresses actions taken to resolve it and builds trustworthiness for the future.

Pay attention to your reputation

Ensuring that your reputation is excellent is a principal method. That means something different today than it did 20 years ago. You can do this by always doing right by your existing and new customers. This has not changed. What has changed is that word of mouth is not the only or even the first place a prospective customer vets your reputation. Monitor online reviews to make sure that you are addressing everyone’s needs properly and in a timely fashion.

Operate a Relationship-Based Model

Treat all customers, new and existing, as valued partners. Start with relationship rather than transaction. People want to know that they’re doing more than simply contributing to your bottom line. What does it mean to put relationships first? Ask questions. Get to know their needs. Answer their questions in a manner helpful to them. Invite them to take the next step, whether that be making a service appointment or scheduling a test drive. Avoid going immediately to your agenda or talking around their questions and you’re more likely to establish rapport and be perceived as trustworthy.

And don’t forget that relationships don’t end after purchase. Follow up with your existing customers to make sure that they are happy. Ask them how to improve in the future. This will help you to secure referrals and help your reputation to shine.

Communicate

Communication is the key to any great relationship. Good communication is an ongoing dialogue that considers what is important to both parties. Make sure that you keep your customers apprised of anything going on with your dealership, like customer appreciation days or other incentives. Are you having a community event? Are you collecting items to give back in the community? Are you celebrating anniversaries of long-time service technicians? Don’t just reach out to them when you have something to sell, but make them feel like part of the family. This helps your dealership stay top of mind as they service and the next time they (or someone they know) is looking for a new vehicle.

Meet consumers where they are

Speaking of communication, trust is built when you meet consumers where they are. One of the best ways is through an intentional marketing approach designed to connect with consumers in their preferred channels with messages that are relevant to their needs. At Client Command, we built the Active Shopper Network® to identify emerging shoppers within a day of them coming into the market. Why? We’ve already discussed that building trust with today’s shopper is about focusing on a consumer’s needs first, not the dealership’s. So, if your dealership sends messages to try and sell vehicles to a consumer who is not in market, or is promoting a mini-van to someone who is shopping for a pick-up truck, you are not building trust.

Take data privacy seriously

1:1 communication gets harder as consumers advocate for more data privacy and tech companies respond. This does not mean you need to be an expert, but you can build trust by taking it seriously. That starts with choosing marketing partners who are not only tracking with but thinking forward on this matter. Need a quick tutorial? Check out Data Privacy and Big Tech.

It also means you should be making the necessary adjustments. For example, if you are in states where privacy legislation is in place (California and Virginia), provide an opt-out. For key action steps for dealers, read more at 3 steps your dealership can take to address the Cookie Apocalypse.

In closing

These days, consumers have so many different options to choose from when it comes to buying a car. At Client Command, we want them to choose your dealership. In today’s reality, your dealership is competing with others in your immediate neighborhood, and beyond. The move to online purchasing is giving momentum to online retailers like Carvana as well as direct ordering from OEMs. So how will you set yourself apart in this newly evolving landscape?

It’s more important than ever to make sure that your dealership is taking a proactive approach to be on the leading edge of what consumers most prioritize today — trust and transparency. If your next step is to lean in to meeting consumers where they are, we’re here to help.