I had to bring this forward from the original 2011 post. Some of you who actually sold cars for a living will recognize and remember these days. Funny thing is, a lot of this is still very relevant – enjoy!!!
Quite a few years ago, I remember working in my secluded office at the local Toyota dealership. I had chosen that office specifically because it had a private entrance and was once the “alternative finance office”. At that time in e-commerce it was the best place to control the entrance of the internet shoppers because we felt that they had to be handled differently and we were right. I know lots of you out there remember different articles and posts on the early blogosphere about it. Some of them were funny, some terrible, most were really good because the guys writing them were selling cars. We shared what worked and what didn’t because it was a new frontier and you did not want to be the outcast.
For those of you who aren’t as old as some of us, we had a word track to keep customers away from the showroom before you greeted them. Mine was, “Remember to pull in on the service entrance side when you arrive. If I am not waiting for you, walk to the service desk and say I need to see Kim”. That way, they would avoid being mugged by the vulture crew on the floor. And believe me, there was no limit to what I would do for those service writers. Lunch, keep their computers clean, whatever. As long as they pointed at the door right behind them, they had me in their corner. This was part of our early internet training because there were no internet departments yet, just guys who knew how to follow up and wanted to be part of what we thought was inevitable. Then there were those who were the only ones that could work with windows, and they were told to “just handle it”. We got paid for selling cars and just like most everybody else, straight commission. The early days were bad for a lot of great sales people because once the growth started and personal computers became more popular for the entire dealership, they had to deal with all the problems. Remember no pay plans, only commission, and now their workload was increasing. Since they depended on leads and repeat or referral business their pay was decreasing because they were changing ink cartridges or chasing network cable for vendors. I wonder how many truly awesome sales professionals departed automotive because of it.
Early on, if a person had a computer and sent a request it was platinum. Computers cost 3-5k and only people with money or credit owned one. There were very few e-mail providers so you knew if it was a company address to ask permission before you just called. We learned early on the importance of what we now call lead deconstruction.
There have been several different thoughts on this but if a request said e-mail only I did not call until we answered all of their questions and got permission. A lot of very good trainers have always said “if there is a number, call it.” Would you want a call if you asked for an e-mail response only? What about calling someone at work that is not supposed to be on the computer or phone and they do not answer, but their supervisor does. Oh yeah, we are selling two cars now right? Nope, they got reprimanded and your prospect is gone. Here is where it gets funny, the follow up call keeps showing up on a fancy to do list and you keep calling. The company employs 1000 people and has 200 delivery drivers in 3 surrounding states. They have their vehicles replaced every 24 months and they use your brand. How is your reputation about now? Just calling the number if it is there does not seem like the best decision to me.
This is the sickness that we deal with every day.
Let me say what I truly believe again: Dealers are responsible for their own reputation!
The GM, GSM, F&I, Parts and Service managers are trusted to make sure it is managed by the people who interact with prospects and customers daily. I know a lot of you out there have always taken the necessary steps to train employees and keep training them. Your repeat and referral numbers show it too. However, there are still far too many revolving doors at these stores. One of the 15 year professionals I spoke with the other day said it was like a war zone. He did not even want to know their name until they had been there 6 months. What can this possibly do to help dealer image in the community? How can a reputation management company change this?
I only use the term reputation management because of SEO. If you do not have it in your keywords, all of the people who read about it every day will not see you. They have been convinced that reputation management is a must have process that is new and somehow different. Selling cars is the same thing it has always been. In this age, internet requests are cherry picked because everybody has a computer. They carry them around in their hands and since they have been taught to read every single thing they can about automobile purchasing; the reputation management, rating and review statements are read by whom? It is like we are feeding piranhas for our favorite fishing hole, then throwing them in with our fish. We fish and all we catch after while are those piranhas.
Would you agree what we really need is reputation maintenance? Something that says, “Hey, here is a problem that needs addressed.” Then you let everybody see you acknowledged it. If it was a problem you handle it, make the customer happy, and show that too. It is called an “honest exchange.” The other side of this is useful when the customer is not being truthful or reasonable, show that too. Invite them to engage and be transparent because they have been taught to study automotive before they make a decision. The good thing is showing you make mistakes. It touches human emotion, is realistic, and believable.
There are a lot of opinions about reputation management.
Here is mine: If your dealership is doing the right thing, you are managing your dealers’ reputation and you should be. If not, you need to find another place to work because nobody can change the damage bad habits do to grass roots marketing. If a reputation management company tells you to get rid of dead weight and who it is, I am cool with that. If they are hiding customer remarks online and delaying the response for you to do better, how are they keeping them from talking at the barber, beauty shop, the mall, or when someone asks them; where did you get your new car?
Then they are stealing your money.
I had a BDC manager tell me the other day” We just tell people to go to Google and write a good review about us.
Who tells them, who is we? The sales people might, but they may make follow up calls too. F&I? When they are tracking 40k and it is the 3rd week of the month, yeah right. The BDC? If there is a problem, how do you know? Who caused it? What day? Is it fixed? They are trying to develop business by maintaining reputation?
This is what happens: Go to Google at your convenience, and give us a good review please. For 2 weeks every day in an email until it gets dropped. If they have a problem that is when you will get most reviews in this scenario. That is because you follow up and ask “Did you go to Google and review me?” I think there are customers who will brag about a great experience even without being asked.
Which do you think is more likely?