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Be Authentic to Build Your Brand

Authenticity: it’s a value that has been embedded in our society for generations. We want to shop where we feel secure, with people we feel we can trust. Unfortunately, automotive dealerships have gained a reputation for their insincerity throughout the years due to stereotypes in the media, images people have formed in their heads of the typical salesperson, and simply because of negative experiences that have taken place throughout the car-buying process. However it was formulated, the stereotype consumers have built up in their minds of the typical dealership experience tends to drive shoppers away, or at the very least, make them feel anxious.

Now is the time to break down the stereotypes. To create a positive relationship with customers, dealerships should focus on building a brand that is authentic. This means using clear communication, delivering credible messages, and conveying transparency when dealing with consumers. The initial communication or customer touchpoint is key, as this is when dealership professionals can begin to show genuine interest in developing a positive relationship. From this point forward, everything a potential customer experiences is based upon the quality of service he or she is provided and his or her perception of the customer care that is received.

Using Clear Communication

Ten years ago, a shopping experience would have typically ended at the conclusion of a sale. Today, however, social media plays a huge role in extending the shopping experience for customers, providing a convenient forum for feedback, online interaction, and product reviews. If a customer comes away from a transaction feeling it was a less-than-optimal experience, he or she has the opportunity to share this information with online friends and followers, creating a word-of-mouth feedback outlet. Within seconds, a customer’s bad experience at your dealership can reach hundreds of people, which is why it’s important to ensure every customer is satisfied with the service received at your dealership. 

Responding to online feedback is important as well. By letting customers know their voices are heard, you’ll instantly be seen as a more caring, trustworthy dealership. Simply recognizing feedback, apologizing, and offering to make it right can go a long way—and not only will the dissatisfied customer see your dealership is working to make amends, but potential future customers will see your dealership as responsive and credible as well. Online forums are a way for consumers to voice their opinions and be heard, but they are also a way for your dealership to turn a potentially negative situation into a positive experience. Conversations and communication create relationship stability in every aspect of life, so it stands to reason these are the things that will solidify relationships in the online world as well.

Delivering Credible Messages

One of the most important things dealerships need to do is ensure they have established trust between themselves and potential customers, and one way to do this is by delivering credible, clear messages. Once you’ve identified your authentic brand voice, strive to reach out to consumers with simple, straightforward language that explains exactly what you’re offering. You don’t want to get stuck in the position of being the dealership that appears to be tricking shoppers; remember, dealerships have already inherited the unfortunate reputation of being less than trustworthy, so it’s up to your dealership to break down those barriers.

By being kind, open, and respectful to shoppers, you’ll gain a great deal of ground—and you’ll learn a lot more about what they’re shopping for. One of your main goals, of course, is to sell vehicles and service, so the more open you are to hearing what consumers need, the more you’ll be able to guide them toward the selections that best suit their needs. In turn, you’ll be making strides toward another important goal, which is laying the groundwork for future clientele—both from repeat business and from word-of-mouth referrals due to excellent service at your dealership. As a dealership, you want to instill enough confidence in your customers that they return to you time and again for their automotive needs, and you’ll be able to do this by providing service that leaves no doubt your customer is number one. By delivering credible messages your consumers can rely on, they’ll learn to turn to your dealership whenever they have sales or service needs.

Conveying Transparency

Being transparent is difficult, but consumers appreciate it. Especially today, when shoppers are focused on companies that are more open about things like feedback and mistakes, no-haggle pricing, and consumer insights, transparency is key for companies that want to succeed in a changing marketplace. Consumers are more knowledgeable than ever—and in turn, they demand more insights than ever before. To succeed with shoppers looking for information, transparency must become part of your overall path toward authenticity.

In order to create a relationship of transparency, the first thing dealerships need to do is get to know their consumers. You’ll want to know first who your consumers are, what they like and dislike, and what their preferences are in the marketplace before you begin to indiscriminately share information. Being transparent doesn’t mean sharing everything; instead, it means strategically sharing the things that will give your audience insight into your brand and the way your dealership can align with their needs. Transparency can vary, and it depends on your audience, their needs, and the context of the marketing situation.

There are several ways you can achieve a higher level of transparency in your dealership and immediately let your consumers know you are eager to share information with them. Check out some of the following ideas to get you started:

  • Share information with shoppers. When dealing with customers in the dealership setting, be sure to give them all the information they need. While you are very familiar with what goes on behind the scenes, remember many shoppers may be less comfortable and may not know all the steps that go into purchasing a vehicle. The more information you can share, the better it will make customers feel.
  • Start a dealership blog. Blogs have a way of adding a personal touch, and you’ll be able to share updates and dealership events with your followers in a casual forum that’s comfortable for them. You’ll also likely gain followers as you continue to post.
  • Interact online. Keep in mind the majority of today’s shoppers are doing research and interacting with each other online before they even set foot on your lot, so it’s a good practice to make yourself available and get to know consumers where they are doing most of their shopping.
  • Keep track of online feedback. Although feedback, especially of the negative variety, can be difficult to deal with, dealerships that do so in a transparent and upfront manner will be seen in a more positive light by consumers because of their willingness to take care of issues head-on and ensure customer satisfaction.
  • Provide quality content. We live in an age when consumers are seeking content—content that educates, inspires, and gives them insights as to the products and services they’re interested in. Everything you post and create is considered content; just be careful to avoid overselling when you post. Instead, focus on providing consumers with useful, interesting information. Soon you’ll become a go-to resource in the field, positioning yourself as a solid dealership when it’s time to sell or provide service.

Positive relationships are vital in maintaining a successful dealership, and attitude goes a long way toward determining the experiences your customers will have. Work with every professional in your dealership to ensure they are providing an atmosphere of openness and clear communication with shoppers, give them the tools they need to deliver credible and insightful messages, and work with everyone on your staff to deliver a level of transparency that is appealing to consumers. When you are able to provide a level of authenticity shoppers can sense the second they step onto your showroom floor—and when consumers are able to see your authenticity through your online sites and forums—you’ll ensure lasting relationships and you’ll end up extending your reach and your potential customer base.

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