Earning the customer’s trust requires delivering on promises and owning up to mistakes.  - Photo by skynesher via Getty Images

Earning the customer’s trust requires delivering on promises and owning up to mistakes.

Photo by skynesher via Getty Images

In a recent speech, Jeff Bezos stated the most important thing Amazon has done in the last 20 years is to earn customer trust. It’s the No. 1 reason he credits Amazon with being as successful as it is.

Many dealerships still struggle to earn customer trust. Why? To earn customer trust, you must be willing to change some long-held beliefs and practices. Here are four places to start:

1. Price Transparently.

Many dealers believe that pricing transparency will drive customers to another store for the sake of saving a few bucks. But with today’s margins, one dealer can’t afford to discount $500 over another dealer.

Sure, a few people might flip for $100, but you don’t want those customers anyway. They’ll never come back for service.

Read: Is Amazon Really a Threat to the Car Business?

Additionally, it’s easy for customers to research prices online. You might think they don’t know what that vehicle cost you, but they probably do know and they’re testing you. They’re giving you a chance to be honest or dishonest, transparent or opaque. If you’re the latter on either count, you’ve just lost their trust.

The real question is, what have you got to lose with transparent pricing? A couple hundred dollars in margin? That’s short-term thinking. Long-term profitability is made in the service lane. If you win your customers’ trust during the sale, they’re more likely to trust you when they need service.

You don’t have to push every product just because it’s profitable. Choose the ones you believe in and sell those.

2. Sell What You Believe In.

Selling what you believe in applies to sales, F&I, and service. If you were in the customer’s shoes, would you buy that product or service? If you didn’t purchase a service contract for your vehicle, what credibility do you have selling it to someone else?

You don’t have to push every product just because it’s profitable. Choose the ones you believe in and sell those.

3. Honor Your Promises.

Honor every promise made to your customers and treat them like the VIPs they are. You only have one chance to earn their trust. If you give a customer a 7:30 a.m. service appointment, attend to that customer on time, greet them by name, and make sure the loaner vehicle is ready.

The same thing applies for a sales appointment: Have the customer’s vehicle of interest cleaned, ready for the test drive, and a bottle of water in the cupholder.

4. Own Your Mistakes.

If you ask a customer how her experience was and she responds with a “Fine,” you’ve made a mistake. “Fine” is what someone says when they’re never coming back. Somehow, you’ve missed the mark and it’s up to you to figure out how.

We are all human and we all make mistakes. You know what’s almost as bad as not owning the mistake at all? Admitting you made a mistake only after you’ve been caught.

To earn customer trust, own the mistake as soon as you realize you’ve made it, and proactively work to remedy it. If you’re late delivering a car, give the customer a Starbucks gift card. If you missed a service pick-up deadline, detail the car or fill it with gas. Apologize, even if the customer isn’t upset.

Dealerships will always have an uphill battle when it comes to earning customer trust. Don’t make it worse by playing games with your customers. Be transparent, honest, honor your promises and own your mistakes. When you earn trust, you earn loyalty, which ultimately leads to greater success.

Scot Eisenfelder is the CEO of Affinitiv, a marketing technology company serving automotive manufacturers and franchise dealers. Email him at [email protected]

Read: Eisenfelder: Will the Real Disruptors Please Stand Up?

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