4 Steps to Disrupt With Trust, Not Technology

How can you protect your dealership against being disintermediated, and stay in control of your customers and your profits?

In my last article, I wrote about disruptors—companies attempting to drive the consumer experience of buying and financing cars in new ways.

Their services span from offering new types of leases to making more of the sales process possible by phone, to playing matchmaker between dealers and consumers to generating leads, and everything in between.

Although disruptors are fresh and exciting—and offer great promise to help you take advantage of the future and grow your sales—there is reason to be cautious.

For instance, how can you protect your dealership against being disintermediated by disruptors or any other dealer service provider, and from losing control of your customers and your profits?

My suggestion from the previous article was simple and is still true: Know what motivates the partners you choose. Are they helping to enable your success and future, or are they trying to disintermediate you from your customers?

The same could be said of how consumers buy a car. They choose the path that gives them the buying experience they want. That choice is based greatly on who they perceive has their interests at heart or, at the very least, will treat them fairly.

Keeping that in mind, as a dealer, how can you do some disruption of your own? With trust. Trust matters to you, and it matters to your customers.

We’ve all seen the research proving this. For example, DealerSocket’s 2016 Dealership Action Report, which says that 29% of consumer respondents don’t trust their salesperson.

This kind of consumer sentiment is why disruptors can enter the market. They attempt to fill in trust and related gaps.

When I spoke a few months ago with an executive from a dealership trying to fill in its own gaps, he commented that not all of his staff were on board with the initiative. The gaps he was trying to plug were wide-ranging: web and mobile presence, in-store experience, pricing philosophy, technology, and sales process.

The easy gaps, he said, were the non-human-focused ones. The hard ones were when staff had to adopt and adapt to a new culture and way of doing things. Those that couldn’t or wouldn’t make the switch had to leave.

At the center of the change was the desire to create a buying experience that was transparent to, easy for, and trusted by consumers. The dealership knew it could invest all the money in the world in technology and a nice showroom, but it all would be for naught without a fundamental change in its staff.

Real disruption is not something that can be bought (though it is important to make the right investments): It about is changing human behavior.

Based on our real-life example, here are four ways you can disrupt by changing behavior.

1. Have a plan

As the real-world example shows, creating disruption involves a lot of moving parts. From a high-level perspective, those parts include: people, process, points of sale, and technology.

Your plan for disruption should have a clear vision for what disruption means to you, such as “providing a buying experience that consumers trust and like.”

But it should also incorporate a holistic approach that ensures, for instance, your technology isn’t going in a different direction than your processes.

2. Don’t go it alone

The world is too complex and moves too fast to go it alone. You need good partners that you can rely on and trust.

The dealer service providers you select for your digital retail (i.e., web and in-store mobile sales), menu, desking, and credit application systems should support your interests, versus trying to play middleman between you and your customers.

In addition, they should fully support integration so your data moves seamlessly between your systems and sales channels.

3. Own the relationship (and profits)

Owning the customer relationship—and your profits—is easier said than done, but don’t get disintermediated. The best way to disrupt is to own your customer relationships.

As a DrivingSales study of consumer experience notes, “99 of 100 automotive shoppers begin their purchase journey expecting it to be a ‘hassle’ driven in large part by their experience.”

It’s a hassle because of the time it takes to buy a car, concerns about pricing and negotiation, and general lack of transparency. Along with trust, these are the things that disruptors are aiming to improve.

But they are also all things that, with support of good partners, are in your control to influence and fix. By doing so, you’ll own your customer relationships because it won’t be a hassle to do business with you.

4. Focus on trust

In conclusion, remember that trust is the foundation of any good relationship. If you get trust right with pricing consistency and fairness—along with having a transparent sales process that consumers can understand—then you’ve accomplished some pretty good disruption of your own.

Todd Mason is chief product and marketing officer (CPMO) for RouteOne, a joint venture created by Ally Financial, Ford Motor Credit, TD Auto Finance, and Toyota Financial Services. He is responsible for managing product conception, development, and strategy, as well as implementation of all marketing-related strategy and tactics for RouteOne.

Todd Mason


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