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overcome shopper distrust during the car buying experience

7 Steps to Overcome Shopper Distrust

There’s an ongoing struggle in the dealership community for winning a shopper’s trust.


Because shoppers have a preconceived idea of the car buying experience at a dealership. They expect to be the prey. They expect your sales team’s hawks to swoop down and engulf them in persuasive techniques. They expect that they will have to haggle their way to a better price. All of these expectations are bottled into a stereotype, fueled by the stories from parents, friends, and co-workers…and the media.

So how do dealerships overcome this stereotype? How do you get shoppers more comfortable with the car buying experience at YOUR dealership?

Improve the Car Buying Experience by Building Trust

Step 1:

Be personal. The more automated your communication is, the more shoppers will feel like you don’t care about taking the time to learn about their wants and needs. And if a lack of individual attention happens in an email – what makes them think they’re going to be treated any differently when they walk onto your lot?

Also, don’t script your chats and have your team sound like robots who aren’t listening to their needs (see Step 3). By just generating the standard response, do you think they are going to have “feel good” feelings about the customer service at your store? NO WAY! Your chat team’s conversations should always be flexible and relate to the shopper in a way that’s going to start a positive, lasting relationship.

Show them your human side! Humans have relationships with humans, not robots (unless your dealership is trying to recreate the movie Her).


Step 2:

Open up your communication channels. Add live chat to your website, be active on social media, and utilize other new communication methods into your marketing arsenal. The easier it is to communicate with you, the more shoppers will feel secure that a long-term relationship with your store will be a good one.


Step 3:

LISTEN. LISTEN! LISTEN!!!!!! Before you can offer solutions, you must earn the right to respond by first listening to the problem(s) of your shoppers. What do they want or need in their next car? Why are they looking for a new vehicle? What problems are they having while deciding to buy? What are their insecurities about buying from a dealership?

You must listen to your shoppers to gain their trust. If you aren’t listening, they will know you don’t care as much about them as you do about yourself.

Also, part of listening is making sure shoppers never have to repeat themselves. If you are sent a chat transcript for the customer that includes information about what they are looking for, your follow up email better include statements acknowledging that you read that transcript and know what the shopper wants! Read chat transcripts and any information you have about a shopper, before responding to them.


Step 4:

Never let a question go unanswered. Your dealership should be a hub of knowledge, and if you don’t know the answer to a question, be honest and look it up for them. Just make sure they get the information they asked for. Because if you don’t, someone else will. Shoppers are less concerned that you have all the answers in your brain, and are more worried that you’ll go the extra mile to get them the information they need to make a decision (and hopefully promptly! – see Step 7).


Step 5:

Always promote a message of trust on your website and don’t give any reason for them to doubt you. For example, don’t use statements on your website like “Vehicle pictured may not represent actual vehicle.” – Especially when the image is of a real vehicle, and not a stock image (you shouldn’t have stock images on your website either!). This statement compromises your trust before the shopper even gets to your lot because there’s no guarantee that the car they are looking at online is going to be there. People want the assurance of knowing that “what they see is what they’ll get.” Don’t do anything to make them think otherwise!


Step 6:

If possible, fix your prices. Don’t haggle. Do your research on what the market is offering for a vehicle, and keep your pricing competitive. If you have to cut a price to match a competitor – do it. But in all other cases – stick to the code, Pirate.

This step goes back to Step 5 – people rarely haggle on any of their other purchases, and they want to know what the price is going to be without any gimmicks. If you have to go back and forth about the price, or if they are quoted one price online and a different price by the salesperson, then some shoppers will just say “NOPE! I’M OUT!” and go find a dealership that will stick to one price.

This step also leads to Step 7. Do this, and they’ll be thrilled with the car buying experience your dealership provides.


Step 7:

The speed of response and delivery. Let’s get this clear – your shopper is NOT a date that will be happily left in suspense if you don’t call them until 3 days after your initial interaction. They won’t think you are too eager if you call them seconds after you receive their chat or website lead. They will LOVE YOU for that speed of communication. So make sure your team is trained to respond quickly via whichever communication method your shopper prefers.

Also, many dealerships are now creating standards for the time it takes to purchase a car. You don’t want to take too much time getting all the details together or haggling the price. You risk having the shopper say, “I’m sorry, I have to go. I don’t have enough time for this today.” Once they leave your lot without a car, it’s highly possible they might not come back! So make this process as fast as possible. Time it. Test it. Improve it. Time it again. What can you do to make the car buying experience at your store faster? What technology can you add that will eliminate or reduce the amount of time to fill out paperwork?

How to Build a Better Dealership Culture

Your Dealership Staff Wants a Culture of Appreciation

A dealership is often a high-stress environment. And if you don’t have a viable dealership culture of appreciation, you’re going to have to hire over and over again.

So how do you typically show your employees that you appreciate them for their work? The money. You give your team monetary incentives in return for their excellent skills, which helps them feed their families while creating success for your store.

However, some employees are motivated by something other than monetary gain. Some employees, no matter how much you pay them, are looking for you to show your appreciation through your dealership culture and other resources.

Let’s put this in perspective. Your employees spend 8 hours (often more) of their life each day at your dealership. That’s one-third of their existence. They are taking time away from their immediate families to be with you and work for you. And if you want them to continue to spend their precious time with you, if you want real loyalty from your employees, you have to help them create a sense of belonging and show them that you value them as people.

So how do you create a dealership culture of appreciation and belonging?

How to create a dealership culture of appreciation:

Trusted Leadership

Without leaders, there are no followers. How often does the Dealership Principal, Owner, or General Manager (YOU?) speak to the staff about the work they are doing?

How often does he or she convey gratitude for the people who have chosen to be a part of the team? (Remember, work is voluntary, even if people really need it). If it’s not very often, or at all, then your staff is working for the Great and Powerful Oz. A figure that everyone knows about, but no one feels as if that person cares to take the time to be an active presence. You want to be a private figure who shows appreciation for the individuals who keep the gears of the machine (your business) running smoothly.

You need to make an effort to show people who they are working for and why. You need to show them that you’re someone they can trust and that you’re all working together toward a common goal. One great way to do this is to have a 10-minute meeting with each department (depending on how large your dealership is). Ten minutes is all you need to tell people that you are united in a common goal and that you appreciate their efforts in working together toward that common purpose.

Try having this meeting weekly or monthly. Remind people why YOU are there, and why THEY should continue to be a part of your mission, and that you are thankful for them being there. Sometimes people just need to see the passion in their leaders to mirror that passion in their own work.

To your customers, you need to sell cars. To your employees, you need to sell the dream. It’s the people who believe in your company’s dream who will be most likely to stay, and those are the people you want working for you the most. Remember to thank them often for being a part of your dream.

Wellness Benefits

Now that you’ve gotten them to believe in you, let’s talk about keeping your team alive and well.

Maybe you gave employees an excellent benefits package that includes healthcare, vision, and dental at a discounted rate. Your employees are set in the event that anything goes wrong with their health. However, could you be doing more to prevent health-related issues?

Remember – I said a dealership is a high-stress environment.

So, how can you get your team to relax a little bit? How can you help them breathe and recharge (possibly during the workday) to help manage their stress levels?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Hire an on-site licensed massage therapist and/or chiropractor

  • Provide a free or discounted gym membership

  • Create a “Nap Room.”

  • Keep a stock of free and healthy snacks in the break room

All of these perks will improve your dealership culture.  Help your employees manage their stress, and they’ll be happier working at YOUR dealership rather than someone else’s.

Share Their Interests

Every employee in your dealership has individual interests and things they care about outside of work. If you really want to show your employees that you care, make an effort to learn what THEY care about. Then see how your dealership can be a part of their interests.

I advise you to have your employees take a survey with questions about their interests and personal goals. (You can also stalk their profiles on Facebook, but the survey method is less creepy and more accurate).

Once you’ve collected the surveys, go through them and see what kind of little things you can do.

  • Can you offer your employees an hour off of work once a week to volunteer in the community?

  • Can you donate to a cause that one of your employees is very passionate about?

  • Can you create awareness of something one of your employees is passionate about and get the rest of your team involved in making a difference?

  • Can you create a meetup group on weekends to go out and have fun doing an activity that a lot of your team enjoys?

Once you know what they care about, you can use it to show that you care about them. Gauge your employees’ interests by offering your time, money, or resources to help them achieve their own goals and pursue their own passions. By doing so, they will feel more connected to your dealership culture and will be less likely to leave.

Looking for more tips for building a top-tier dealership culture?

You can find more helpful advice on building an awesome dealership culture in the ActivEngage blog! Here are a few helpful articles:

Lead follow-up best practices

7 Crucial Days Following a Test Drive

7 days. It’s not just a quote from the terrifying film “The Ring,” or as the Japanese know it “Ringu.” It’s also the crunch time for car buying decisions. recently reported that 79% of shoppers buy a car within seven days after a test drive. That means that if you weren’t charming enough to sell the vehicle the day of the test drive, you have 7 days to WOW them into buying from YOU. Not the dealership down the street, not the creepy guy on Craigslist – YOU.

7 Crucial Days Following a Test Drive

Hopefully, you’ve already taken measures to win your shoppers’ hearts by offering chat and including WHY BUY statements on your website. If not, here are a few things you need to do in the 7 days following a test drive to ensure you are in the forefront of your shoppers’ minds.

  • Present yourself as a knowledgeable resource available to answer questions. Send them a lead follow-up email asking to see if they have additional questions about their vehicle of interest. Since the vehicle itself is the #1 influencer in a purchasing decision, you want to make sure they know everything about it.


  • Lay down the time expectations. Shoppers more than likely think it’s going to take a looooooong time to finalize all of the paperwork and drive away with their car. That’s why you have to be upfront about how long the process will take (the shorter, the better) and make sure they know all of the materials they will need to bring with them when purchasing the car.


  • Give them an offer they can’t refuse. Everyone loves saving money, and your follow up phone call, if possible, should include an offer for $$$ off the price (if you’re still haggling). Shoppers will feel like it’s a personal offer and that you are working to earn their business.


  • Get them thinking long-term. When you send a lead follow-up email, remind shoppers of the great amenities available at your dealership’s service center. Express Service, free car washes, free WiFi, shuttle service, free loaner vehicles, and fun things like a nail salon or on-site restaurants.


  • Ask shoppers to review their experience at your dealership. Even if they aren’t customers yet, you want to know how the test drive experience was for them. This will get shoppers thinking about the good moments at your dealership while giving you valuable feedback.


  • Alleviate your customers’ fears! Purchasing a car is as much influenced by your emotions as your reasoning. That’s why it’s important to make your shoppers feel comfortable and happy with the decision they are about to make. Go above and beyond, and send them information on the safety ratings of the vehicle they are about to purchase. Or if it’s a pre-owned model, send them the Carfax report. Safety is a big priority when buying a car. If you’re the only dealership to mention it without being asked, you’ll earn big points!


You know that it’s best to sell a car the day of the test drive, however, sometimes that doesn’t happen. Use these tips to formulate a plan! Make sure the next time shoppers come to your lot, they drive away in the vehicle from your dealership!

Want more lead follow-up tips?

We’ve got em’! Check out our other ActivEngage blogs and FREE eBooks for more helpful lead follow-up tips to sell more cars:


is your live chat team that different from your sales team?

Your Sales & Live Chat Teams Are Not That Different

The conversations your sales team has with your customers often dictate whether they’ll purchase or not. That’s why having a sales team trained in customer service is so important. Your standards should be the same for your live chat team. But how are their conversations even remotely similar?

Live Chat Team vs. Sales Team

The Greeting

As the saying goes, you only have ONE chance to make a good first impression. You have to make it count! Your sales floor associates are trained to greet the customers as soon as they walk through your doors. You would probably fire an employee if they gave shoppers the cold shoulder or ignored them when they walked onto your lot. If you only have 5 seconds to make a good first impression, your dealership’s team needs to be friendly, attentive, and helpful from the get-go.

So why wouldn’t your managed chat provider do the same with YOUR online shoppers that click to chat? They should be mirroring your dealership’s associates by greeting the customer within 5 seconds of them requesting to chat,  – none of this “wait 30 seconds, and then we will answer” junk.

Let’s be honest. When live chat associates greet your shoppers in broken English or oddly structured sentences, this sends some red flags. What do you think the customer’s first impression will be of your dealership if a chat starts out this way?

The Exchange

When your shoppers talk to one of your sales floor associates and explain the purpose of their visit, they expect that your team:

  • are listening to their concerns

  • understand what they want

  • can help solve the customer’s needs

And your associates can demonstrate they are listening by asking clarifying questions, providing knowledgeable answers, and guiding shoppers in the right direction when they require further assistance. This is Good Customer Service 101, right?

So when someone clicks to chat on your website, your chat team should be exhibiting excellent customer service skills as well. They should be answering shoppers questions when they can. “What is the towing capacity of this truck?” is not rocket science. Look it up!! Also, your sales associates don’t ask for contact information within a minute of meeting a shopper so your chat team shouldn’t either!

The Close

How much emphasis do you put on your sales team to “just get ‘em in” and “close the deal”? Ultimately the goal of ANY interaction with a shopper is to make the sale, right?

The only difference between closing a sale in store and online is that the chat provider’s goal is to set appointments and provide you with a qualified opportunity to follow up on, rather than selling a vehicle.  But the concept is the same.  Your chat team should be moving shoppers from just browsing to wanting to buy from you.

However, understand that this shift in the buyer’s mindset from browsing to buying can only be made if they have received excellent customer service up front and feel as if they have been truly helped. Anyone can be a receptionist and take down shopper information for you, but they won’t drive more traffic to your physical store.

The Verdict: Live chat is an EXTENSION of your dealership

The floor associates and the live chat team interact with the customer at different stages of the buying process, but they do the same thing: expertly transition the shopper into the next buying stage. These teams should be mirror images of one another, and provide the quality assistance your dealership embodies.

So I ask, is saving money worth driving potential customers away from your sales floor? No company could charge you $199/month, employ highly trained automotive experts to chat on your behalf, train them to have quality conversations with your shoppers, pay their benefits and salaries, and still turn a profit. Something has got to give.  And it’s not going to be their bottom line. You always get what you pay for

– so stop paying for bad chat services.

5 unlikely places to promote live chat

5 Unlikely Places You Can Promote Your Dealer Chat Service

You may think that the only place a chat invitation belongs is on your dealership’s website. However, there are many dealerships across the country who have expanded the marketing of their chat service in the most unlikely places, and have received real benefits from doing so!

What unlikely places am I talking about?


You can promote live chat anywhere you can put a link. And a perfect place to do that is Facebook. You can post a hardlink to your chat window within your Facebook posts and open up the conversation to shoppers and customers browsing your Facebook page. Placing chat on Facebook not only improves lead generation and gives customers the ability to discuss customer service issues if they’ve come to your page for resolution or to write a review, but it also helps drive more traffic to your website.


Email Signatures

Your dealership probably sends out quite a few marketing emails per month! Did you know you can include a link to chat in your email signatures? It’s a great way to personalize the ending of an email, and leave your shopper with more than one way to connect with your Sales Team.

I recommend either hyperlinking some text or placing a static invite within your contact information.

Here’s an example from my email signature:

Rebecca Kon
O: 407.960.3509
Chat with me!
ActivEngage, Inc.
2701 Maitland Center Pkwy, Suite 300
Orlando, FL 32751



Yes, believe it or not, you can place a chat link on Twitter! If you have a regular following, chances are they occasionally have questions. Promoting that your followers can chat with you to discuss inquiries and issues gives them another form of contact they may not have tried before, and it can score you positive points in customer service and reputation.

In fact, Volkswagen USA regularly includes chat links in their tweets, especially in reply to customer service issues:

Note: Just make sure to use a shortened URL!



The New York Times recently posted an article that affirmed e-newsletters are not dead. So if your dealership puts together an e-newsletter for your customers, you should definitely include a chat link for them to easily ask questions about any information in the newsletter, such as upcoming events or an oil change special.

Since there’s a lot of information on a newsletter, you should either include the chat invite image or create a Call-to-Action button that stands out.

Radio and TV Commercials

With so many shoppers “dual-screening” these days, it’s important to mention your ability to promote live chat on multiple media sources other than the Internet. Placing links online is an excellent method. However, you should also tell your shoppers that your website offers chat during your radio and TV commercials.

Todd Caputo of Used Car King often promotes live chat in his TV ads, and 40% of his website leads come from live chat! Coincidence? I think not!


Why should you promote live chat on multiple channels?

  • Drive uncharted traffic to your dealership’s website

  • Quickly address customer service issues before a customer posts a complaint online

  • Build awareness that you offer a chat service and thus gather more leads from chat

Making shoppers aware that you have a chat feature will make them more likely to use it. Also, letting your customers know you have a chat feature on more than one communication channel shows that your dealership is a customer-friendly place and open to dialogue that gets their needs addressed as quickly as possible. Your customer service ratings will be through the roof!

upgrade your online customer service with chat

3 Ways to Improve Your Live Chat Game

Live chat can be a great way to offer excellent online customer service, generate leads, and build lasting relationships with shoppers. When customers click to chat, they want knowledgeable associates that will answer their questions and build their trust.

However, that’s not always the case…and the worst part is you could be avoiding it!

Today I’ll be sharing three ways you can make sure your managed chat team is giving the kind of online customer service that knocks your shoppers’ socks off.

Online Customer Service DON’T

For the purpose of this post, here’s a real-life example of a live chat DON’T:

Internet Sales: Hello I’m Charlotte, how can I assist you today?

You: looking at this lacrosse. I’m also interested in a Cruze. Trying to figure out my options

Internet Sales: Ok Great! With whom do I have the pleasure of chatting today?

You: This is Dan

Internet Sales: Hi Dan. This is probably going to be something only a sales team member can assist you with. They are going to know exactly what’s in stock and can provide you with specs, photos, options, pricing and/or financing information. Can I have someone get back to you directly on this?

You: Sure. You can reach me at [email address].

You: Do you know if you have any specials on the Cruze?

Internet Sales: We have TV, radio and internet promotions that are changing all the time. In the chat department, we are not always kept up to speed on the latest new incentives.

Internet Sales: If you can provide some information to me, I will see that you are contacted directly by the proper team member. May I please have your full name, phone number? We only use this information for this inquiry.

You: I’d rather just use email for now.

You: Thanks

Internet Sales: Ok I understand. I will send a copy of this over to our sales team, and someone will contact you directly. Is there anything else I can assist you with?

You: No that’s alright

Internet Sales: Great! Thank you and have a great day!

So many things are wrong with this conversation! The associate did not give any insight and was not helpful to the shopper at all. She even claimed that the Sales Team would be better equipped to discuss vehicle options, which ultimately discredits the value of the chat service and she wasn’t able to gather most of the contact’s information because of it.

Is this the kind of online customer service you would want on behalf of YOUR dealership? Something like this could be happening at your dealership if you’re not careful! But, how exactly do you make sure your live chat services are remaining top notch?

Monitor Your Live Chat

First, you want to make sure your managed chat team is held accountable for good chat conversations and bad ones. Your chat provider should ALWAYS be sending their chat transcripts directly to your CRM for easy access by your team!

While reading the transcripts, ensure your chat representatives are friendly, engaging, and helpful to customers. If they aren’t, it’s important that you contact your managed chat provider ASAP with feedback because their conversations are affecting your reputation and sales.

Also look into reporting tools that help you keep up with any trends such as:

  • The time of day when your live chat is most active

  • The most common types of shoppers using chat (vehicle or service shoppers)

  • The number of chats and leads your dealership can expect every month

This data will help your Internet Sales, Service, and Parts departments know how many staff and other in-house resources they will need to properly follow up with all of the sales opportunities.

Stalk Your Shoppers

Okay, maybe not stalk…but super-spy them.

You want to be at least one step ahead of today’s online shoppers because they are always on the move. With the right software, your chat team can provide helpful information to shoppers while gathering contact information (thus increasing your leads and reputation for excellent online customer service!).

Every time a shopper clicks to move to another page, your chat representatives should be able to follow them and provide details about the vehicle or special they are currently viewing.

What if your chat agents could be psychics?

At ActivEngage, our web-based software lets our Live Chat Specialists see what shoppers are typing before they click send with our PreRead™ feature. PreRead™ not only decreases response times (which makes your impatient shoppers happy), but it also gives you insight into the shoppers true disposition and thought process!

Keep Them Talking

Is your Sales Team robotic and monotone when shoppers approach them in person? Of course not! Then why would you let your live chat representatives be that way? Being professional and helpful should go hand-in-hand with being friendly and well…human!

Shoppers like knowing that they are talking to real people on the Internet, so make sure your chat conversations are diverse and unscripted to create the best online consumer experience.

The key to having a high-quality chat conversation is to keep your shoppers engaged. Response times are so important when chatting! Does your live chat service ever NOT PICK UP a chat? Do the representatives leave the customer waiting for more than 30 seconds after an initial response? Do they sound like C3PO from Star Wars on their chat conversations?

If the answer to any of these is yes, they are not quality conversations – and you’ll want to make some changes PRONTO.

Want more online customer service tips? Check out Live Chat: White Glove Style, and discover 5 ways to delight & convert online shoppers.