overcome shopper distrust during the car buying experience

7 Steps to Overcome Shopper Distrust

Written By Ted Rubin

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?


Ready to discover how ActivEngage helps your dealership succeed?