By Jeremy Beck, VP Sales Operations, APCO Holdings LLC/EasyCare

In the last two years, auto dealerships have become more transparent than ever before. By transparent, I am referring to the practice of giving car shoppers information they want without requiring them to come into the dealership. This information could be vehicle pricing, trade-in data, discounts, payment quotes, etc.

From the consumer’s perspective, there is no such thing as too much information. But at most dealerships, there is still room to evolve before a level of full transparency is reached. Here are several areas to focus on for developing a completely transparent customer experience.

Third-Party Resources

Car shoppers use many third-party resources online when they’re doing research. So, why not have the same information on your dealership’s website? Choose a trusted source with reliable data and ask if your dealership can share their data on your website. Consumers tend to trust “third-party” verified data more than other information you give to them that does not have a source.

F&I Pricing

It’s common practice to post vehicle prices online. Why not post the prices for optional F&I products and services? This practice allows consumers to pick and choose based on their personal driving experience.

Many people will say there are too many options and variables involved, but there really aren’t. One positive thing we’ve seen in the last two years is the development of technology that allows consumers to do all of their education and research online as part of an integrated experience. This empowers them to make better decisions and be armed with more information when they visit your dealership.

Terminology

If you want to be transparent, using the right words is critical. For example, there is a difference between a warranty and a vehicle service contract (VSC), and these terms should never be used interchangeably. All the consumer has to do is enter the word “warranty” online, and they will see that a warranty should be at no cost to them. This could lead to mistrust and require extra clarification, but you can avoid these problems in the first place by using the right technology.

The term “bumper to bumper” is another example. No coverage covers any vehicle bumper to bumper, so why are we still using this term? Manufacturers use “limited warranty coverage” for a reason – because it has exclusions. But by definition, it can’t be bumper to bumper if it has exclusions.

Payment Quotes

For many years it has been common practice to “pack the payment.” However, this practice is neither transparent nor compliant and does not build trust and confidence with the consumer.

When a car buyer knows the price of the car, the interest rate, and the down payment, they should be able to come up with the exact same payment as your salesperson does.

I have traveled to thousands of dealerships across this country, and I would stack most salespeople up against any other industry in their ability to sell. So, let them sell. Packing the payment gives them a way out, and you’re not fooling the consumer when they get into the F&I box, and miraculously, a fully protected loan only raises the payment by $10.

Trust your salespeople to do their job and trust consumers to make the right decision. A skilled salesperson can work in the benefits of specific F&I products before they even start to discuss payments. Introducing F&I early and often is the best way to prepare a car shopper for potentially higher payments that will enhance their ownership experience.

Continue to Evolve Your Customer Experience

As an industry, we’ve come a long way in being more transparent with customers. But there is always room for improvement. Focus on these areas to achieve a level of transparency that’s guaranteed to create the best possible customer experience.

About the Contributor

 Jeremy Beck brings over 20 years experience in the automotive industry to the EasyCare and GWC University training teams. Previously, Jeremy was a national training manager with expertise in F&I, and spent more than 14 years in various retail positions, from sales to managing partner.

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This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 Issue of Dealer Magazine. You can view the latest digital edition as well as past issues of Dealer Magazine here.

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