Opinions & Advice

An email from one of YOUR customers!

We constantly read the statistics on how our customers are using the internet when shopping for their next vehicle. Yes, we too are consumers but it’s not the same since we can purchase our vehicles in house or have a home field advantage by knowing the business. It’s easy to forget, working at the dealer day in and day out, how much influence the internet really has our customers shopping for their next vehicle.

  • What websites are they researching on?
  • Are they just price shopping?
  • Are we really listening to our customers?
  • Will a quick generic response to their request for more information be sufficient?

As much as I view DealerRefresh as a B2B blog, I’d happily welcome more feedback from consumers on the other side of the fence. So I was excited to have received an email from one of "your customers". Steve felt inspired to share with us his last experience shopping for a vehicle. Here it is in its entirety.



I came across your site and like it a lot. I am not in the car business, but have recently purchased several cars. I was going to post on why I used the internet and how, but thought, I am not in the business. I did not want to post against your rules, so I will submit it to you, and you can post it for me if you would like:

I have recently bought two cars, and both times I started out Online. I read Earl Veteran’s comments and got to thinking back about how and why I had bought these cars. What I liked, and more importantly what I did NOT like.

1. I liked the internet. A LOT! Its anonymous, so its safer to make a decision. Safer you ask?  Yes, the car business is a very adversarial business, with me, the consumer as the target! And I have to say, the more I learn, the more I do NOT like it. And the more I learn, the more I prefer to make the decisions in private, as opposed to in a sales cubicle, sitting for 15 minutes at a time as salesmen shuttle in and out from the managers office.

2. I shopped price first. Why not? NO amount of customer service will make up for me finding out my neighbor paid $10,000.00 less for the exact same car from  the exact same salesman on the exact same day. I would feel cheated if that happened. (Maybe the car business should look back and wonder how high the "feel cheated" threshold is for the average customer)

3.  I found that the higher end brands were moving more toward a "customer partnership" type atmosphere than the lower end, even during the sales process. Would not a feeling of "we are in the business of providing you what you want and need" to be something you want as the first reaction of your customers, when asked about you?

I started at Edmunds.com looking for types of vehicles to compare. My impression of them is that there are lots of "real consumers" willing to share their experiences. There is some chaff with the wheat, but hey, its the internet, you expect that. I can get a rough estimate of the market price, monthly payments assuming various interest rates, and a small peak into what "owning" the car was like as well as the buying process from any particular dealership. I have not owned this particular brand before, so I had no past relationships. But, to be fair, I am old, have owned others brands, and still did not repeat purchase (perhaps brand loyalty is not such a given anymore?). Then I moved to other forums dedicated to the brands I was researching.

I then emailed about ten dealers. Why not, email is free. I was willing to travel pretty far to save some real money, so I asked about the car, gave my cell phone, and waited. Calls right away! Told them exact color, model, year, etc. no trade in to worry about, no finance option yet, no payments, just a price please. And I waited.

First off, I was NOT impressed!  By how poorly most listened to what I wanted, and their energy at NOT getting back to me!  I guess asking for a car at a "reasonable price" was too much?  I told one guy I only wanted black (actually told all of them that) and he calls back and tells me he found a car for me to test drive. Tells me all about it. A green one???? He is still emailing me six months later! Some never responded.  NONE emailed me back with anything personalized to my needs.

So I am put off, but hey, its not like I wasted a lot of time driving around. This time I emailed the internet guy at the brand I preferred. The gist of my email?

"I am a poor consumer, who can probably not afford your cars, but possibly, maybe, I could.  Plus, I am a loyal customer…once I buy who will have all service work done by you"

According to Earl, this is heresy. Not worth his time to even deal with. But….charity does exist in my world!  And a pretty laid back guy got back to me, with a price I could handle, I checked Edmunds for price paid/buying experience, and the price was really, really good.  No haggling, just a good, no a great price. So I bought. Emailed him back, went in next day to pick it up.

I was deciding between the Avalon for its back seat room, and the Lexus 350 for other factors. But the key for me was the difference in the quality between the two sales forces. Guess which one called me back for the green one? Which one offered to have me drive 60 miles to test drive a vehicle I already knew completely? For me the entire process was almost schizophrenic. Why would the same manufacturer have such different processes? And if its obvious which one I preferred, why would so few other dealers imitate it?

Most of all, I wonder why so many other car dealers treat their potential customers so badly? I do feel that it seems to be "smart business" to try and corner a market if you can.  I see 30 different badges with the same ownership group in Wash, DC, and realize that their costs are way down compared to single shops due to their economies of scale.  So, why would you want to high pressure this same captive audience.  (I live in Texas now, but went in one once, way back when.  The girl was sobbing that if I did not talk to the manager before leaving she would be "fined"). On another note, why do some car dealer think the public is stupid, that we really believe some multi millionaire employs some nitwit who bought TOO MUCH inventory!

Now I am NOT saying the techniques do not work. They obviously must, right?  But what about opportunity costs?  How much are you leaving on the table by only doing it one way, the same old way?  Websites with little info, stock photos, endless quote forms? Hmm, been there, done that.  And from your end as well. Hiring the same old internet guy, and then hassling with him about pay? Here is a question for y’all?  Why pay him based on sales? Does the IT guy at IBM need to have a customer say they "bought off the web" for him to get a salary? How much quality difference is there between the head of IBM IT, and the IT head of Checkered Flag?  (Sorry Alex, but I like your thinking, and thought you could use a tweak.)  Do you pay your receptionists based on how many buyers called first?

Anyone go into a restaurant and EXPECT great service? How about just average? Does anyone think that if the restaurants just paid a decent wage, and had managers good enough to be able to tell good waiters from bad, they would increase customer satisfaction? Or lower turnover? I could have used the car model, but hey, to me the consumer, its the same.  Same lame so-called pro’s to deal with.  Same lame experience. I do NOT have the answers, but I could point to some things. Thing is…how good are y’all as a group if you cannot find them yourselves?

Kind of a challenge.

These are tough times, with serious issues in the car business. It takes serious people to accomplish this.  So, Mr. Doing-Business-As-Usual, your 15 minutes are up. I’m Joe consumer, and I AM the President! (loosely taken from "American President" (Michael Douglas) speech near end of movie)


Founder of DealerRefresh - 20+ Years of dealership Sales, Management, Training, Marketing and Leadership.
Good Feedback! Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences with us!

  • M
    Matt W
  • January 22, 2008
Well it's obvious that customers still feel slighted by the car sales process. Unfortunately based on some of the preceding comments many consumers still have a hard time separating their pre conceived notions from reality. Dealers get inventory forced down their throats from manufacturers and often have way too many cars.. Many dealers are land locked and have no choice but to offer lower prices to make room for the 10 truckloads of vehicles that will be dropped off by the manufacturer over the next week. Also to call all car sales people and managers nit wits shows that people assume just because you sell cars you are stupid or uneducated. Many car sales people are far more educated than the customers that are sitting in front of them, and many of us are in this business because we enjoy it. While dealers work hard to make consumers happy many consumers come in assuming they know and understand the dynamics of the auto business and they really haven’t got a clue. That’s not to say they are not smart, as many of them continue to play one dealer against another to get the best price they can. The comment about the girl that told the customer she would be fined if she did not give the manager the opportunity to introduce himself was most likely true as dealers need to make sure the sales people are doing their job.
Steve - I'm glad someone likes my thinking! Thanks for sending the email, and I hope you decide to stick around Dealer Refresh longer - your incite is invaluable!
<strong>The Non-Conversion Experience</strong>

Over on the DealerRefresh blog, Jeff has posted An Email from Your Customer. The email was submitted to him by a customer and Jeff posts it along with several questions. After reading the email - yes, you really should - here are some takeaways: Give y...

I'll declare up front I am not a neutral blog participant in asking this question:

"How would you feel about buying online if you could actually do all of the shopping online from a dealer?"

No salesperson would call except to help with your understanding of the process or to see if you had questions the "shopping cart" didn't answer?

Price, credit, interest rates, rebates, trade-in, accessories, extended warranties, protections, tax, title, fees, and accurate monthly payments. I know you weren't financing, and didn't have a trade, but what if?

Thought you may enjoy this story too:

  • S
  • January 23, 2008
"why do some car dealer think the public is stupid, that we really believe some multi millionaire employs some nitwit who bought TOO MUCH inventory! "

Matt--here is the exact quote.... please tell me where I "call all... nitwits"? I think the quote is actually implying the exact opposite That multi millionaire owners are NOT dumb enough to hire ANYONE not smart enough to NOT order too much inventory.

But your response, I have to admit, I think it might be a "joke" response, seems to show your lack of attention.

"The comment about the girl ... was most likely true as dealers need to make sure the sales people are doing their job."

This is YOUR exact quote, and I have to say, this is the part where I thought ur post was joking........ If you truly think having sales folks feel so much pressure and pain that they are sobbing when the customer does not behave as the dealer mandates... that is truly sad.

Here is an idea, pay enough to get qualified help that can afford to support a family. And then pay a manager to manage well enough that that same group performs. And then see if fear is the best LONG TERM motivator. Yes fear can perform miracles every single day. But I will never buy a single car from a R-thal dealership in the VirMar area. EVER.


  • S
  • January 23, 2008

Funny, but it seems that the smaller badges are better at trying new things. Not saying its true everywhere. But I saw an article in the Dallas Morning News about a car dealer in a poor part of town selling "lights out" at his dealership ("his" being sexist of course, and by the way when will women start becoming a critical mass?)

I think it Don Herring Mitsu..... but not positive.

As for the questions: Hmm, I do not know. I think price is important. I think a guarantee is somewhat suspect tho. Here is my thinking about price matches.

Every been to Frye's? They guarantee to match prices, as do most electronic dealers. So you see a TV, and the model number is almost but not quite exactly the same. Each retailer has a separate model number that they use to show that the exact same tv is actually NOT. In the car business I would not trust my neighbor to tell me exactly what he paid, and even if he was willing, its private. Also, my understanding is that there are lots of techniques the dealer uses between finance options, trade in value, and add on packages that are then renegotiated down. So, if I am a consumer who hates shopping for cars, why would I want to do it twice? First to buy, then to compare?

If I wanted to build trust........ hmm, a hard question.... I think I would start with a website put up by my own guys. That is if you can find someone like Alex, who believes in the NET and has the shared costs multi badges can bring. The reason I want my own guys, is I want control. I would put up a forum. No holds barred, true honest consumer stuff. I would knock off Edmunds, ClubLexus, etc. I would even ask ClubLexus if I could open a special topic with only my dealership on the topic. That way I would be seen as having less control of the message. Then I would post any and all comments. The good and the bad. I think every bad comment has MORE potential t help you than the good ones.

Folks believe bad stuff much more readily than good news. Especially when they know good comments can be fed in, and bad comments NEVER would be. Then I would have a special guy who answers each and every comment and tries to help. SHOW that yo make mistakes, but that you take your customers best interests to heart and you have perhaps paid some money out short term. How many of those guys, unless you totally tick them off even bother to shop next time?

Anyone read Car Sewell's "Customers for Life"? I did, and then moved to Dallas, and bought a Lexus. Did I buy from Carl? hmmm one guess..... correctomundo! NO I did not.

Long story, but one bad experience made the difference for me.

Sorry Carl, but I did buy your book :)

  • S
  • January 23, 2008

Yes I like your thinking, and your website. Whoever is in charge of decisions for the Web has good instincts. Sadly, I am not up on whether it will wind up in more sales. But you would have my "respect" as a consumer by not putting up some shlock site. I think that there are lots of speedbumps in sales. And anything that gives a potential customer reason to stop, and notice something that does NOT further the sales process? It needs to go!

Short story, I buy the Lexus, go in to pick it up, and its near end of day. I notice they have bottled water for free with dealership logo on bottle... so far so good. But its warm?? Warm bottled water in Texas? So I ask the guy who sells me the car, as he is showing me around? "Oh, yeah, no problem, there is a cup with ice right there!" I point out that Lexus is a pretty nice car, and I would not want to drive over a pothole with a styrofoam cup spilling water. Why not just refridgerate it? He takes me to the service counter, smiling. He has anticipated this he tells me. So he opens up the cooler, sees the 7 remaining bottles,and frowns. "Didn't they used to put these on ice?" he asks the tech. " Yup, but they haven't in a long time."

I went back in 4 months later. Still warm.

Not a big thing, but if you do it, think it through, right?

Something to consider here is that 'steve' represents one type of customer, or persona that visits our website. The 'persona' concept and having a system that appeals to each persona is the main takeaway from the Eisenbergs, IMO.
ooo... I don't know about you guys, but with mr.Steve in here I feel, kinda.... violated hahah, kinda like someone let a girl in the HeManWomanhatersClub*.

Who let the fox in the hen house?!?!!!

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Gang

  • E
  • January 23, 2008
Yea, and I bet that sales guy didn't make a dime off of you either steve. Brand loyalty? What about dealer loyalty..that's out the door too since the internet.
The in the days of old, you had "Much Better Loyalty". That age you refer to was born in an age of ZERO INFORMATION.

Days of old had the dealer holding all of the cards (read:information)
Days of old had 3 major domestic brands (read: profits)
Days of old taught shoppers their best shopping tool was a dealer that would take care of them (read: relationship building).

The market place has totally changed from Days of old. The information between buyer and seller is now nearly equal. The consumer's drive for loyalty -natually- moves to price (not information). Reps are paid to grind and grind and grind some more. Reps DONT WANT THIS, management does.

So.... the pay plan was born from "days of old" and until management realizes that the pay plan is hurting the business's ability to survive, nothing will change. Can someone tell me how to build relationships with this tension? NOT EASY.

p.s. this all is connected to too much inventory and too many outlets. One good old fashioned multi-year soup line depression would take care of this part of the equation! hahaha... ahem, sorry.

Thanks again for sending the email to Jeff, and BIG thanks for sticking it out in this thread. I hope you don't mind, but I sent your email to all the executives and general managers around Checkered Flag. Your email doesn't just help to open "old" eyes, it helps to keep "new" eyes on track.

This industry will not accept the fact that control belongs to the customer now. To me, your email says "I want to reward the dealer who acknowledges my control", and I think that is the statement we are failing to understand.

This industry is in the midst of a tough transition, and this economic crunch we're in will either help it or hinder it - it is too early to tell. I don't think your next car purchase will be much better than your last one Steve, but I think 5-10 years from now you'll hear a different tune....I hope!
Just curious.....what business would you be in?

Steve has got to be Jeff...he knows too much ;)
  • S
  • January 23, 2008

okay, I do seem to know a fair amount about car sales(I emphasize seeming is NOT same as knowing. I admit to being very ignorant). My best friend in my 20's was a car salesman who was a bit older, who actually helped me buy my first car. I went in and negotiated. Then a week later, I took him in with me. He saved me $1500 on a Chevy C20 way back in 1978 at Love Cheverolet, in Dallas (now defunct).

I majored in marketing, and am currently trying to find work ( am a retiring air traffic controller) and a friend knows someone from the Stanley Auto Group. Friend knows I am way too proud of myself as far as marketing goes, (having zero experience since 1980) and suggested his Stanley contact would make an interesting lunch hour. So I started researching Automobile business models and internet stuff. (Do you know Jeff's site is singular in its model, that allows non car types to read the stuff (and may be alone period, but I cannot get into other sites)

Ahh yeah, one more thing, Carl Sewells book.... I wind up neighbors with "one of the service techs with the funny accent" that Carl talks about. He is now pretty high up at Bankston/AutoNation here in Dallas, so I have had some help as far as the consumer "knowledge" side of things.

By the way, anyone here on any other forums? This has to be one of the most respectful groups I have ever happended upon. You all should be proud of yourselves. Makes me wish I was a car guy. Even with Earl here! At least he has a point of view, and I feel for him.

I was not trying to be mean when I quoted the "speech". I admit to being non plussed at how to proceed as well.


  • L
  • January 23, 2008

Park Place has had that warm-a$$ed Ego-label water and special pumped-in self-branded super-oxygenated air since their inception. Now the only question is, which store? Grapevine or Plano?

Small world huh?

  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • January 23, 2008
Sorry Wayne, I'm not Steve. Promise!

Joe, I hope are you're still not feeling violated.

I do want to thank Steve for his continued feedback and participation with the community.


  • S
  • January 23, 2008
"until management realizes that the pay plan is hurting the business's ability to survive, nothing will change. Can someone tell me how to build relationships with this tension? NOT EASY."

Brian's quote above Ithink is the key. I would be surprised if ten years from now any dealer at all survived just on profits from car sales. The margins just seem too fine now. But, I think the way to get rid of the adversarial tension might be to start with the idea that car sales do not have to be singular events.

I really like Tim Morris' idea of having a service manager contact the email contact who was "shopping" the MB C-class sedan. In my opinion, limited as to being a car buyer, and few at that. I would think MOST folks do not buy on price! Heresy from someonw who shopped like I did... I think Tim is absolutely right when he suggests asking, besides price what other things are important to you?, and building value from their response! But I would go one further, I think the building value happens BEFORE you get them to your door. And if you do it right, maybe its the very reason they show up to begin with? How about a series of ads, not about price? Why not take all your newspaper budget for a month, and lay out a story......... of how you "partner with your customers"? Show the value of your dealership, instead of the 'price" of a car?
Dealer value seems to be the way to go in my view (I admit to being a singular persona, and it may not work for everyone--good point Wayne)

What if cars became so complicated you could not fix them yourself? Oh yeah, we are there now, lol. So how about a labor rate that induces me to get ALL work done, forever there? Not just the waranty work that is paid out like the US health system now? How about a true "market rate" for repairs. Would not the average consumer PREFER y'all to work on y'alls car? You are the experts in that particular brand/model right? You know the car best, since you have serviced "my baby" since I bought it from you?

If I owned a car site, and I think it would be a tough tough thing to do with others not on board with the concept. I would have pretty good prices right off the bat. No haggling. NO big commissions for sales. I would pay sales folks a salary, with a small token if you sell a car. But, if dealer hits goals monthly? Then a bonus to everyone! Let the guys on the floor feel like a team instead of competing with each other and internet department for commissions! And then each salesman would have an interest in handing me off, or finding someone else who might be able to "help", right?

My entire campaign would be one of communicating a "partnership" with the customer. Carl's book was good at that point I think. I am VERY price conscious, but would have paid extra for a Sewell vehicle. I am sure many others would also. My plan as a dealer would not be to sell the most cars necessarily, but rather to sell to the type of customer I wanted to attract. Tom Thumb does not market to Sack and Save customers, and truly might not even want them in the store. Not every Wal Mart customer is welcome at a Niemans, right?

So, Checkered Flag may be getting my "loyalty" over life of car, while Earl is getting a "full commission" from a different type customer?

Again, I make it sound easy, I do realize its not, especially for US nameplates that are overdistributed.

>>>>>"until management realizes that the pay plan is hurting the business's ability to survive, nothing will change. Can someone tell me how to build relationships with this tension? NOT EASY."

Brian's quote above Ithink is the key....

Brain? whaa? Hey! that's My quote!
Bow before this wordsmith and do homage to my tome.

damm, did I write that?
Air Traffic controller? Awesome! I guess the only thing I can really compare that with would be the movie Pushing Tin with Billy Bob Thorton. I always wondered how much G.M. paid Universal for them to drive a STS in that movie. (as your reference to Lexus proves no self respecting air traffic controller would drive one) I kid, I kid.

I like the idea of this:

"I would have pretty good prices right off the bat, No Haggling"

I think I will check with my friend that use to run a Saturn Dealership he always comes to mind when I consider that model myself.
  • S
  • January 23, 2008

Here is a link to an Edmunds "expose" about selling cars in two different types of shops. One high pressure, the other seems to be a Saturn place.

Although the first is presented badly as a business model, the second does not get a stellar rating, with a comment near the end about how NOT busy they are.

If I was a Domestic badge, I would have a tough time trying to convince the owners that a no haggle model would work. But i DO think its the future, just a matter of when.

Check out Business Week, Oct 29.07 there is a small article about No haggle pricing. It specifically mentions Lithia Automotive Group, the 8th largest in US said that it will turn all 108 stores over the next 3 years.

One thing I do NOT understand.... every high pressure sales arena emphasizes "Who is selling whom...?" So, when a manufacturer "pushes" excess inventory.... is it mandatory for y'all to take it? Maybe get together and just say no might work? Time for a lawyer maybe, and an introduction into the obligations of franchisor as well as franchisee?

Not saying it would work, but from the outside it looks like if they truly could "force you" then they would be able to bankrupt each and every one of you.

  • S
  • January 23, 2008

You're right, your quote, and right on. Sorry Brian, but it was late when I wrote it....

Steve, great comments...

One area that I'm fuzzy about is when you say you emailed ten dealerships ..."I asked about the car, gave my cell phone, and waited."

You just gave it up like that? You would be like a fish hopping into my boat. And that never happens to me.

I think most of us here are seeing customers like yourself remaining anonymous and walking-in or calling.

  • S
  • January 24, 2008

I was thinking a cell phone number and my "Which" email only was as anonymous as was likely to get a reply. And some still never got back to me. No last name given. Plus I have free incoming minute, so not a big deal if they keep calling and calling...

Funny, Park PLace Plano Lexus initially sent me the 3 packages, and no personalized info at all. Just his email and number, so it was not like the service was great at that point. But when I emailed him back my plea, he said he then thought perhaps I was not a car sales guy "shopping him".

Of course had to check around to make sure the info on packages being "mandatory" was true, but Edmunds forum confirmed it for Toyota Southeast (?) sales region.

By the way , Wayne, I bought my last car, Infinity I-30 over the phone in ten minutes. Grubb's manager thought i was joking at first... lol.



After you bought the Infinity I-30 and hung up the phone, did you wonder if you could get an even better deal?

  • J
  • January 24, 2008
I hope we all can keep one thing clear here:

Steve does not represent anywhere near the vast majority of the people who come to our websites.

Of course it is wise to have a process in place to accomodate his type of shopper when they do cross our path... but don't lose perspective and forget about the other 98% PLUS.

I get anywhere from 100-300 people a day to our website. Half of them are probably going to be buying a car from SOMEONE - and there MIGHT be 1 steve in the bunch.

I personaly don't build my marketing strategy centered around catering to that 'persona'. I let the market tell me what it wants - and it tells me the vast majority:
1) do NOT have much more then a basic idea about what vehicle they want.
2) The experience they are trying to avoid is high pressure and feeling like they've been beat up and treated badly. They're not trying to avoid dealerships - they're trying to avoid a bad experience.

These are the people who I choose to build my internet strategy around. I certainly hope we accomodate the 'steve's' out there when they do contact us - but I don't devote the bulk of my time and energy trying to market to them. At least not until I have my target market well taken care of...
  • S
  • January 24, 2008

I totally agree with you! Marketing to me would be wasteful, I will find YOU when I buy, and I own my cars long enough that the last three were donated to The Salvation Army (too many problems to think it right to palm off on some poor family)

I also am on board with the avoidance vs knowledge debate. The only reason I ever found out about Edmunds was cause the previous experiences had been so bad. If the dealership can build enough trust I would be there in a heartbeat... In fact, after reading his book, Sewell's was the first place I went, and was not trying to really haggle.

Jason - I agree with everything you said.
  • J
  • January 26, 2008
steve - i liked this: "I will find YOU when I buy". I'm going to brainstorm around that one this weekend..

  • J
  • January 31, 2008
I knew I should have checked back here more often Jeff, great email steve. I really enjoyed reading this post and Joe's little comments here and there gets a chuckle out of me every time.

I would have to agree with Jason's post about "Steve does not represent anywhere near the vast majority of the people who come to our websites". Very seldom does just a quick aggressive quote over the phone or email ever turn into a deal. I would say It works less than 10% of the time.

Now here is a new idea I am trying. 2 days ago I got a customer that stated this:

"To: Volvo Internet Sales

I am sending this email in regards to an immediate order for a 2008 Volvo S40.

I am contacting the 20 nearest dealers within a 360-mile radius for the best offer.

I am well aware that the order will take up to three months for delivery.

Please email me with your best offer ASAP, and I will consider your business.
I intend to place the order after satisfactory conditions have been met.
Thank you."

Now if any of you remember my previous post about not being able to quote numbers (I finally got the owner out of that frame of mind...thank god) This kind of an email is something my owner won't compete with. These guys out there just take too big of losers. So.... I created a gmail account and send the guy a BLOW OUT quote. Not too deep but enough to compete with the bigger guys out there. Meanwhile I'm working my end trying to build raport to earn his business. No response to any of my emails from the dealer email. Instant response from my gmail account which is a 4k loser. Way to deep for me. The kicker here is he is still shopping me! Still not committed to buy from me at that price. If only the market had more Steve's out there.

Thanks for the post Steve.

I like the out of box thinking with the phantom gmail account.
Prolly not something you want to tell your dealer about :)
I am always curious if that is the best approach from a buyer as well.
sometimes I can't help to think they are making it harder then it really is. I guess that is why I remind myself that I have to keep chopping that wood. I really do like your creative thinking Johnny.
  • A
    andrew barter
  • February 19, 2008
Wow! Long thread! Here's my two cents. First, forgive me all, but I do find a disconnect in the current operational scheme. The idea that a particular contact method entitles a consumer to a lower price is ridiculous. I think that if a statement is true I should be able to change an adjective or noun and the next statement MUST also be true, if not the original is suspect.

"Customers who use the INTERNET must have lower prices because they are savvy and know something about our business."

Hmmmm How about this:

"Customers who use the TELEPHONE must have lower prices because they are savvy and know something about our business."


"Customers who use the FAX MACHINE must have lower prices because they are savvy and know something about our business."

or this perhaps...

Customers who use the SHOWROOM DOOR must have HIGHER prices because they are NOT savvy and know NOTHING about our business."

It just doesn't wash friends. Cars (like houses boats RVs and leather jackets etc) have transaction prices based on the supply of inventory versus the demand in the public. If I can get all I want of the model you asked for and I have it in stock or can get it easily, KABOOM! you get the low price deal 'cause like my basketball coach told me once "I have the foul to give" BUT if the model in general or the color you want is in short supply and you won't switch....Shazamm! you get the high price and I don't shed one tear if you buy from anyone else. I have just one and I will sell it as high as I can.
I just turned a deal on an "07 left over that got sold $500 over list to a "Hard Core Mr Internet Manager I am sending this to 20 stores" kind of guy.

I was polite but firm and really meant it when I said I understood why he wanted it for less but my price was final.

Look, in 1760 something BEN FRANKLIN published POOR RICHARD'S ALMANAC. It had two pages devoted to the value of horses based on breed, age, and condition and POW! the invoice shopper was born!! I bet every blacksmith and stable owner in Philadelphia wanted to kill him!

People the internet will not save us nor will it doom us. It will not make us more gross and for sure will not make any less. The customer's use of it can't possibly make my car worth any less or any more. It is an information channel nothing more or less. One I like for a whole bunch of reasons.

I like to be controversial so I will ask all of you a question. If we all (and mean all of us) stopped answering the phones and emails tomorrow would Americans stop buying cars?

Thank God for Ben Franklin. The King of Philadelphia and true free thinking american capitalist that understood that customer's buy when value meets price. The general take on this string is that customers know what product (car) they want, have limited their options based on what they want and cannot, or will not be persuaded otherwise. So, where in this process did Steve's value meet his price? When the water at dealership was cold? Or, was he just lucky enough to find a sales person that pushed his buttons?

What's missing here is focusing on building trust and value because as an industry we are too worried every customer is looking at us with a jaundice eye and unless the sales department reveals some magic 'up-front' price the consumer will have nothing to do with us.

Most responses here are putting too many internet buyers in a box. And, in a way, so does Lithia as well as Plano Subaru. But, those dealers have a schtick and they spend a lot of money marketing their philosophy and it works for them. The message to the customer from this perspective is they will likely get a 'yes sir', 'no sir', or 'problem', or whatever common language they train their traditionally young and un-experienced order taking sales people to say. I wonder what the average age of their sales staff is? The mantra is 'give the customer and the sales staff the least path of resistence to move forward on a car deal.'

That is all great. But, at what point does the internet customer want to be shown by a credible (trusted) professional on why he, or she should spend $15,000 on a used Subaru or $96,000 on a new Supercharged Range Rover? At what amount of money is it important to the customer to have someone explain why they should justify them spending it? Or, does EVERYONE that submits an on-line inquiry just want a price before they are willing to engage a salesperson? Most here are sharing how to make their information flooded website divulge as much information as humanly possible to capture their interest.

The challenge is finding the customers cues that allow a trained professional to truly engage that customer. Every customer wants a shopping experience. Especially when shelling out the dough to buy car. Are internet sales departments exploring ways to give that customer the shopping experience they want? If a dealership can enhance the shopping experience - and some do - what does that do to customer loyalty (assuming the dealer can deliver post sale with service, parts, etc).

There is no right or wrong answer. The real question is: "How could Steve's shopping experience be enhanced?" I am not sure I belive the right answer is 'give him a quick quote in a slick email and hope he responds'. Or, 'hope he submits his cell so a real pro can corner him.'

Let's hear some feedback on experiences of engaging customers that had their expectations blown away and where value was built above and beyond the price expectations.