recently talked with automotive industry leaders to get their thoughts on trends affecting the industry in 2018. Following are insights from Jennifer Suzuki, founder and president of e-Dealer Solutions, Inc. Jennifer makes a number of points, including the need for dealers to treat their salespeople like knowledge workers. Thank you for sharing, Jennifer!

 How will the 4Ps of Automotive Marketing™ affect the way dealers operate in 2018?

Dealers need to treat their salespeople like knowledge workers, giving them the tools and training they need to manage leads effectively. Dealerships experience turnover problems when they treat new people like warm bodies and turn them loose on the lot without proper training and tools, especially for leads that come over the phone and through digital.

Each employee who answers the phone is a brand ambassador. Dealers need to treat every lead as a customer experience opportunity and prepare their people accordingly. Many customers already know what they need to know about the vehicle when they show up on the lot. Customer service makes the difference. Dealerships that empower customers to provide great service will win.

How do you think the relationship between the salesperson and the consumer will change in 2018?

The relationship between the entire dealership and the customer is changing.

More dealerships are taking advantage of tools such as DealerRater to build trust and confidence in the customer relationship. And customers do want confidence in their purchase. By publishing online reviews, dealerships are creating a more transparent relationship, which builds that trust and confidence.

And customers are willing to pay more for a dealership that has more reviews. When a dealership is strong with reviews, they may not be the lowest price in the market, but they have a powerful closing card. Why? Because people will spend more when they perceive that you as a dealer are meeting their expectations, and you understand customer service by becoming easier and more approachable to work with.

Dealerships need reviews now more than ever to build trust and confidence. The latest Gallup poll ranks car salespeople second lowest in terms of trust. It’s up to dealerships to improve that ranking by being more transparent.

What’s the biggest change you see in the way consumers shop for cars?

The “buy it now button” is becoming very real. Consumers want to expedite the purchase of a vehicle. They are open to handling the processing of paperwork with an app or online if it means they can speed up the purchase.

Customers are moving to the place where they expect to come into the dealership and handle all the financing and paperwork with a few clicks. Nobody wants to hang out in a dealership. Anything dealerships can do to cut down on customer waiting time is a step in the right direction.