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Now let me explain...


In our industry – as well as life – we continuously talk about transparency.

Let’s be brutally honest here. Sometimes honesty isn’t the best policy. Is it always that way in real life? If your wife asks you whether she looks fat, you know you’re always going to say “No.” How about those times you go to a friend’s house for dinner and, well, it’s not exactly great. Do you tell him or her? Of course not. You politely say it is good, make a valiant effort to clean you plate and then pick something up to eat on your way home. We like to call these instances of non truth “white lies” and justify them with the knowledge that, in some cases, it’s better to tell a lie than to upset someone by being honest.


Are there parallels in the business world?

Of course there are. I’m certainly not talking about deceiving a customer in a transaction, or lying about something of substance. What I’m talking about are those instances where a lie actually preserves a relationship – similar to the goal of the white lies I previously described. When you’re interacting with people, just because they’re customers doesn’t change the fact that they’re human beings. That customer that comes in and needs a lot of help getting financing because their credit is horrible doesn’t need to be beat up and embarrassed. You never know if there’s a co-signer waiting in the wings. You may know for a fact that they aren’t going to get approved anywhere. But you tell them you’ll try. Perhaps you present their file to some of your sub-prime lenders. But ultimately you call the customer and let them know you can’t help them. Think about this though… Some of the most loyal customers began as special finance customers. When one comes through your doors that you can help and they leave with a car, they will just about kiss you. Not only will they be forever grateful, they’ll send every person they know to you. It’s no different with people with excellent credit. It’s all about treating them with respect and providing an excellent buying experience.


There are times when little white lies can actually improve your customer’s experience.

For example, imagine a customer calls a week after trading a vehicle in and says they believe they left something valuable in their vehicle. Perhaps this vehicle has already been detailed and cleaned, or even wholesaled out. The fact is that YOU know there is nothing in the vehicle. You could tell the customer you won’t (or can’t) check for them. In which case they’ll be upset, OR, you could tell them you’ll check and call them if you find anything. Which path do you think will be more conducive to maintaining the customer’s satisfaction?


Our world would probably become chaos if everyone could do nothing but tell the literal truth.

Customer loyalty and experience sometimes requires telling the customer what they want to hear simply to let them save face, spare their feelings, or satisfy their needs. Keep in mind that there is a fine line but, for the most part, if you treat people right and use your conscience to make decisions -- just as you would if your wife asked you a question that it would be unwise to answer honestly -- you’ll find yourself making more friends and keeping more customers.

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Tags: automotive, business, communication, customer, experience, feelings, human, loyalty, retention, satisfaction


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Comment by Tobias Sedillos on December 9, 2015 at 5:09pm

I disagree: ALWAYS tell the truth.

When it comes to potential questions from your wife, learn to appreciate her for her inner beauty.  Then, if she asks you a question, like the one you posed; you simply say, "Beautiful is the only word I would use to describe you."  

if somebody makes you a meal, that you didn't particularly care for - what's wrong with being sincere in your appreciation for them (and the meal) - and simply say "I appreciate the wonderful meal - and the company I'm getting to enjoy it with."  There is no lying involved.

Bad credit?  What's wrong with letting them know "I don't think we have all of the right ingredients here to help you get the approval you're looking for.  Let's discuss if there's any options that are available to you that may help?" or "The lender is the one who will make a final decision on this, I will put the information in front of them to see if we can get an approval." - and then do it.  Sharing the truth with them may actually get you closer to a car deal?!

If your client leave something in their car, let them know where it is in process – and assure them that you'll take a look to see if you see it.  If you can't find it, let them know.  Isn't that what you'd want somebody to do for you?

If you want to know the secret to "making more friends and keeping more customers"; my advice would be the exact opposite:  act with integrity, and tell the truth.

"Truthful words stand the test of time,
    but lies are soon exposed."

Proverbs 12:9, NLT

Comment by Ralph Paglia on December 9, 2015 at 3:41pm

Mike, when I first saw the headline to your post, I was very skeptical... Then after reading the article I realized that you're right.

Comment by Mark Dubis on December 8, 2015 at 8:56am

Mike, Thanks for bringing up the topic. You bring up some good points but seem to confuse "white lies" that might hurt someone's feelings and lies that consumers often complain about when dealing with some sales people or dealerships.  Telling your wife she looks great in that dress, when it really doesn't flatter her is different from telling a prospect a car is in stock, when it was sold a few days ago, and getting the prospect to drive an hour to the showroom. 

Lying about equipment on the vehicle, color or option availability, and making promises that can't be kept is a whole other matter.   Telling the "truth" and "transparency" are two different things but related.  Transparency gives prospects and customers the feeling that they are not being manipulated, that information is "out in the open" and they are being treated fairly.

Telling the truth about the vehicle, available incentives and finance terms is where the truthful part comes in.  Treating all customers with respect and in a candid forthright manner should be our goal.  Good dealers already know this and do it every day.   

It's easy to find the dealers that don't buy into this strategy, just visit their website and if you see all 5 star reviews you know you have a dealer that isn't transparent and might be apt to be less than truthful during any transactions.

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