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Reputation Management: Car Salesmen Surpass Congress On Ethics and Honesty Ratings Among American Consumers

It is about time that automotive professionals start to move up in society's ranks for prestige and trustworthiness... Or, is this indicative of what is happening to congressional reputations?

It is not as if we, the auto industry, needed more reason to justify a concerted effort on the part of dealers for reputation management strategies and processes... However, this is further proof that there is a lot to be gained by a massive grass roots movement by dealers to portray themselves in a more positive manner, and to let the public know about all the benefits they bring to the local community. It is expecially apparent that dealers need to communicate the genuine commitment most of them have towards doing business in an ethical and high integrity manner. Not to do so is to allow the voices of the few that are upset with dealers to be the only statements visible to the public about each dealer's business practices.

Being a member of Congress rates as the least ethical and honest professions – faring worse than car salesmen by 4 percent – according to a new Gallup poll out Wednesday.

In a poll ranking how Americans view the honesty and ethical standards of 21 professions, Congressmen were rated as having a “low/very low” ethical standards by 55 percent of 1,017 adults across the nation. Only 9 percent said members of Congress have “high/very high” standards, while 35 percent gave the lawmakers an “average” rating.

Car salesmen were the only other professionals to get a “low/very low” rating by at least 50 percent of respondents, receiving 51 percent.

Senators ranked third lowest in the poll, earning a 49 percent “low/very low” ethical rating, beating out stockbrokers, 46 percent, and HMO managers at 43 percent.

Only 11 percent of respondents gave senators a “high/very high” ethical rating.

Nurses ranked as the most respected profession with an 83 percent positive rating. Following nurses were pharmacists at 66 percent, doctors at 65 percent, police officers at 63 percent and engineers, who received a 62 percent “high/very high” rating.

Governors were the only other political job polled, and ranked much higher than lawmakers in Washington. Only 15 percent said they had a “high/very high” opinion of governors, but 48 percent gave governors an “average” rating while 35 percent rated them as “low/very low."

Source: Congress lower than car salesmen
By: Andy Barr
Publisher: Politico

Views: 362

Tags: American Consumers, Car Salesmen, Ethics and Honesty, Integrity Perception, Ratings, Reputation Management, Surpass Congress


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Comment by David T. Gould on January 10, 2010 at 9:31am
Stereotypes are hard to break... the fact that the bar has lowered does not make us higher jumpers...

Higher / Consistent Expectations and lots of practice brings results to the "saltiest" of salespeople or the "green pea".

The transmission case study below would not be my choice... However... Are readers to assume that fixing the computer fixed the leak? I would suggest that the independent shop "fixed the customer" as well as the car. (not sure I see the connection between a stated "leak" in transmission... "voided" warranty for adding fluid... (if he didn't and it blew up?) and computer that controls the throttle (TPS - throttle position switch). Opportunities exists with each customer interaction...

Dealers have the power and resources available today to determine a consistent and professional outcome with each and every interaction. ; ) DTG

Comment by Josh Hixon on January 3, 2010 at 12:09pm
@Todd I am with you, we have no control and that's the problem. A dealer can sign up to defend themselves on these websites but what the point, the customer is always right, right? A customer added transmission fluid, adding to the internal pressure of the transmission and blowing a seal or two, now it's our fault?!? If the Service Advisor was a better closer they would have been able to retain that customer and get that $1000 to replace the computer, however if your transmission is LEAKING, replacing a computer is not going to solve the problem.... Unfortunately customers are stupid (sad but true), they don't want to believe anything a dealership tells them because they think they are being ripped off. Now this customer that paid $1000 for a computer (from their Independent Shop) is going to have a bad transmission in a few months and blame the mechanic for not fixing it... I agree We need better training for salespeople for sure but I just wish car buyers would stop hiding behind a computer screen using a fake name as well…. We can't stop them, but we can encourage the happy customers to use the website too!

Commision based sales and the success was very low. When they made the salary attractive we hired better qualified people and the success was through the roof.

Check out Craigslist and, 90% of the jobs are Minimum Wage or Comm. Only. These companies know that they can hire as many commission only sales people BECAUSE if they don't produce they don't get paid, now what's the turn-over rate? Through the roof I'm sure.

Professionals want a steady paycheck, they want to know that they will be able to pay the mortgage next month even if it's not so good on the sales front. There is also a downfall (in their eyes) that when things are good they COULD have made $1000s more than their salary allowed.

It's a give and take, you sell 27 cars this month you will get your $3000 salary plus a $80 per car bonus. But next December when you only sell 10 cars you are still going to get your $3000 salary plus $40 per car.

As long as your "nut" is under $3000 you are fine. If you are confident that you are going to make the company more than $12,000 a month then a $3000 salary should work.

Back to the post, I went to the Doctor last year because I hadn't needed to in a LONG time. All we (the Dr. and I) did was talk for 15 minutes, the nurse drew a little blood and I was on my way. I had to pay $174 for NOTHING, blood work said my cholesterol was a little high (car business= drive-thru). My insurance wouldn't cover it because there was nothing wrong with me... How about insurance companies? Are they on the list? You pay them month-in-month-out and if you claim against them they raise your rates or drop you...

Comment by Clarence U Romero on December 31, 2009 at 8:45am
@Josh, What I am speaking of is not lazy Americans, just unqualified sales people, and unqualified managers. Managers that show up late for work? That's terrible, but a reality. I said higher salaries not to indicate giving the current sales people these salaries, but seeking higher qualified sales people and managers.

Dealers having an average CSI of 93% is amazing by any product or company standard but we are the only industry that still has the negative image. That image can be changed by seeking out quality people. You get what you pay for. You hire a kid with no ambition and no drive, then what can you expect? I hated dealing with fresh ups. I made phone calls, sent letters and gave my business card to everyone that would take it, and sold 20 plus Chevys and Fords a month.

Maybe raising the salary part is not the idea, but training and finding the right people for the right job is the answer. I have worked in many start up companies that tried to do commision based sales and the success was very low. When they made the salary attractive we hired better qualified people and the success was through the roof. Right person for the right job, that's the formula that always works.
Comment by Todd Vowell on December 28, 2009 at 4:53am
We just have “Car Salespeople” dress like Nurses, boom, solved! I don’t see what the problem is here? (Insert drum snap here). The one profession that WAS NOT on the list is “The Car Buyer”. Where do they rank?

But really, good points Josh. If you strip it down, we have a group of salespeople who are trying desperately to get “Dealers on board with Digital/Social/ Marketing/Media”. Several websites (like this one) that constantly are asking “why are Dealers so behind the times”? “Dealers need to wake up and get with it”! “Come on Dealers let’s go, let’s go”! Well, some dealers don’t like to participate in things they can not control just like any other business owner would feel. Dealers get turned off and just don’t even consider it. Reviews are sometimes one-sided, outrageous and Dealers can’t even fix things when the author is “B. Smith from Oregon. Better yet, here is a REAL ONE from Tonkin:

Poor Service‎
By Clark - Jul 1, 2009
Took my Rouge in for warranty service due to a transmission fluid leak. Was told the warranty was void because I added fluid. Took my car to an Independent shop and found out the problem was with the computer that controlled the throttle. $1000.00 later I had my car back running fine. My suggestion is find a dealer that has a better service dept.

So how does Josh reach out (and he would) to “Clark” and make it right? Why would a Dealer want to participate in something they can’t manage? Beats me! We need better training for salespeople for sure but I just wish car buyers would stop hiding behind a computer screen using a fake name as well…

Comment by Josh Hixon on December 27, 2009 at 1:36pm
I like your salary idea but the problem is that Americans are lazy. Salesmen here just rely on fresh-ups, only the older guys do their followup because they know it works. I am always on time and nothing makes me more frustrated than showing up 10 minutes early and waiting 20 minutes for a manager with a key to show up!

You are right, it's a hard job! We are constantly "wading through the bull-s***" to find out what the customer is really there for. Trying to get a little background information on them before we spend 4 hours test driving everything on the lot (can they even buy?).

All of us have received a bad reputation from the customers that AREN'T happy. Pretty much every dealership out there has a 93%+ CSI score right? How come only that 7% of unhappy customers get on-line to complain? Where are the other 93%? Its proven that a happy customer might tell 2-3 people that they were happy, unhappy customers will tell 10 MINIMUM.

Why isn't there a website called GoodDeal-Report? Because no one would use it. Only pissed off "credit criminals" voice their opinion, the rest of us go back to work...

Comment by Clarence U Romero on December 26, 2009 at 8:44pm
The perception the public has about the auto industry and sales people in general is brought on by the industry itself. Josh you are correct, there are many more professions that deserve the negative attention, have you ever tried dealing with a real estate agent? The problem with the auto industry is the ownership and managment style. Whenever you have a person that their gaines depend on how much they can get from you, there is always going to be a lack of trust. An attorney as bad as they are have a fixed earning percentage that is known ahead of time, and always have a way of bleeding you for more and more money. The auto salesperson the customer doesn't ever really know how much they are making, and that is what creates the mis trust. The answer is simple, raise the standard of the automobile salesperson. Better trained people with real salaries and unit bonus and or a per car set gross. Sounds like a fairy tale doesn't it? This is actually what they do in Puerto Rico. The auto industry in Puerto Rico is a respected profession. They have there salaries unit bonuses and they do really well. Managers are executives and are responsible for the growth of each store. It's done on a little island, why can't we do it here?

I spent a lot of time in Puerto Rico setting up the BDC stores for Penske on the island, and was amazed to see sales people coming in on time, following up with customers and actually selling cars. Oh and one of the highest CSI in the region.

The answer is simple, right people for the right job. Selling cars is not a hard job, it's having personality answering the customers questions, finding out what they want, and getting it for them. It's that simple, it's only hard when you have someone who skips the steps and expects the same outcome.

Training your people the right way and a pay plan that includes full disclosure will make all the difference. This will separate your dealership from the ones that don't think that the consumer doesn't know what invoice is and what's the lowest rate available to them. Consumers are not stupid and your dealership should have the best possible help for those customers.
Comment by Brian Pasch on December 26, 2009 at 7:43pm
The face of automotive retailing is changing with the power that consumers have with blogs, review websites and social media. I predict that dealerships that have a solid customer service practice in place and who embrace Internet Marketing and Social Media will see additional benefits in 2010.

Creating local online communities and visible posts from satisfied customers paired with good execution in the dealership will be the formula for success. This will help lift the consumer perception of some car dealers because it will be their peers that are speaking and not the dealer.

Dealers that have broken customer service and sales systems in place with be torched on the Internet. Many dealers have seen the impact of negative ratings online and are working hard to fix their processes. Those that ignore the Automotive IRM will lose market share and the dozens of highly visible negative posts will reinforce old perceptions about car dealers.

I foresee a widening of differentiation in local markets for similar franchise storefronts. The ones that are really doing it right and have found a way to tastefully present their success online will be standouts.

This is not new in concept, the Internet has just increased the visibility and the immediacy of peer opinions.

Comment by Josh Hixon on December 26, 2009 at 3:56pm
I don't understand why we have such a bad rap... I mean honestly Lawyers, Mechanics and Politicians have to be THE worst. $200/hr to listen to me talk, are you kidding? Then I have to do everything for you anyways Vicki? Lawyers are the worst.

If we charged customers by the hour in addition to the price of the car it could add an additional $1000 in most cases because they want to negotiate EVERYTHING. Then they complain that they have been there all day. One time I had a customer grinding on us about everything, Doc Fee, Registration Fee, Taxes EVERYTHING $ related.

Then when my closer came out she said "I have been here all day can we speed this up, I see why people hate buying a car". I responded with "You could have left hours ago if you would have paid the price posted on the merchandise, do you think we like negotiating?"

She sign on his first pencil when I put her in her place... Can we take a poll, because our customers lie A LOT more than we do.

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