Professional Community for Car Dealers, Marketing, Advertising and Sales Leaders
At the beginning of the month, DrivingSales.com posted an entry from an internet sales manager who deserves our support.
As you may already know, ZAG markets a rock-bottom-priced, build-it-your-way car buying service that delivers a members-only (or employees-only), guaranteed-low-price benefit for participants with USAA, NRA, Geico, Bank of America, Consumer Reports, Amex, and other members-only virtual communities. USAA, by far, is the largest contingent (but ZAG also manages TrueCar.com pricing, available to all).
USAA members are particularly loyal, given the United Services Automobile Association’s excellent customer service to members deployed worldwide, and they place their trust in the organization to such a degree that ZAG price quotes, by extension, are taken as gospel. Problem is, competing dealers in and out of market create rock-bottom lowball price quotes that even a participating dealer would rather not offer everyone every time, if they can help it. In this instance, the dealer in question wished that their customer, a USAA member, hadn’t investigated the USAA price program.
That was the predicament of the blogger. When calling to get an insurance quote from their USAA agent, the buyer was informed by their agent to use the ZAG service to check that the price was all that, and the phone rep actually accessed the program to comparison shop for the car buyer, and as a result that member, who hadn’t thought to go on the USAA car pricing web site learned that the USAA price was significantly lower than the dealer had offered. And there were competitors that went far deeper.
At my dealership, we are partnered with ZAG, and we have been with them for several years. We made a decision early on to put our best price out there – not a price so low that we wish our customers didn’t know about it – just the best pricing that we can do. Without holding back on a trade, without making it up on the back end, etc.
We don’t win every sale. We just make the sales that make sense, and we hope shoppers in our community respect that. We have a large military segment in our market area, and most are USAA members. Considering who USAA members are, we think they deserve to be treated with a special degree of respect. And respect is a two-way street.
Are USAA members unique? You bet they are. As active, reserve and retired military service members and members of military families, USAA members sacrifice and put their lives at risk for us in ways that are highly visible and obvious to all of us.
We think all our customers deserve that same respect, and since we depend upon repeat and referral business from all our customers, we’re not likely to change our approach when it comes to ZAG pricing.
While internet sales, generally speaking, embraces the notion of transparency, no doubt the field is large enough now to accommodate what we at Saturn used to call “old school” or “old world.” I often think back to my days at Saturn. The true test of integrity in our sales and pricing process back then was, simply, if a customer overhearing a sales meeting or a training class heard anything he or she would be uncomfortable with, it wasn’t a practice we should be comfortable with either.
Ten years after 9/11, Saturn has wound down to a fond memory, but this thing of ours, online sales, carries on the banner of enlightened customer service, of sales processes with integrity necessitated by a transparent online world.
Stepping back from all that metaphor, the reality of what men and women in uniformed service have done to protect us over the last ten years is truly staggering. It’s not just a history lesson. It’s real, and we lived to tell about it. Holding back on trades? Making it up on the back end? If it works for you, rock on, you classy rock stars.