Building trust with customers to benefit the bottom line

We explore how trust between customers, dealers and vehicle manufacturers has never been more relevant.


Trust. It might be a small word but in its broadest sense, trust between an organisation and its stakeholders, be they customers, employees, investors or suppliers, can make all the difference between success and failure.

Apply this concept to motor retail and it’s obvious that trust between customers, dealers and vehicle manufacturers has never been more relevant. With an industry under continuing media scrutiny due to issues such as diesel emissions and speculation about a PCP finance ‘bubble’, dealers face a challenge when it comes to gaining the trust of customers and translating this into sales.

A recent AA Populous poll of 18,000 AA members found that trust in a dealer was a greater factor than price when purchasing a vehicle. Overall, the research revealed that safety (25 per cent), the car’s condition and trust in the dealer (14 per cent) were all deemed more significant than price (12 per cent).

42 per cent of car buyers said they avoided a dealership because of a lack of trust.

The AA Populous poll also revealed that risk-averse drivers aged over 65 were more inclined to choose their next car based on their trust in a dealer, while just nine per cent of those aged between 18 and 34 regarded trust as a major consideration. Interestingly, factors such as style and performance were found to have a much smaller influence on the way people buy cars. Furthermore, just one per cent of those surveyed stated that the convenience of the dealership was a priority.

This reflects a fundamental change in the way that people buy cars with the use of digital channels to search for their next vehicle. In other words, the typical car buyer is no longer concerned about finding their ideal car close to home and is likely to do extensive online research before heading to a dealership whose digital presence and customer reviews present it as being credible and trustworthy.

Drill down further to the point of sale and the issue of trust becomes even more apparent. Research from the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) reveals that nearly half of drivers don’t trust sales staff, having claimed they’ve been overcharged or miss-sold finance and insurance (F&I) products. The IMI found that despite F&I products securing incremental business on 60 per cent of car purchases, some 45 per cent of drivers said they felt pressured to buy add-ons. In addition, 42 per cent of car buyers said they avoided a dealership because of a lack of trust.

Overall, the research from the AA and IMI clearly demonstrates that perception of motor retailers continues to be a barrier for consumers. However, it is also important to acknowledge that vehicle manufacturers and their retail partners are acutely aware of this issue and that considerable amounts of time and money are being invested to improve. Measures include upskilling sales staff to ensure they provide customers with fair, transparent and consistent advice which is in the buyer’s best interests, as well as being compliant with FCA regulations.

Building trust doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time and a concerted effort from everyone, from the dealer principal to the valeting team. But as every dealer knows, this effort reaps rewards, creating happy customers that will come back for their next car and be their greatest advocate, recommending the dealership to family and friends. By focusing on core competencies such as excellent service that’s consistent across both sales and aftersales, as well as a taking transparent and honest approach when things go wrong, dealers are more likely to gain respect from customers and their trust.

Gaining customer trust in the showroom is equally important for third-party brands such as Autoglym. As a leader in car care for over 50 years, we work with motor retailers across a range of franchises, helping them secure incremental business by taking advantage of the strength of the trusted Autoglym brand. As a result, LifeShine can add real value to dealers, supporting their customer service ambitions by helping generate revenue through a compelling customer proposition from a highly recognised and trusted brand.

To discover more about how LifeShine can boost your business, please call 01462 677766 or email


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