In an interview here at the NADA Convention & Expo, Cars.com director of product marketing Brendan Dougherty brings up this bit of ecommerce irony.
The Internet allows consumers to make purchases from places like Amazon without ever interacting with another human. However, it’s also somewhere where they can go to learn as much as possible about the specific person from whom they may buy.
And that’s likely to become even more common in the auto business, according to DealerRater, a Cars.com company.
Citing the Digital Word of Mouth study from VerstaResearch, DealerRater said that about a third of car shoppers will read reviews to figure out the specific salesperson that best suits them. It's even more pronounced for younger people: 53 percent of millennials surveyed said they find information on a specific salesperson in a review to be useful.
Folks want to learn about the person they’re going to work with before they meet. They want to create a certain comfort level.
“I really think it’s about the way people just want to have these relationships with individuals,” Dougherty said. “As much as the Internet of Things has made this a much bigger world, it’s also made it one where you can connect really one-to-one and have one-to-one dialogue in the digital space, then which obviously carries over to the physical place, as well.”
Look for this to be, “an emerging trend in the space,” he said, “where you’ve got more and more dealerships and more and more dealership salespeople creating not just a brand for the store, but creating a brand for themselves.”
And that's where a new offering from DealerRater comes into play. The company launched DealerRater Connections at NADA, which aims to connect salespeople to shoppers before they arrive at stores.
“While dealer reviews will also be the blood that flows through our veins, employee reviews have emerged in the last couple of years as incredibly important,” said Jamie Oldershaw, senior vice president of product at DealerRater. “Consumers are now eager to connect with the right salesperson or service advisor before they walk into the dealership.”
The new tool, Oldershaw explained in an interview at the conference, lets dealerships highlight their best-reviewed employees and allow those folks to add personal profile pages.
It also provides connection features on those profile pages, so when a shopper does research on the site and “finds that employee that they want to work with — based on bio, years of experience, languages spoken, specialities — they can connect directly with that salesperson, right there through that page via text, email, phone.
“It’s really an effective way for consumers to break down those barriers early, so that when they get into the showroom, they’ve already established that relationship,” Oldershaw said.
And that can perhaps help retention rates at dealerships, as well.
Citing internal company data in a news release, DealerRater chief executive officer Gary Tucker said: “We recently measured turnover rates and found the average sales position turns over two and half times more than that of a DealerRater Certified Employee. By providing consumers a platform to honestly review individual employees in addition to the dealership, dealers are quickly able to measure staff performance.”