About Us
Copyright 2016 DR Media Holdings, LLC

“Deals Are Won and Lost on Customer Experience”: A Conversation with “Honda Rick” Kruger



Rick “Honda Rick” Kruger knows cars. And he knows people.

For 22 years, he’s been part of the Honda sales team at Don Ayres Honda in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he’s a sales and leasing consultant. Rick is also a DealerRater Certified Salesperson with a 5.0 (out of 5.0) Employee Rating. He inspires customer love and loyalty. As one customer reviewer wrote on DealerRater, “Bought our first Honda from Rick in 2009. Eight years later and time for our third Honda. Back to Don Ayres and Rick Kruger. Rick is enjoyable to work with. He knows his Hondas and will work with you to find what you are looking for.”

So, when Cars.com had an opportunity to talk with Rick about his views on dealerships and the customer experience, we jumped at the chance. We caught up with Rick at the recently held Kain & Friends Digital Success Workshop. He had a lot to say about the value of customer reviews and DealerRater as a platform for securing and publishing reviews. He also shared tips for maximizing the value of a salesperson’s online profile, such as the importance of including personal details that make the salesperson more approachable. Read on for Rick’s comments in his own words. And learn more about Honda Rick on Facebook.


The importance of reviews

“Third-party reviews of a salesperson are important because the input is not coming from me, and it’s not coming from someone else at Don Ayres – it’s coming from a third party, which is much more meaningful and golden. Third-party validation helps plant the foundation of the relationship.

When a new customer comes in, I have to make them feel comfortable and give reasons as to why they should buy from Don Ayres and from me, specifically. But when they’ve already read 85 reviews before coming in, they think ‘I can’t believe the stuff people are saying about this guy! I want to have that same experience.’

I’ve had phone calls come into the dealership from customers more than 150 miles away calling in asking for me. Others are introducing themselves, saying, ‘I saw your reviews online, I’m looking for a used Mini Cooper, and I would like for you to help me find one.’”

Why customer experience on the lot matters

“Great product is merely the price of entry these days – everyone is making great product — but deals are won and lost on customer experience. Take the midsize sedans, such as the Accord, Camry, Mazda6, and the Altima. Everyone is coming out with similar models and all priced within $1,000 of each other. It comes down to the customer experience at the dealership. It’s a salesperson’s job to mold a particular car into a customer’s wants, needs and lifestyle. The salesperson that wows the customer the most is going to sell the car.

If a customer walks into the showroom and gets a sales person who doesn’t know their product or who doesn’t treat them well, even though they like the vehicle, they are likely to buy elsewhere based their experience.”

How DealerRater helps

“The whole point of DealerRater is to help customers who are just starting their car shopping process. Customers can select the dealership and from there narrow it down to the salesperson.

A lot of the cars are the same. Maybe the styles are different, but you have to do something that sets you apart from the crowd — something that differentiates you from the other salesperson down the street. DealerRater is the tool that allows me to share what kind of experience customers are going to have with me.

In the last couple of months, I have had two sales that I would never have had an opportunity to earn if people didn’t see me online. For example: I recently shipped a new 2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T over 700 miles away to Baldwin, N.Y. She found me on YouTube, but after researching, she read my DealerRater reviews and decided to buy from me over her local dealer!  With the power of DealerRater, I have more visibility to people outside of my normal selling area.”

How salespeople can maximize the value of DealerRater

“What has worked for me… in your profile put in any credentials that you have, awards, etc. under specialties. Make your biography personal and not just about car sales. It needs to paint a picture of who you are away from work as well. Make it about you personally, your family and something unique that sets you apart from other sales people.

Also, you need bad reviews in there, too, it makes you human.”

Tips for salespeople just getting started

“After we’ve gone through delivery, I have a conversation about Facebook with the customer (“Hey we should be friends! Friend me on Facebook.”) While they’re waiting for the business office, we take out our phones and connect. Then at the very end of the delivery process on the lot, I do a Facebook Live video thanking the customer and showing people what they purchased. I ask them on camera how their experience was and they tell me live for all their friends to see!

I also remind customers about the survey they’ll be getting from Honda and if they can do me a favor. I say, ‘I’d appreciate it if you would be so kind to write out a few sentences – a story, not review – about how great your experience was.’  Once they leave, I email them the Lot Shot photo that I took before the Facebook Live video.

I have to send out that email the same day asking for a review. If it’s two days later, I experience less than 20 percent chance of getting it done. If I do it within 12 hours, my response rate is over 75 percent of getting the customer to do it. They’re still on cloud 9 of ‘I got a new car.’  But after a few days and their friends/co-workers have seen the car, they’re back to daily life and the review opportunity is lost. There’s no more energy to help me. You’ve got to send that out and ask them for the ‘story’ and make it short and sweet to the point.

To me, selling is always about the relationship – after all, people don’t buy from people they don’t like.”