dealership service customers

Auto Dealership Service Customers — You Brought Them Back, Now What?

In our last blog, we discussed analyzing your dealership’s current state and how to boost your customer retention. A great way to keep people coming back is with personalized customer service and a strong service menu. But keeping people coming back with a complimentary maintenance program is one thing; what can you do to keep dealership service customers coming back after the complimentary stuff is gone?

Do you have a process in place? How many customers that come out of the finance office are walked back to service, introduced to the service department, and scheduled their first appointment? Most dealerships we’ve come across don’t have a formal process in place, or if they do, don’t do a good job of following it.

But what if you could put a process in place that ensures everyone is not only introduced in service and schedules their first appointment, but also logged into a system that can send them a welcome kit, personalized messages, service reminders, text messages, and more?

Does that sound impossible? Wouldn’t have the time to do it anyway? Don’t worry. You don’t need to design or maintain anything. Let handle your dealership service customers for you. Here’s how.

Retaining Dealership Service Customers — Why Factory Maintenance Plans Aren’t Enough

Factory maintenance plans can be great, and telling customers, “Your manufacturer warranty provides major vehicle components such as the engine, brakes, and transmission for up to 3 years or 36,000 miles,” can be a solid selling point.

But with factory maintenance, service retention isn’t limited to the selling dealer (i.e. you). It doesn’t promote pre-owned inventory and it doesn’t include service reminders or any semblance of a retention process. The factory dictates coverage and reimbursement, and the factory benefits from all unused reserve money. Not only that, many manufacturers have (and continue to) reduced the number of complimentary maintenance visits they offer.

So what happens when the factory maintenance runs out (or is discontinued)? Are you offering them to extend that plan at a savings to keep them coming back to you? Or do you wait until they all leave and then send them a reminder?

If you’re waiting until they all leave and you send them a reminder, you’re probably doing it at a heavy discount. Which ends up being very expensive — you’re paying someone to send reminders, you’re paying for advertising. You’re taking less than you really would like to for the price of the maintenance, and more often than not, people aren’t responding to the offer anyway.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to talk to the customer when they’re standing in front of you, and get them locked into another 12-month term? With a complimentary maintenance program in place, you’ve got pre-paid benefits so it’s either going to become a profit as a claim or it’s going to become a profit to you if it’s never claimed.

Going Above and Beyond

Analyzing your numbers is important, but you have to look at the real numbers. What is your true customer retention rate? Does your service manager keep telling you it’s 70% retention? Challenge it, dig deep, and find out the real number. Then, look at what you consider to be 100% retention. General Motors gives you a 100% retention rating if a customer comes back one time in a 12 month period. But as you well know, the average customer drives enough miles to at least have two (or more) visits in that time frame.

Don’t sugarcoat it. The factory wants to tell you you’re doing great because their next question for you is how many cars do you want to buy? What do you want to order from me? So they like to tell you that you’re doing great — even if you may not be. The tools we provide are service-based. They’re based on customer retention.

The point of running any business is to sell, which can make giving away free maintenance an unlikely strategy for boosting your bottom line. Offering complimentary maintenance, however, provides an excellent opportunity to build relationships and bring back the human touch when dealing with your customers.

When customers don’t receive complimentary maintenance from their auto manufacturer or dealership, it’s far more likely that they’ll take it to their local mechanic or mass merchandiser to get the job done. This is a missed opportunity to bring them through your doors to demonstrate the benefits of dealer-provided maintenance. This includes working with certified service technicians who have experience with that specific vehicle, as well as a personal connection and quest for satisfaction among your previous customers.

Why does all of this matter? Free maintenance isn’t the end of the story. When a dealership builds a relationship with its customers over the complimentary maintenance period, free maintenance will eventually turn into paid maintenance and repairs. When it’s time for a new vehicle, those customers are more likely to come back into your dealership and buy from a team with which they’ve become familiar than head down the road to check out your competition.

Happier customers, expertly-maintained vehicles, and a larger percentage of customers returning for their next new vehicle. When your dealership moves beyond factory warranties and offers complimentary maintenance, everyone wins.