Building Customer Retention into Your Daily Sales Habits

Strategies to Foster a Stronger Sales-to-Service Relationship at the Point-of-Sale

Flashing a smile and offering a handshake, the salesperson delivers the keys and accepts the signed paperwork. Another vehicle is ready to leave the lot.

The buyer’s journey to a completed transaction began weeks ago with an initial meeting and needs analysis. Since then, the salesperson successfully orchestrated a product selection, a demo drive, a trade appraisal and a presentation of numbers in conjunction with the finance team.

Vehicle delivery marks an important milestone along the path to auto dealership profitability. But while many salespeople take this opportunity to celebrate (happy hour, anyone?), the ultimate objective remains unfinished.

Merits of a Promotional Maintenance Package

Today no auto dealer business plan is complete without the inclusion of a measurable customer retention strategy. When a customer leaves a dealership with a new vehicle but without a dealer service contract, an opportunity has been missed.

A Promotional Maintenance Package —as offered by Performance Administration Corp.— works as a customer retention plan to turn transactional value into lifetime value. It’s about creating customer habits at your dealership and building relationships, so when it comes time for the next purchase —your dealership is top-of-mind.

A recent survey found that dealer-branded maintenance programs can boost service revenue by 15 percent and customer retention by 60 percent, if not higher. One dealership with a particularly exceptional complimentary maintenance program enjoyed a customer retention rate of 98 percent.

The Silo Effect

Yet despite these figures, many dealerships are doomed to poor customer retention rates and an underwhelming number of return buyers. This unfortunate realization has nothing to do with the buyer experience nor the quality of the vehicles, but rather the disconnect between the sales and service departments carries the blame.

All too often, vehicle delivery signifies the end of the sales process, and a proper hand-off to the service department never takes place. A dealership’s inability to capitalize on this natural point of transition within a buyer’s journey presents a major stumbling block toward building longterm customer relationships.

This departmental disconnect can effectively minimize the otherwise impressive selling performance put on by the showroom salesperson. A runner can dominant his or her leg of a relay race but if the baton is not properly passed along to the next participant, a first-place finish is out of the question.

Rethinking Sales Habits

Rewriting the rulebook is difficult, but when low customer retention is at stake, a revamped retention marketing plan proves absolutely necessary. With every completed sale, an introduction to the service department and the accompanying inclusion of a Dealer-Owned MaintenancePackage™must occur.

Several strategies can be utilized to foster a stronger sales-service relationship at the point-of-sale. These include:

  • TRAINING: Encouraging (or mandating) employees to undertake staff connectivity training designed to break down traditional corporate silos.

  • TRAINING: Effectively conveying the link between dealer service contracts and customer retention rates to your entire staff.

  • BONUSES: Incentivizing your sales staff to forge better relationships with the service department by tying a portion of sales or bonus sales commissions to the successful use of dealer service contracts by new-vehicle customers.

  • INFORMATIVE: Providing new-vehicle customers with a short presentation and promotional materials regarding the merits of utilizing dealer maintenance packages at the issuing dealership service department.

  • PROCESS: Scheduling a new-vehicle customer’s first maintenance appointment before that individual leaves the dealership (similar to how doctors and dentists try to schedule your next visit before you leave their office).

  • PLANNING: Aligning the hours of operation of your service department with that of your sales department, thus eliminating the possibility that a sale will be completed during a period when a service representative is not available.

By altering your sales team’s habits, their premature celebration following a closed sale will be replaced by a smooth hand-off to your next client-facing department. A new customer retention plan is now born, with your dealership’s bottom line serving as the primary benefactor.