In Part 1 of our customer retention series, we discussed how auto dealerships can easily get stuck spinning a revolving door with current customers disappearing and staff constantly on the hunt for ways to bring new customers in. The most effective way to increase sales and create growth is to cut down on customer churn — but first, you need to define a customer retention strategy.
Once you calculate your customer retention rate, it’s time to create a comprehensive customer retention strategy. The goal of this strategy is to increase customer lifetime value and bring them back in for repeat purchases, repairs, and maintenance. The strategy will build a network of customers who are loyal to your dealership brand.
This involves boosting your dealership’s sales loyalty as well as its service loyalty. Over time, you’ll find that improving the latter will help increase the former.
Start with Staff Training
Your dealership’s customer retention strategy doesn’t actually start with your customers; it starts with training each and every staff member in order to put the entire team on the same page. One of the factors that set successful auto dealerships apart is a shared vision and working towards the common goal of making the customer feel like they’re part of the family.
This involves a customer-centric approach that puts the objectives of the customer — and not the dealership — front and center. Sales staff should be attentive and work to match their customers with the vehicle they really need, rather than one that’s currently on promotion. Also consider that most customers are coming into the dealership having done quite a bit of online car research, so it’s more important than ever that salespeople work to sell a customer on the dealership’s brand rather than a specific type of vehicle.
Once the sale is completed, the need for highly-trained staff isn’t over. Sales staff should walk the customer back and introduce them to the service and finance department staff, and the dealership family in both of those areas must continue to make the customer feel valued and welcomed in the hours, days, and months to come.
The Importance of Complimentary Maintenance
The customer introduction to the service department should involve a detailed explanation of the dealership’s complimentary maintenance program — a must for all dealerships hoping to establish a continued relationship with new sales customers. It’s not enough to introduce customers and hope they’ll return for maintenance, however; your dealership will need to follow up with email and phone reminders of upcoming appointments.
What your customers experience during this period will heavily influence their desire to return either for auto repair/maintenance or to purchase a new vehicle. Is it easy for them to schedule a convenient appointment? Does the service department address all concerns and get the work done in the time promised? If a customer must wait for their vehicle, does your dealership feature a comfortable waiting area with Wi-Fi, snacks, beverages, and other touches that make customers feel welcome?
Turn to Technology for Your Customer Retention Strategy
As you move through the many stages of nurturing your relationship with a customer, technology is an essential tool. From the moment a sale is closed, email correspondence is helpful in maintaining an open line of communication. This includes letting them know about upcoming service appointments, making them aware of sales and promotions, engaging in drip campaigns to spark their interest in the newest model of their current vehicle, and receiving valuable customer feedback.
Should a customer fail to return for complimentary maintenance, the Lost Opportunity Transformer will alert the dealership staff to reach out, get in touch, and discover why. Feedback collected through this process will provide a valuable opportunity to make changes that will reduce customer churn and turn new customers into loyal, returning customers.
Seeing the results from a customer retention strategy doesn’t happen overnight, but with dedication and an open ear for constructive criticism, you’ll begin to notice an increase in service visits … and finally, a bump in sales and that all-important bottom line.