The automotive world is an ever-changing landscape, with digital disruptors such as Carvana changing the game, as well as auto manufacturers announcing cuts to the complimentary maintenance coverage that dealers rely on to keep customers coming back through the doors. To combat all of this, auto dealerships have to get creative. One of the strategies many dealers are using to stand out from the pack is adding unique services to their customer retention plan.
The Connection Between Complimentary Maintenance and a Customer Retention Plan
Before we start talking about the specifics of how to tweak your customer retention plan, let’s rewind a bit and talk about why you need one in the first place. If a customer visits your dealership to purchase a new or used car and walks out the door without a customer retention plan in place, you’ve likely lost their maintenance business to Joe Mechanic down the road … which raises the likelihood that when they’re ready for their next car, your dealership may not be the first one on their list. This puts dealerships on a never-ending hamster wheel of searching for new customers.
The solution to stopping the hamster wheel? Complimentary maintenance. If you offer a customer three free visits to have their oil changed and tires rotated, this gives your dealership three opportunities to build a great relationship with them — a relationship that can lead to paid maintenance, repairs, and hopefully, their next new car purchase.
Adding Unique Services to the Mix
When it comes to complimentary maintenance, most dealerships rely on old standbys such as oil changes to boost their customer retention. This provides a huge opportunity for you to stand out by offering unique services that the other dealerships don’t.
What kind of unique services should you offer? Communicate amongst dealership leadership, sales, and service personnel to find out A: what’s important to your dealership and B: what’s important to your customer. Here are a few ideas with which dealerships have found success:
Complimentary state inspections: If your state requires automobile inspections, consider building the labor and cost of a state inspection sticker into your complimentary maintenance program. This is an excellent way to see that customer at least one more time during the year.
Windshield wiper blades: Anyone who lives in an area with ice and snow knows that wiper blades don’t last very long when exposed to extreme winter weather. People don’t like paying 15 or 20 bucks to have their blades replaced, but they love it when their dealership offers them a complimentary blade replacement after a vehicle purchase.
Cabin air filter: Many vehicles these days come with a cabin air filter that helps keep smog, pollution, and odors out of the interior of the car. These filters typically last around 30,000 miles (or between two and three years). This is another low-cost replacement item that works well to boost customer retention if you build it into your complimentary maintenance program.
Which Items Should You Include?
Complimentary service items need to be good for the customer, but they also need to be good for the employees and the dealership as a whole. Talk to your team and get feedback for everyone. By laying out the options, you’ll be able to balance out the price of the plan and look at the items that will add the most value to your customers.
Even tossing in a small bottle of touch-up paint and an applicator to take care of scratches when they return for an oil change goes a long way to making a customer feel appreciated. By letting them know that you truly value them and their business, you’ll create a human connection with them. Putting this kind of customer retention plan in place will — if you adhere to it — increase not only your sales, but the overall value of your dealership.