Loyal Customers: Who and Where Are They?
Customer satisfaction is great and it’s something we all should strive for. But customer satisfaction just shows you how much people like you and the goods and services you provided them. Again, we want our customers to be satisifed. We also want them to be loyal. But, there’s a difference.
Customer loyalty goes beyond making a customer happy; it’s all about providing consistent value that keeps people coming back.
A fun promotion or a giveaway can make a customer very satisfied. But won’t keep them from defecting to the competition when they offer something even cooler down the line.
A complimentary maintenance program, on the other hand, fosters customer loyalty by incentivizing people to return to your dealership year after year, car after car.
All too often, dealerships confuse customer satisfaction with customer loyalty, claiming that they don’t need a complimentary maintenance program because they already know who their loyal customers are. Why give oil changes away to the people who would have come back anyway?
Unfortunately, this line of thinking is flawed —and dangerous. Here’s why.
Do You Really Know Which Customers are Loyal?
Maybe you do have a set of truly loyal customers that you can unequivocally say will return to you time and time again. But, let’s set them aside for a moment. Are you able to log into your DMS and mark all those people that would definitely return to buy oil changes and cars from you, simply because they’re satisfied? If you think about it, you probably don’t know who they really are, you just have a feeling of who they are.
As a business owner, it might not make sense to give something away to someone who you feel is service loyal, but you have to remember that customers are only service loyal to a certain point. We’re all just one bad day away from losing a customer. Say your usually satisfied customer comes in for service and he’s in a foul mood, and then when he leaves, he sees dirt tracked into his car, or a smudge on the steering wheel, or, God forbid, a scratch on his car. Chances are, he’s gone, and he’s not going to come back and tell you why he’s no longer satisfied.
With a complimentary maintenance program, you get a bit of a bad day buffer. Of course, you’ll always have customers who will leave and never come back even if the service is free. But there are quite a few people in today’s society who value complimentary maintenance and the extra cash it leaves in their pockets. That fixes some hard feelings, and might just be enough to bring that customer back, even if he does have a grievance so that you can make amends.
Accountability Breeds Loyalty
A great thing about complimentary maintenance programs is that they focus on your customers and their unique needs. They satisfy customers by delivering quality service that they can trust, with quality parts that keep their vehicles running smoothly, and they build loyal customers by making them feel valued and respected —no matter how large or small the repair. Best of all, they turn “customers” into “promoters” that go out into the world and tout the reliability and dependability of your dealership.
When someone —a sales person, service advisor, or anyone else at your dealership —takes the time to tell customers that, “we’re here for you, we care about you, and we want you to come back,” that goes a long way. It’s about bridging the gap between purchase and repurchase, connecting with customers, and building relationships.
So when you have that frustrated customer you need to focus on appreciating him, not just apologizing to him. Be straightforward and say,“hey, we missed it this time, we’re accountable to the fact that we got some grease on your floor mats, we’re going to detail your car for you, and by the way, we just want you to know we really appreciate your business.”
Making Customers Feel Special
Sometimes dealerships will decline implementing a complimentary maintenance program for the same reason GM reduced their incentives—the JD Power survey that showed free scheduled maintenance and warranty coverage do not rank high as a reason to purchase a vehicle.
But the question is, which customers answered that survey? Was it people that were indifferent about the benefit? Or was it people who actually used the benefit? What about the people who didn’t use the benefit?
Look at it this way, if I give you a $200 gift card to the restaurant of your choice so you can go and enjoy an anniversary dinner with your spouse, you’re probably going to take advantage of all of it, and you will most likely spend your own money for that special bottle of wine.
Complimentary Maintenance may not be a fancy dinner and the perks that come with finally getting an anniversary gift right, but it’s an incentive that makes customers feel special, and it’s something they’ll want to keep coming back for so they can get all the benefits offered to them. Then, when they come in for that service, they’ll be more likely to purchase a tire rotation, or nitrogen service, or anything else.