As we’ve moved through the first two decades of the 21st century, the auto sales landscape has changed so much as to be almost unrecognizable. Car sales are down from their peak in 2006. More and more households are opting to share one car or use services like Uber and Lyft to get around.
It’s not all bad news, though. Even though new customers may be more scarce, a shift in thinking among progressive car dealerships is driving a sales strategy that’s bringing current customers back — and doubling the likelihood of them purchasing another car. This customer retention strategy is known as the customer centric process, and it can be laid out in four simple steps that start with greeting the customer the moment they step onto your lot before working to build customer loyalty through a complimentary maintenance program.
The 4 Steps to a Successful Customer Centric Process
1. Meet the Customer’s Needs
Rather than being focused on making a sale and moving onto the next customer, the customer centric process is laser-focused on meeting each customer’s needs and delighting them in order to turn them into a loyal repeat customer. Sales guru Zig Ziglar once said “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” This mentality is what drives the customer centric process.
The second your customer sets foot on your dealership lot, your salespeople set the tone by how they greet them. A simple instruction for sales staff is this: set your intention for the day. Is your goal to sell as many cars as you can or help as many people as you can?
A genuine smile and a “How can I help you today?” is a great way to kick off the conversation; then you must listen to what the customer needs. If they’re just looking, don’t be pushy. Simply tell them to feel free to look around, give them a card, and let them know you’ll be inside if they have questions.
In some cases, a customer will have done all of their research and know what vehicle they want. If this is the case, don’t try to push them into a vehicle that will generate a larger commission or that you’re running a deal on. This turns customers off and sets a bad tone.
2. Test Drives, Trade-Ins, and an Introduction to the Finance Office
If the customer is interested in a test drive, this moves us into the next step. As you discuss the vehicle with them, remember that you’re still counseling them on what vehicle and features are best for them. As you talk, ask them if they have a trade-in and offer to give them an estimate on it. Make sure to let them know that your used car manager will base the value off of Kelly Blue Book and NADA numbers so the customer knows that you’re giving them a fair price.
Next, offer an introduction to the finance department. Even if the customer plans to bring their own financing, explain to them that as a volume buyer, your dealership may be able to get better rates. This will also give the finance manager the opportunity to discuss all of the different coverages available to protect their investment.
3. Give the Customer a Tour and Introduce Them to Service
If all goes well, at this point, you’ll have a customer who is delighted and excited about taking delivery of their new car. While the paperwork is finalized, the salesperson and the customer will have a bit of free time. Don’t squander it by sending them to wait in the lounge! This is the perfect time to discuss the dealership’s complimentary maintenance program, as well as the importance of using factory-trained technicians for service and repairs. As you go over these points, reinforce them by walking them back and introducing them to the service department.
As you make introductions to the service manager (or another smiling face), the next opportunity arises in the customer centric process: “Mr. and Mrs. Smith, congratulations on the purchase of your new SUV! It’s a very popular vehicle and we think you’ll be very happy with it. Can we get you scheduled for your first service appointment?”
4. Review the Complimentary Maintenance Package
When customers return to your dealership for service, this makes it much more likely that they’ll return for all vehicle repairs and maintenance. Building customer loyalty through excellent service doubles the chances that they’ll return for their next new car purchase (or refer a friend or family member). This will put your dealership on the path to long-term growth through customer retention rather than engaging in a constant struggle to acquire new customers.
If your dealership has a complimentary maintenance package, customers are much more likely to return for their service appointments. When they walk through your doors again, it’s essential that the customer centric process continues … and this depends on proper training for everyone from your sales staff to whoever answers the phone.