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dealer maintenance programs

The Perfect Plan: Customizing and Branding Your Dealer Maintenance Program

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A key part of any dealership customer retention strategy is to keep customers returning to the dealership for routine service visits. We know you don't make money on oil changes, but these consistent service visits are instrumental in the customer lifecycle journey because they provide several opportunities for customers to build trusting relationships with your service department staff. And service loyal relationships eventually lead customers to more expensive repairs, warranty work and the full-line of maintenance.And what happens when customers trust your dealership for the full-line of maintenance? They are more than twice as likely to return to your dealership for their next vehicle purchase AND refer your dealership to their friends and family.

Isn't that your goal? That's also the goal of a complimentary maintenance program.


All Maintenance Plans Are Not Created Equal

It’s important to note that manufacturer maintenance plans and dealer maintenance plans aren’t the same thing. In a nutshell, dealer maintenance plans are personalized and owned by your dealership and manufacturer maintenance plans are completely dictated by the manufacturer.

When it comes to a customer retention strategy, dealer maintenance plans are the way to go because they provide you the opportunity to give your customers more.

For instance, GM’s manufacturer maintenance plan offers customers two complimentary visits in the first 24 months of ownership. Any car dealership (as well as any car owner) knows that two visits aren’t enough to cover all oil changes in the first two years.

But if your dealership were to create your own complimentary dealer maintenance plan, you could double the manufacturer’s maintenance offering and give customers four visits during the first 24 months of ownership. You can also throw in valuable extras such as complimentary car washes and convenient, dealer-provided shuttle service to and from any location within a certain radius.

That's the great thing about dealer maintenance plans, you have complete control to build your plan however you want to. It's an opportunity to not only build customer retention into your sales process, but to show customers how much you value them.

Not sure which plan is the best fit for your dealership? Download this PDF to compare the various types of maintenance plans available. If you already have a manufacturer maintenance plan in place, manufacturer wrap plans are a great way to add in those extra benefits to give customers more.


Building Your Custom Dealer Maintenance Plan

When it comes to building your plan, we'll work with you to create a plan using dealership best practices based on your vehicle inventory and customer retention goals. It comes down to defining the answers to the following questions: 

  • How many months do you want your complimentary maintenance plan to last? (This is the promotional giveaway, typically 12 or 24 months.)

  • How many times a year do you want to see your customers for service? (Think along the lines of creating a consistent flow of service traffic.)

  • Do you want to provide additional customer pay plans to sell in the F&I office? (This is a great way to extend service contracts and guarantee service in the future.)

  • Which maintenance benefits do you want to provide? (Example: lube, oil and filter, tire rotations, car washes, shuttle service or add your own.)

  • What do you want retail and reimbursements rates to be for each service? (This is how you determine how much to get paid for each service.)

  • How do you want to fund your plan? (We have three funding options that are discussed during the quoting process.)

  • Do you want to include a loyalty points program? (This is a great way to continue service incentives after the complimentary plan expires.)


Pro Tip: Keep your target customer base in mind when building your plan. If you're successful in providing a valuable offering, you'll also be successful in standing out against your competitors.


Set Yourself Apart Through Marketing

Once you've built your personalized retention plan, the next step is to create a marketing strategy with customer communication materials to get the word out.

Pre-Purchase Marketing

The first line of marketing is pre-purchase marketing, like updating your website, social media, print, radio and television ads to let visitors know of the complimentary service benefits they'll receive when they buy from your dealership. 

Be sure to promote your maintenance plan on all exisiting advertising channels to remain consistent and top-of-mind.


POS Marketing

The next step is point-of-sale marketing. Once you bring customers through the doors, it’s key that your salespeople educate the customer on "why buy here" benefits. As they get the customer into a test drive and explain all the wonderful features of the vehicle, they’ll be selling the car. But they also have to sell your dealership.

Why should customers purchase a car from you, rather than a competitor?

Make it clear why your dealership is the obvious choice. That’s where your complimentary maintenance program comes in. It’s important that as part of the pitch, your sales staff is trained to let customers know how your dealership takes care of customers after the purchase is complete.

  • Tell them about the complimentary four maintenance visits in the first 24 months.

  • Tell them about how the dealership will pick their car up for service or shuttle them to and from work or home if need be.

  • Tell them that when their car is finished, it will be shiny and sparkling clean due to the free car wash that’s included with each service.

Luckily, Certified Maintenance® Plans each come equipped with POS marketing materials (Why Buy Here sales flyers and F&I Upgrade flyers) that are dealer-branded to show customers the benefits of purchasing at your dealership.

The customer may leave your dealership and head to a competitor for a test drive. But, your staff and service plans will have made enough of an impression on them that — at the end of the day — they’ll return to your dealership to make the final purchase.


Post-Purchase Marketing

Unfortunately, it's not enough to just sell a car. Customer retention strongly relies on fostering relationships with customers after they drive off your lot. And that means driving them back for service and knowing which customers are and are NOT returning. We make that easy for you too with personalized customer welcome kits, timely service reminders and a win-back campaign to target non-return customers.

Watch the Road to Retention Video to learn how a Certified Maintenance® Program uses an automotive customer retention strategy to drive repeat buyers. And download the Perfect Plan PDF to discover the best maintenance plan for your dealership.


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About the Author

Richard Knight

Rick Knight is an Automotive Customer Retention Executive who founded Certified Maintenance® Programs in 1996. Rick has been successful in building custom retention strategies for thousands of auto dealers to better than double CP/RO counts in the first 12 months of ownership, drive back 34+% of lost opportunity customers and help auto dealers Sell The Next Vehicle™. 

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