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Bill Wittenmyer

Bill Wittenmyer Partner

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“I Am Loyal to My Dealership For The Great Coffee.” Said No Customer Ever.

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In the past several months, I have examined and highlighted the important phases of the journey that customers travel; their shopping patterns, their buying experience, and now their ownership period.  Arguably, the ownership experience may be the most important phase of the journey.  It will determine the likelihood of your customers doing business with you in the service drive, returning to buy additional vehicles from you, and referring their family and friends to you for both.   Considering that referrals close at 55% and return customers close at 60%, this ownership period demands attention.

Imagine how a high-quality and positive customer relationship with a car buyer who owns a vehicle for an average of six years will translate into a heightened lifetime value. The relationship’s good standing will not only increase their loyalty, but also overcome any negative experiences encountered in their shopping and buying journeys.  So what are some processes you can implement to improve the ownership experience and increase customer loyalty?

 

Mobile App

If you offer a dealer-branded mobile app to your customers, it should do more than target automotive shoppers.  Today’s consumers want an easy and fast way to manage the servicing of their vehicles as well.  If they can make a service appointment, be contacted by method of their choice when their vehicle is ready for pick up, view their service history, perhaps even browse your inventory while they are waiting – all from their smartphone, they will see that you are providing value past the point of just selling them a vehicle.  Create special offers for your mobile app users, or design a loyalty reward program that offers points to offset service pay.

How do you successfully adapt customers to the mobile app business model?  My recommendation to clients is to insert the mobile app download into the vehicle delivery process. Introduce the app in F&I, help the customer download and activate it in their mobile device.  Educating the customer on its dealership-driven value will reduce the chance of a service defection with loyalty points generated at purchase. You are setting the stage for a loyal customer!

What happens if your loyal service customer is thinking about purchasing a vehicle? Consider the convenience of that same loyalty mobile app providing a fast and easy barter-free shopping experience.  A hassle-free way to shop the dealership’s current inventory, value their trade and negotiate a purchase offer.  I believe the entire negotiation process of a car deal is moving toward a remote application, and forward-thinking companies who embrace this technology will see a large increase in service-to-sale retention and brand loyalty.

 

The Service Lane Contributes Over 40 Percent of Annual Gross Profits

With only one in three drivers committed to an auto service provider, it’s more important than ever to leverage smart, customer-centric service-marketing campaigns that use data inside your CRM and DMS.  Targeted and relevant messaging should connect with consumers in the way that makes most sense for them, from live calls or text messaging to emails and direct mail. For example, your service CRM should integrate with the service advisor’s daily plan to send prediction-based service reminders established by time or mileage, and scheduled in accordance with OEM intervals, as well as DMS events.  Sending automated coupons or incentives to the right person, at the right moment, using the right medium will yield the best return on your investment.  It’s a win/win for everyone.  You will immediately see increased results in service transactions, revenue and market share; and your customers will experience a better method of communication with messages relevant to their needs, keeping them loyal and happy.

 

Follow-up/Recovery/Retention

Whether you have an in-house BDC, or an outsourced/virtual BDC, make sure that your service customers are being followed up with about their experience.  These calls will offer you invaluable information about areas that may need improvement, as well as offer you additional opportunities to win more business.  Email address confirmation, discussion of driving habits in order to set up better triggers for your campaigns, CSI calls – these bits of information, to name a few, will help your service drive become more customer-centric.

Utilize recovery campaigns to gain back lost customers.  Entice them with special offers to encourage their return to your service department and use the knowledge you gain to prevent further defectors.

Getting your new customers into your service drive for their first appointment after delivery is key.  Examine your process for accomplishing this goal.  Is that first appointment scheduled at delivery?  How are the appointments confirmed?  If the customer does not show, are they followed up with to reschedule?  All of these processes need to be clearly defined and the staff responsible held accountable.

Remember, customers for life!  Are you following up with and supporting the customers who decided not to buy from you?  What did they buy, and is there a chance you could win their service business? Of course, you can!  Just because they buy elsewhere does not mean you should not stay in touch with them regularly and support them.  At the very least, they will remember your name and the level of communication you provided (even though they did not buy from you) when considering their next purchase. Statistics show that 87 percent of customers do not remember their salesperson shortly after leaving the showroom  - even if they bought a car.  Let the salesperson at the competitor from whom they bought be “that guy.”  I practice this even now on the vendor side.  I’ve lost deals to the competition and then closed them years later just by consistently following up.  Remember that it’s not always a sprint.  Sometimes it’s a marathon.

 

Loyalty from your customers is not to be expected even in the slightest.  You must strive to earn it every single day.  With the tools, technology and talent available to us today, there is no excuse for anything less. 

“Make sure your business is creating an experience so good that it demands loyalty.”  - Steve Maraboli

 

Good Selling!

Megan Barto
Great post! Customer loyalty IS super-important, in fact, I remember Chris Costner speaking about this during a DrivingSales Breakout a few years ago.... Look at the major brands -- how loyal do you think Apple's client base is?
Grant Gooley
One of the best blog titles on DS.com to date! Very nice! The mobile app paragraph you have makes a lot of sense. Although, Ive seen dealer apps in action at a few different dealerships, all with not much of a success story behind them. Technology has to solve a problem, dealership app that has some coupons, inventory and the click to call functions for easy communication access.... wait, the responsive mobile website has all of these functions! So until Mobile Apps for dealerships begin to solve problems, i'm out. Great post!
Josh Knutson
Great post Bill! Mobile marketing is moving extremely fast and the in-dealership technology and practices need to resemble that of the highly connected consumer. From the app model, one of the biggest factors I see is the re-occurring interactions with a customer. Websites, re-targeting ect all have 1 problem, they get a customer to a resource then end. Keeping a client locked into a platform through-ought the purchase cycle helps to prevent showrooming, webrooming and helps create a "experience" that helps the customer and the dealership.
Bill Wittenmyer
Thank you for the comments. Have a great week!
Rusty Taub
I like the idea of the mobile app, but it wouldn't have the F&I present it. I'd have sales show the app or mobile website upon delivery and explaining the manual.

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