Retention is vital for long-term profitability and health. Some dealers coast along thinking they have retention covered, when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, offering a great customer experience in service can head you in the right direction. However, it is not just free coffee, donuts, or wi-fi access that bring customers back. Customers come back to the dealership because they trust that their vehicle will be adequately serviced at a fair price and made safe for them to drive.
Customer retention is an activity that is taken to prevent defections (i.e., going to your competition). Retention marketing includes programs and strategies that focus on growth and retention of existing customers through incentives to lure them back into the dealership for subsequent transactions. These ongoing touchpoints prevent your dealership from losing customers to the competition and enable your dealership to save money otherwise spent on customer acquisition tactics. They also increase the likelihood that these retained customers buy their next car from you.
Retention marketing programs can not only help you stay in contact with customers but can also be used to deliver valuable information at the same time. Many dealerships subscribe to and deploy a variety of marketing services designed to keep them top of mind. However, many don’t leverage these to inform customers about recalls. Perhaps they think that recall information is too broad and won’t apply to everyone. I'm sure some perceive recall communication as highlighting a negative situation. The truth is, consumers view recalls as an extension of sound safety practices. Consumers gravitate to organizations that look out for driver safety, have product integrity, and practice proactive problem resolution.
Also, recall awareness communications can elevate your dealership’s profile. Consumers tend to appreciate the effort and reward your dealership by servicing with you.
Many dealerships have an e-newsletter they send to customers. These same e-newsletters can easily include information about existing recalls. They are a channel that dealerships already use to communicate with their customers. By using this existing medium to share information about recalls, you can reinforce your dealership’s commitment to vehicle safety and build consumer trust for your dealer and factory brand.
Another tool your dealership can deploy is an online scheduler. Most service schedulers require (or at least ask) a customer what vehicle they are bringing in. Nobody likes surprises in the service lane. A Service Advisor or Director can quickly review which vehicles are scheduled for the next week or so, identify those with existing recalls and call, text, or email the customer this information prior to their visit. This also helps in scheduling the appointment properly since some recalls take time to fix which means setting up alternate transportation for the customer ahead of time.
Imagine a consumer’s disappointment if your dealership failed to catch a recall during a recent visit, and the consumer then independently discovers its existence from another source. These oversights can chip away at your credibility and the customer’s loyalty.
Provide your customers with valuable recall information that affects the safety of their vehicles. Offer them a convenient time to get the recall handled. And at the same time, offer those service coupons you already had planned. You can easily encourage the customer to allow you to do both.
A few simple customer retention strategies in place can help prevent defection and build loyalty. This can also reduce customer churn without spending thousands of dollars every month in acquisition efforts to replace the customers lost the previous month. Recalls are a unique opportunity to win over new customers, retain existing customers, and drive revenue without any need for discounting.