Most dealers understand the importance of customer retention. They’re e-mail-blasting sales messages, sending direct mail, and their salespeople are combing over thousands of client records in their DMS, making phone calls to previous customers and orphan owners. The problem is that many dealers don’t realize that, all too often, those messages fall on deaf ears. Dealerships spend tons of money sending messages to customers that are mostly irrelevant because some vendor promised huge results in exchange for a check and the dealership’s database.
Most customer retention strategies are sales-focused. What about the hundreds of customers service departments see on a daily basis, or the customers who once had their vehicles regularly serviced but for some reason have stopped?
More sales and revenue exist in your service department than anywhere else in your dealership.
Service clinics are an excellent way to build relationships with your customers. Manufacturers are embracing service clinics because they know building solid relationships and educating customers on the value of dealership service increases brand retention. Dealers, however, tend to overlook service clinics because many don’t see value when attempting to implement and facilitate one on their own. Dealers send out mass invites, order catering and schedule staff for the event but, at the end of the day, if revenue generated from the event doesn’t exceed the costs, they declare it a failure and move on to the next idea.
Service clinics can be one of the most profitable events for a dealership… if done properly. Here are tips on how to run an effective service clinic:
- Invite the right people – Dealers who want to see success in a service clinic must be choosy about who they invite. When hosting a party, most people will restrict their invitations to their friends and family members who are most likely to attend. There are many reasons why customers may not attend your service clinic including: they no longer own the vehicle you think they do, they no longer live in your area or simply that they aren’t your friend anymore because of a poor experience they may have had at your dealership.
- Deliver the invite – Assuming that your dealership has been able to figure out which of your customers are most likely to attend, the next step is ensuring that the customer gets the invitation. Dealerships need to take a multi-channel approach to delivering this message, including e-mail, targeted banner ads, direct mail and phone calls. Don’t stop there, however. People are busy and have a million things on their plates. Simply delivering the message successfully isn’t enough. Dealers must continue to send reminders as the service clinic approaches to avoid cases in which customers planned on attending but simply forgot.
- Staff it properly – When holding a service clinic, a key to success is to know who attended. Typically, dealers ensure that management, service advisors, technicians and salespeople are all on hand for a clinic. What tends to happen, however, is that staff gets busy and people get overlooked. I know you get frustrated when your salespeople don’t log customers in your CRM, yet when it comes time for a service clinic, these are the same people you expect to collect the attendees’ information. Successful service clinics will have dedicated people whose only job is to collect information. They will greet customers and get their information before the customers go anywhere else. This will ensure that you get all of the data you need, and people won’t slip through the cracks because your staff is occupied talking to other attendees.
- Have A Process – Many service clinics are arranged without any direction or flow. The dealer lets the customer decide who they speak with. How likely is it that a customer who’s at your dealership for a service clinic will walk up to a salesperson? Probably not very likely unless they happen to be in the market for a vehicle. Having a designated process, which you control, that guides and exposes each customer to every member of your dealership will present opportunities that you would have otherwise missed.
- Follow up – After the event, it’s important to follow up with each and every customer who attended to thank them for attending and see if they have any additional questions. This follow-up should be via email, direct mail and made through a personal phone call. The customer chose to dedicate some of their valuable time to visit your dealership. Reaching out to them and thanking them will further enhance the relationship you’ve started.