Q&A with DrivingSales’ Founder and CEO, Jared Hamilton
Tammy Darvish, owner and vice president of DARCARS Automotive Group, discusses DARCARS’ strategy for addressing today’s key dealership challenges and DARCARS’ results from implementing their new strategy.
Jared Hamilton (JH): Great to talk with you today, Tammy.DARCARS is known for being an innovative dealer group. Let’s discuss how you’ve overcome some of the biggest challenges that dealers are facing today.
Tammy Darvish (TD): Because of the obstacles the whole industry has faced with sales overall, DARCARS, along with virtually every other dealership in the country, has turned to fixed operations to drive revenue. But this has created another challenge – heightened competition for service business, not just from other dealerships, but also local mechanics and national light repair chains. Consumers buying fewer cars coupled with increased competition for service business have been the key drivers for a new service marketing strategy at our stores.
JH: I’ve seen this with competition for service business. The consumer perception is that after the car is out of warranty, it’s cheaper to go the local mechanic for service. It’s something we’ve always been aware of, but that perception is really impacting dealerships today.
TD: And now, consumer perception is being amplified exponentially online. Someone doing a Google search for local auto service is not only going to see a list of dealerships and local mechanics, they’re also going to see consumer reviews of those service providers.
Providing high quality service is essential, but the game doesn’t end there. You need to remind your customers of this fact – that your service is the best and that your quality is ongoing. We see a direct correlation between a strong service department and strong car sales, so we knew we wanted to improve upon the service marketing equation of our business.
JH: Let’s talk about the strategy you implemented.
TD: To begin, we knew what was working well for us already. We’ve always been metrics driven, so we had insight into our core strengths. We knew we were already providing a great showroom experience and a great online experience. Our websites, provided by Dealer.com, were performing well. So, we asked - how do we expand upon our strengths, and what new things can we do to build on those strengths? We knew we had to evolve to keep pace with consumers’ use of new media, as well as embrace new technologies that increase efficiencies.
Our website provider partnered with a company that focuses on making car ownership easier and more efficient for consumers. Our customers automatically got their own Online Garage, located on our site, and they received targeted, personal service messages, monthly newsletters, alerts, etc. via email.
We wanted our customers to have a great experience on our DARCARS sites. Many OEMs provide customer accounts, or garages, on their sites, but we can provide a stronger, long term relationship with our customers in our own environment. We have the most vested interest in that customer’s experience.
Plus, this package helped us to grow our customer email list to nearly 70,000 email addresses in the first few months. This is significant – to be able to continuously communicate with that many customers on an ongoing basis.
JH: What kind of email communications are you sending?
TD: You’re touching on a key point here. Today, we are all bombarded with email messages all day, every day. What do you do when you get something that isn’t relevant or personally important to you? Hit the delete button.
Service is about building an ongoing, better relationship with your customer, and your communications need to reflect that. Messages need to be engaging and relevant. For example, optimized with service incentives, based on that customer’s driving habits, mileage, service history, etc.
JH: How can you tell the strategy is working for your stores?
TD: We saw positive results very fast in key areas. We had a jump by nearly 3,000 transactions from customers who had not been in the dealership in the past six months. And we had a jump by over 800 transactions from customers whom we had not seen in over a year. Together, this added up to nearly $1,000,000 in found revenue in the first three months of the program. We could also see email campaign results, clickthroughs, etc.In addition, we got new cars into the service lanes – either second cars for existing customers orcustomers new to our service departments. This came to another $200,000 in revenue in the first ninety days.
JH: Many dealers are now finally tracking the marketing metrics that give them insight into what’s working for car sales. It’s refreshing to see that level of detail being implemented to measure the effectiveness of a service marketing program.
TD: It’s been very rewarding to see positive results from trying a new service marketing strategy. It’s like seeing a bright light at the end of the tunnel.