You’d be hard pressed to find a dealer who doesn’t acknowledge the importance of customer loyalty. But even so, many dealerships neglect to create a tangible plan or goals for their customer attraction and retention. It can be easy to assume that as long as you’re providing good service customers will keep coming back. And while it’s true that the quality service is a component of customer loyalty, ultimately customers stick with dealerships because of relationships and a confidence that they won’t have a better experience anywhere else. Relationships are made up of many components- trust, communication, and consistency topping the list for consumer/business relationships. With these tenets in mind, the following are ways you can ensure your customers keep coming back.
Assessing the faces of your operation
Before you engage in any other strategies for attracting and retaining customers, it’s crucial to assess how your dealerships and especially your parts and service department is structured. While technicians are certainly the experts on repairs and maintenance, it’s the parts people and service advisors who have the crucial trait that builds customer relationships: they love and thrive on interacting with people. Most dealerships hire salespeople with the criteria of being excellent at building trust with potential customers, but many fail to ensure the front of house in parts and service is staffed by the same kind of people. When a customer comes in for maintenance, repairs, or something else, do they interact with someone whose main focus is understanding their needs or are they ending up with whoever is around- folks who may not be so people-centric and don’t have the skills to translate complicated industry lingo into layman’s terms? If the latter is the case in your operation, we suggest getting super specific about who communicates with customers and who doesn’t. While it may take some restructuring and temporary confusion in the beginning, the long-term benefits of putting the right people in the right places will become obvious in customer satisfaction.
Getting ahead of the competition
No matter how good your team is at communicating with customers, if competition is beating out your pricing, you may lose valuable customers. While you can’t constantly monitor the pricing and special offers every dealership and auto shop’s are offering, you can advertise to your clients that they can bring in offers from other providers and, in most cases, you’ll match it. While on the surface this might seem risky (you simply can’t match every low offer out there), the trust you will build with customers means they will simply stop looking elsewhere- knowing you have their best interest in mind and will always provide the best service at a fair price.
Creating a loyalty program
Incentivizing loyalty through a set program is a great way to keep customers plugged in and coming back. Using a regular email newsletter, you can send special notes, offers, and discounts to your regulars- further establishing your operation in their minds and encouraging their return. Each operation is vastly different- so try your best to build your loyalty program in a way that is sustainable and fits the needs of your customer base.
Auditing your follow-up and communication system
Time and time again we’ve seen dealerships losing money and growing obsolete special order stock by not following up well enough with customers. Tagging back to our first point about ensuring your customers are interacting with customer-centric folks- try assigning ongoing projects to specific team members and ensuring you have a thorough and consistent system for reaching out to customers in-process. It’s also important to diversify your methods of communication. Some customers only want phone calls while others will only respond to texts or emails- so make sure your follow up system has reminders for trying different types of contact.
Creating measurable goals
All of the above suggestions are all fine and dandy in theory, but ultimately the data will show you just where the weak points are in your customer retention. Before you begin any strategy for improved customer retention, pull reporting on your percentage of returning customers. That way you can create realistic goals based on where you currently stand- and you can encourage your team by reflecting back the statistical improvements all your work towards improving customer retention has led to.
PartsEdge has helped countless dealerships improve customer retention by giving parts managers time back from inventory management to focus on growing the business. As a result of our inventory optimization tools, our clients see an average 20% drop in total inventory, 15% less idle inventory, a 50% increase in ROI, and a 20% increase in parts sales. Our reporting is clear, simple, and informs proactive decision making. If you’re ready to put our parts power-tool to work, send us a message! We’ve been helping dealerships for over 20 years and our testimonials speak for themselves.