Statistics suggest that it’s more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one. This means customer loyalty is becoming a crucial element of dealership activities to ensure that their customers keep coming back.
To make sure they’re the first choice for work relating to their vehicles, dealers need to delight their customers at every stage of the purchasing journey. The key is getting the basics right; communicating the right message at the right time, through the required channels, and excelling at customer satisfaction.
The idea is to build a trusted relationship with the customer and provide them with a good standard of customer service across all aspects of the business. The dealer needs to demonstrate that they understand the needs of each individual customer, as well as knowing the history of their vehicle.
When it comes to communication, one size no longer fits all – and the days of contacting customers purely to sell them something are over.
Dealers must be proactive in their approach to communication, ensuring they send relevant, meaningful messages that are targeted to individual customers. This needs to become an integral part of your process; something that is fully integrated in both the sales and aftersales cycles.
Say a customer has purchased a service plan from you. You can tailor your communication around this, for example: “Hi [customer name], we’re just reminding you of your next service.” Or perhaps you could schedule a call for the anniversary of their purchase, to ask if they have been pleased with it so far - extra brownie points if that call comes from the person who sold them the vehicle!
Everything here is building trust, credibility and making sure you have a reason for contacting your customer. Take this a step further by ensuring that you communicate with them on their chosen method, whether that’s email, telephone or SMS, and storing their communication preferences in your CRM.
This is where your DMS becomes a vital tool in your belt, helping to build automated marketing campaigns with defined goals and clear target audiences. And at the end of each campaign, it’s important to monitor how effective it has been: did you deliver the right message, at the right time, and via the right channel? Review the outcomes and keep refining your approach until you can confidently answer, “yes”.
As well as communicating efficiently, you need to evaluate the experience customers have each time they contact your dealership. This doesn’t have to be complicated - it’s about doing the basics well, which is vital to providing a five-star customer experience.
Responsiveness is key to improving the customer experience. So, how responsive is your business when it comes to answering calls and replying to emails?
Firstly, let’s take a look at email and website leads. According to ICDP figures, 72% of customers have looked for another dealer due to a slow email response time. The same number expected a fast response to email and web enquiries, with 43% expecting a response with 1-4 hours.
Today’s customers are demanding, so you need a robust method built into your DMS to manage the process. For example, when a customer makes an online enquiry, they should receive an automated email or SMS thanking them for their interest and informing them that you will be in touch soon, or will send out a brochure.
Once this new lead has been created, the relevant team should be in touch as soon as possible with more information about their vehicle of interest.
Now, let’s look at this from the perspective of making a phone call. We’ve all had that feeling of calling a dealership and being impressed when the person on the other end of the phone greets us by name and makes us feel instantly welcome. They know everything there is to know about us and our vehicle, can see our contact history, and probably already know the reason for our call.
This alone is good service, but it can be made exceptional if the receptionist quickly and effectively manages the call and forwards it to the correct department. All of this gives us as the customer a sense of confidence; we feel valued and that we’ve had a great experience.
Whilst it’s great to take measures such as these, it’s also important to monitor the effectiveness of the process - no-one can afford to lose new or existing customers. Monitor the number of inbound leads, calls created, the outcome of calls and enquiries created. Then, use a DMS to track the direct and indirect revenue that customers are bringing in.
Retaining your customers is important from two perspectives: during the sales process and after the sale takes place. From the sales angle, doing business with the same customer over a long period of time means they are more likely to purchase multiple cars from you, and you can identify their buying cycles. It can also help you to keep on top of trends such finance purchasing and payment prediction models.
After the sale, loyal customers are more likely to make a repeat visit to your dealership. You can encourage this by offering special loyalty discounts when their warranty or service plan is up, for example. Your dealership will reap the rewards of showing customers that you value their loyalty. As well as improving your feedback and CSI scores, your reputation benefits when customers become advocates of your dealership. With customers now relying heavily on peer recommendations and reviews, make sure that people are saying great things about you.
And if something goes wrong? Mistakes and complaints are inevitable; it’s how you deal with them that matters. With a DMS in place, you can act quickly, reporting and resolving the issue before it gets the chance to escalate. The JD Power 2015 CSI Study found that dealers and manufacturers can turn a negative into a positive when managing a difficult situation – if they handle it “in a way that doesn’t inconvenience the customer”. So rather than damaging a positive relationship, a complaint actually gives you the opportunity to reinforce it!
Once you have implemented your communications strategy and the tactics needed to improve, keep reviewing and refining it until both you and your customers are happy.