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Get It Right the First Time… You May Not Get a Second Chance!

January 26, 2016

Get It Right the First Time… You May Not Get a Second Chance!Trying to please today’s automotive service customers, in a tough economic marketplace, is a full time endeavor for most dealers. Service customers are becoming increasingly more fickle, wanting more products and services for less money. Today’s consumers are increasingly more impatient and demand faster, more responsive customer service. With these types of consumer demands, dealership customer loyalty is more of the exception than the norm. In fact, consumers are defecting to competitors based on their last experience with a dealership. Some reasons include an unsatisfactory visit, a poorly handled phone call, or a conflicting and/or confusing marketing message, resulting in an ongoing battle for every Service Manager to keep customers loyal.

The Current Dilemma with Retention
Not only are today’s automotive service customers demanding fast and responsive service for their vehicles, but there is also an abundance of vehicle service options, resulting in defection to a competitor. Anyone who has spent any time in the automotive industry understands that competition in the vehicle service arena is fierce. Many consumers equate vehicle maintenance to commodity level events, with the belief that “any service center” can maintain their vehicle, resulting in consumers picking the service center with the lowest price or most convenience options.  

For most consumers, having their vehicle serviced is not a priority in their everyday lives. The truth is, most consumers don’t worry about having their vehicle serviced or stress about being overdue for vehicle service. In reality, there are two basic events that prompt a consumer’s decision to have service performed on their vehicle:

  1. A problem with their vehicle or a red light appearing on their vehicle’s dashboard.
  2. A service reminder that communicates a time or mileage maintenance need with an offer.

Since there is not a specific timing interval for vehicle problems, the first event above requires your dealership to be top-of-mind for the consumer when things go wrong. In the second, and most frequently occurring event, dealers must understand their customers’ needs and deliver a meaningful maintenance reminder communication to get them to act and respond.

Segment Customers to Understand Buying Habits
In order to deliver meaningful communications to service customers, you must first understand the genetic make-up of your service database. There are four basic segments of service customers who are driven by their unique buying habits – frequency of visit and dollars spent per RO. These four segments are:

  1. Most Loyal Customers – These customers visit your Service Department regularly for routine maintenance and spend a lot of money. These customers do not typically require a discount to prompt them for service.
  2. Major Service Customers – These customers are visiting your Service Department fewer times per year, but spend the most money per visit. They are visiting your Service Department for major services only and are going elsewhere for minor maintenances. These customers can be motivated to return more often with reminder communications and discounts for minor services.
  3. New Vehicle Owners– These customers visit your Service Department often, but do not spend a lot of money per visit. They are in need of loyalty conditioning to regularly return to your dealership for service work. This can be achieved with consistent offers and communications to motivate them to return.
  4. Lost Souls/Defectors– These customers do not spend a lot of money, nor do they visit your Service Department regularly. They are not loyal to any dealership or service facility and require regular communications with creative offers and discounts to be re-engaged.

By breaking down your service database into these four segments, you can begin to effectively target customers by their individual buying habits and deliver more meaningful content and offers to build loyalty. Remember the two metrics you want to use as a gauge are frequency of visits to your Service Department (how many times the consumer visits in a year) and dollars spent per RO (the customer and warranty pay amounts for these visits).

Know your customers… earn their business! If you do not know your customers, their needs, wants, purchasing behaviors, and driving habits, how do you effectively communicate or interact with them? It’s simple, you can’t. With the amount of data at your fingertips, you are able to know everything you need to effectively communicate with each and every customer.

Dealership Loyalty is Key
The only way to truly create loyal customers is by making all experiences and interactions with your dealership positive. If customers have, or perceive to have, a good experience with your dealership, then they will come back to you time and time again, creating loyalty.

Most dealers would agree that they rarely get a second chance to make a great first impression and to create profitable, long-term customer relationships; they have to “get it right the first time.” Each and every interaction or communication with a customer, regardless of the length of your dealership’s relationship with that customer, should be treated as a “first impression opportunity”. By doing so, you’ll consistently leave a positive lasting impression on customers and earn additional loyalty.

Too often dealerships fail at what consumers consider the “basics” of customer service. Dealerships who have an inconsistent or poor customer contact process are leaving an unfavorable lasting impression on customers, sometimes without even knowing it. Customers are inherently ingrained with the memory of the last experience they had with a business, which ultimately influences their loyalty to that particular business. This is why dealers must always strive to make every interaction with customers a “first impression opportunity” to influence their future purchasing behaviors and decisions.

The Solution: Outsource Customer Marketing and Interaction Processes
First, let me start by explaining what an outsourced customer marketing and interaction process is. Clearly defined, it is the consistent, automated, timely delivery of communications to customers to ensure your dealership is top-of-mind and alert them to ongoing vehicle maintenance needs based on their specific buying habits.

Typically, a customer marketing and interaction process is designed to help dealers communicate better with their most valuable asset – their customers. Here are important key performance items that these programs should do for your dealership:

  • Perform data hygiene management of your DMS records, including, but not limited to, change of address updates, email appends, and updates to data entry mistakes.
  • Utilize multiple communication channels or methods of delivery, including, but not limited to, live call, pre-recorded voice messaging, direct mail, email, and text messaging.
  • Provide unlimited sends for digital campaigns to reduce the costs associated with more traditional media.
  • Provide access to real-time delivery reports, dashboard KPI metrics, and return on investment reporting to provide visibility to campaign effectiveness.
  • Create easy-to-use, customized, relevant campaigns so you deliver the right message, at the right time, through the right communication channel, to the right person!
  • Build a flexible program so the solution fits your dealership’s unique goals, processes, and OEM requirements. This way you only pay for what your dealership needs.
  • Automate your dealership’s customer marketing process – “set it and forget it!” Use triggered events within your dealership’s DMS, such as last purchase date and last service date, to deliver meaningful and timely messaging to customers.
  • Receive bi-monthly or quarterly onsite support and review visits from a dedicated representative to ensure you’re getting the most out of the program.

The most effective customer marketing and interaction programs address all dealership communication challenges and limitations by delivering automated, customized messages to dealership customers. They also leverage the dealership’s business logic to maintain ongoing contact with each customer to deliver the right message, at the right time, to the right customer, through the right communication channel.These programs use dealership-specific messaging that is consistent, timely, relevant, and that enhances the quality of the customer communication and interaction experience.

There are many benefits that a dealership can receive by outsourcing their customer marketing and interaction process. Some receive the ability to deliver customer communications through a multitude of channels. Others save employees’ time and increase efficiencies by managing customer follow-up outside the dealership. While others have one less thing to worry about and rest assured knowing that a process is in place to manage customer marketing and interactions.

By understanding your customers’ specific needs and buying habits, you can effectively earn loyalty, and most importantly, keep their business. The key to dealership loyalty, especially in the Service Department, is to have a dedicated customer marketing and interaction process in place to ensure you are effectively interacting and communicating with your customers…

…when they are ready to communicate and interact with you!

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