There are so many costly gimmicks, ploys, tactics, and calculated maneuvers designed to “reclaim” your service customer base, I lost count at $5K a month. The issue I have with this substantial expenditure is that none of it is used to address the whys and wherefores creating the problem in the first place. If you’re being stabbed, the ultimate solution isn’t more bandages – or am I missing something?
I regularly take the opportunity to interview former and current dealer service customers, usually on long plane rides. So many of their opinions are the same, I can fill in the words before they finish their decree.
I can’t fathom devoted service relationships (both ways) being established and profitably maintained using various media, phone calls from strangers, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or strings on cans. I see the worth with the faceless JC Penneys of the world, but not in the personal world of auto service; although I realize the newest smarty pants generation may not value someone with intimate automotive knowledge since they feel they “Google” anything they want or need to know.
The fundamentals I cherish and have had tremendous success with are personality, process, and price driven. What I like is “effort” with a fat ROI, rather than “investment” with a rather lean return – call me frugal.
1. Sales to service – likely the weakest part of the new and used selling process. I found that by tying sales persons to assigned assistant service managers (writers), then measuring the customer retention of the pair, to be most effective in my quest to get the customer familiar with their new service partner. Of course setting the first “required” maintenance service appointment (in general terms) is an important part of growing the service relationship from infancy to maturity. If it doesn’t start at the gate, it doesn’t start – why gamble with $2,000 worth of maintenance, brakes and tires (the least needs before the trade cycle) – ask for and expect the first visit, including making a call just prior to firm up the day and time (and make it a convenient waiting experience).
2. A Thank you letter from ASM – gets the ball rolling and be sure to address all future correspondence from this individual they will be dependent on, and they have already met face to face at delivery hopefully. Bunches of mailers from the latest unseen service manager, the egomaniac dealer/GM (not you), or some generic minion nourishes nothing – makes a dealership look like the big box which lives and dies on expensive coupons and related bogus up-sales.
3. Required versus recommended – as long as the staff isn’t inventing their own warped versions of maintenance services. Know and teach the manufacturer requirements to protect the customers’ warranty and the dealership’s integrity. I just love the fact that customers can get all and more of their maintenance and appearance reconditioning investment back when they sell their vehicle – provided all of it has been done and documented by the dealership. Look up the difference between a rough and clean book on a four-year-old vehicle for an eye-opener – thousands of dollaro paisa.
4. Validate the vehicle maintenance log – documentation worth a ton of greenbacks later on. Make a validated log important to the customer by explaining its potent worth at trade-in or selling independently. Give me a vehicle to sell with this documentation any day versus the “iffy” crap I have had to buy at auction. Hey, do it and we all win – duh.
5. Establish the next visit – during active delivery. Include everything that will be needed then and related options and costs – be the customers’ automotive financial coach – no surprises. If the vehicle will need tires the next time, the worse time to identify that is the next time – “Why the hell didn’t you tell me that last time so I could budget for it dude – forgetaboutit now?”
6. ASM call after the service visit – to check on the quality of the work – leave a message – just show some care. People like to know that the blokes they handed over their last paycheck too actually cared that they did everything right – wouldn’t you? Collect those brownie points man.
7. ASM call before the next visit – and nail down the date and time – leave nothing to chance. If the relationship has gone sideways (new son-in-law worked at Jiffy two weeks and is fully qualified to take over now), know that and get to work on saving it. Don’t let your faithful customer “service around” – be jealous.
8. Make everyday low prices your theme – and post it everywhere. How many times have you heard someone say, “Hey, they have good prices” – and they heard that from “they.” No rocket science here, you are what you say you are – much of the value quotient is perceived – I know you learned that from selling cars or whatever.
9. Hire personality for customer service – cause everything else can be learned. I was reading a Honda rep’s well-written review of a service drive and he pointed out that no one smiled or welcomed a customer at any point during the time he spent there. Easily fixable with a simple, “Smile or I’ll fire you…” – see how easy that was. Yeah, right.
10. Have the techs call some of their customers – and you just fell on the floor. One of most effective service managers I ever worked with showed me this technique. I was amazed how the techs’ attitude toward the customers was on such a personal and caring level. The facts are that techs are protected from negative (or positive) customer feedback, and it’s normal to become numb to the human relationship regarding vehicle service. A few or 20 cuss words and get this piece of junk out of my stall isn’t an uncommon attitude – I know, been there myself until I opened my own shop – wow, things changed in a hurry.
All you need is love
Accomplish these ten with motivation, planning, elbow grease effort and follow-up. I say stop the spending madness on systems to save what you throw away. Think about it … it’ll come to ya.