Creating a long-term relationship with each new and used vehicle buyer can be accomplished by utilizing inexpensive fundamentals! Current selling and servicing practices lead customers to believe that any service operation can be used. If there is a more convenient place to get the vehicle serviced near work or home, why should the customer not use it? If a customer asked you that question, how would you answer it?
What are you doing to influence the customer’s service preference from the start? What do you offer that the competition doesn’t?
When your customer visits the competition they are just as happy with their business practices as they are with yours, and in some ways they may be happier, particularly with the location. The issue is not how good you are, it’s how good the competition is, and you can’t compete with their location!
Stop sending your business to the competition in the first place. By utilizing the fundamentals readily available from the vehicle’s manufacturer, you can own the customer from the start….they won’t want to or need to go elsewhere.
Let’s start by exposing key things many dealerships do wrong in the first place.
1. After the sales process, dealer personnel are not aggressively proactive in introducing new customers to an assigned “assistant service manager.” who will be the prime individual responsible for answering their questions and taking care of their service needs. Customers usually find their way to service, and hopefully develop a relationship with a “service advisor” or other meaningless title. In the competition customers usually deal with a very knowledgeable “manager.”
Aftermarket competitor service operations feature the service entrance and even the stalls, predominantly displayed in the front. It is very apparent that service is what they are all about.
2. If dealers have an appointment system, it is usually poorly administrated. Vehicles are lined up and people are ignored because there are too many patrons to help anyone effectively. Customers find themselves wondering how long the line will be before they get to the dealership. Since there is no consistency from visit to visit, why should a customer not go where empty stalls are clearly featured in the front? There’s no wondering about getting handled in that aftermarket scenario.
3. Dealer pricing tends to be take it or leave it. Dealers feature one parts line, and one price to go with it. There are few options offered. Do a little price shopping, and better deals are everywhere. Different circumstances call for diverse pricing selections, but dealer personnel don’t know the options themselves, so how could be offer them?
4. Dealer personnel handling customers are usually non-technical, and their marginal verbal explanations in response to pertinent questions are inadequate in building “value” in the customer’s purchase. J.D. Power and Associates consistently present documentation that shows service customers put more faith in what the aftermarket says than in what dealer personnel say. To back that up, in another recent J.D. Power survey, the amount of “knowledge” the service provider demonstrated was more than twice as important as being friendly!
5. One of the worse things dealers do is push their customers into the testing the aftermarket by telling them their vehicle needs engine oil changes, more often than the manufacturer requires. This is a non-profit, high-expectation quick service, about every 90 days. So, dealers are telling customers to drive into an unknown dealership experience every three months for a 30-minute service. It often takes longer to get to the dealership in today’s traffic jumbles, then to perform the actual service.
How many times is the customer going to go through this painful ritual to have something performed that “anyone can do?” What would you do?
6. Dealer marketing is developing a negative relationship built around coupons, which everyone in the aftermarket offers too. Customer relationship building has to be proactive, not reactive. Coupon mailers, letters, clinics, discounts, extended hours, free car washes, free oil changes, etc, are all reactions to customer loss, with none addressing the fundamental reasons customers leave in the first place. Consequently, customers responding to dealer marketing have to be stimulated over and over at a hefty price.
Consider that the larger volume retail companies in the world do not utilize coupons (Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot), there is obvious merit to other marketing approaches, such as the right place, the right price, anytime, all the time – coupons accomplish just the opposite.
A better way
In the next column I will outline 10 inexpensive fundamentals every dealer can adopt to keep customers coming back to service – profitably.