In my last column I wailed about free or dirt cheap oil changes, no appointments, and ridiculous commitments impossible to meet, which are too often creating the “perfect service storm.” Only this week I witnessed customer after customer entering a medium volume service lane to get their free oil change, while the writers clearly struggled to sell a simple tire rotation. There has to be other effective alternatives for marketing dealer service.
I thought I would share some not particularly special, but different, thinking in tempting the customer to do some “profitable” business with a service and parts operation — swell (where did this dopey word come from?). The next time someone from an Ireland dealership asks me if we (Americans) are stupid (promoting oil changes), I hope to have a different answer.
Everyday low prices
A serious problem created by cheap coupons is the message. “Hey, this is a good deal — yeah. Uhhh, I guess without the coupon, it ain’t.”Don’t take my word, go write some repair orders for customers waving their coupons like a flag in a hurricane, and see how much you can sell beyond the coupon contents. Good luck because you will encounter a stiff upper lip attitude. “I know your little game and I’m not playing.”
The largest retailer in the world shuns coupons like they are the Bubonic Plague. Does Wally World know something we don’t? Would they improve their volume if they adopted a “coupon” marketing mentality?
They have a good and fair price. How do we know that? They freaking tell us over and over — guess it must be so. Why can’t we send the same message to service and parts customers? I think it’s smart to put a large banner in the service lane clearly stating “Hometown Motors — Everyday Low Service & Parts Prices.”
I would place this catchphrase on every marketing piece and on name badges too. Put it in large letters on the shuttle and offer it as a free tattoo to the recon techs. It sounds so much better than “Hometown Motors — Where You Need a Coupon to Get a Good Deal.”
Free loaners for repairs
Any writer with half a brain will tell you he, she, or it would rather handle 15 ROs at two hours a piece, than 30 ROs with a midget hour per. Along with this thought is the showroom traffic, or lack thereof. Vehicles are sold beginning with an actual road test (it has been proven that Internet road testing isn’t squat) and getting vehicle owners into new cars somehow makes sense.
Hmm, attract larger (more hours per RO) customers by offering to let them drive a new vehicle, which they may become interested in buying. Wow! And the sales people could follow up with the customers to get their reaction and maybe sell them a car — or maybe one to their friends or relatives. Could it be possible that selling more works this way?
This idea is so exciting I feel like wearing shorts. Instead of offering individual low gross you-may-or-may-not-need-these measly services; maybe offer meaty packages, bundled together and big enough to subtract overlapping tech time to create a “package” deal.
For example, higher mileage vehicles often require a cooling system, transmission service, brake fluid flush combo for the social security crowd (over 62,000 miles). Why not package them together as an important senior vehicle package. Don’t lie, cheat, or steal (snake oil), but rather create a necessary package needed for vehicle longevity and dependability. How about marketing to the older vehicles? You might remember them, the ones that actually need more than a lousy oil change.
I only brought this up to humor myself. Which marketing guru (used lightly) thought that this was the panacea for creating all the additional work shops need? I will state this: Obviously someone who hasn’t actually worked in today’s new car dealer shop. The fact is the darn engineers designing today’s vehicle are just too good. Besides a few (I mean “few”) brakes, the pickings are sparse on any vehicle less than 75K. I know a few of the manufacturer employees from the crummy 1980s are still out there (i.e. recalls and tech bulletins), but for the most part, today’s vehicles are bulletproof. I personally have been driving a demo since 1978 and besides the tire pressure light, nothing breaks (note to self, put in 36 lbs at prep). Oh, when it comes to a low gross profit margin, nothing beats tires, the newest craze in loser promotions. Ok, inspections great for the over 100k crowd.
Promoting the manufacturer maintenance packages is smart. Fortunately some, not all, manufacturers have finally created maintenance packages good for the customer, the dealer, and the vehicles. In the rest of world (except Canada and Puerto Rico) this vehicle maintenance program is the norm. The oil change is never isolated as an individual service, and every maintenance service is treated as a multi-purpose visit — and everyone wins! As a former master tech and restorer myself I applaud the package concept — we just gotta use it.
Well, I am out of words (tough editor) so that is it for me. I am a little fish in a large sea, but maybe rethink your approach to marketing services. There are actual profitable marketing alternatives waiting to be utilized. Can’t we all just get along? : )