In the dealership industry, we do two things, ultimately. We sell cars and we service cars. Everything beyond that is the customers’ perception which is what your store’s reputation is built upon.
As noted in the previous article, women request 65% of the service work done at dealerships and spend 50% more than men. Therefore, logic dictates that this is a market every store should aggressively pursue.
The first step in any business relationship is introduction. The customer has to know you want their business and that you are willing to accommodate their needs.
One effective way is to gain access to the other businesses that are frequented by the demographic group you are pursuing. Word of mouth is the most effective advertising any business can hope for. Studies show that if ten customers have a good experience, only one customer will relay that experience to one other person. However, if ten customers have a bad experience, seven out of those ten will relay that experience to approximately ten others each. That boils down to ten great experiences = one reference whereas ten bad experiences will yield seventy poor references. Clearly, we have to work harder to cultivate the positive references while minimizing poor experiences.
Let’s face it, women love to talk (we do, it’s a fact). An often quoted source as proof of this piece of information comes from “The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine, which states that men speak 7000 words per day in comparison to 20,000 words per day for women. This number has been the source of great controversy. According to the International Journal of Corpus Linguistics: 2 (1) pp 133-152, their study reveals 8805 words per day for women and 6073 words per day for men. Regardless of the exact amount, supporting evidence indicates women do, in fact, speak more words per day than men. So, how do we get these ladies to speak about your facility in a favorable way?
The first step is to introduce your dealership into their world. One excellent way of doing this is to connect with the businesses they already use. For example, one dealership held an expo for the local female-owned businesses at their store as an after hours event. They invited several local female business owners to use their showroom as an expo center, had it catered (beautifully, I might add) and each business set up a booth to display their products and services. The evening brought in approximately 25 local businesses and was a tremendous success for networking among the businesses and their clientele. Although the focus was not on selling or servicing cars, this event laid the groundwork for favorable talk among these businesses and their customers. When one of their customers is chatting with her hair stylist (who attended the expo) about needing a new car or getting her current vehicle repaired, there is already a built in reference for that stylist to provide to her client, due in large part to her positive experience with the dealership.
Another statistic to keep in mind is that women are apt to recommend ten times more often than men. We recommend based on experience or references from trusted sources. There is solidarity among women. We travel in packs. (Ever see a woman go to the restroom without a companion? There’s the evidence.) Establishing your dealership as a female-friendly environment goes beyond the introduction. You have to back up the introduction with positive experiences and get away from the old image of dealerships as dingy, garage type, good old boy places that are just waiting to take advantage of the uneducated (about their vehicle) female.
Here’s where you have the opportunity to knock down some of the hurdles that may be preventing your dealership from being dubbed “female friendly”. Many women feel that being less than knowledgeable about their vehicle puts them at a disadvantage when going to a dealer for service. They automatically feel that they will be taken advantage of, overcharged or sold something they simply don’t need. One way to remove that hurdle is to host a car care clinic for new owners. It does not have to be gender specific, however in my experience; the typical attendance to such events is about 70% women. This event is hosted in the service department, usually once every few months depending upon sales volume, with a service advisor and technician, after hours or on a Saturday, and lasts about an hour to an hour and a half. The service advisor goes over the vehicle’s maintenance requirements, dealership hours, appointment procedure, etc. The technician should have a vehicle on a hoist and demonstrates how to check the fluids, change a tire, what the warning lights mean and a brief explanation on various features on the vehicle. A package should be prepared to give each attendee. Each package should include the advisor’s business card, an early bird/night drop envelope, copy of the maintenance schedule, a business card for a local tow company and an instructional check list for what to do in case you’re involved in an accident. Presenting this package demonstrates to customers that we are concerned for their well-being and take an active role in their ownership experience. By doing so, it also instills a sense of empowerment, as any gained knowledge does. It also provides an opportunity for the advisor to pre-set the customer’s first service appointment. Once the appointment is made (even if it’s for a month or two away), the customer has a sense of obligation to keep that appointment. I would recommend having a follow-up call system in place to remind the customer of the appointment a week in advance and offer a reschedule if the initial appointment is inconvenient.
By promoting your dealership as a female friendly facility, you are sending a message of progressive business practices and you are cultivating a long-ignored demographic. Let’s get these ladies talking about your store!
The “Female Factor” series will continue in future newsletters. If there are any issues you would like to see addressed, please contact me.