Where Did All Our Customers Go?

Jim Welch NewsletterWhere Did All Our Customers Go?

Let me answer the question first: They have been defecting to the aftermarket service providers for years, decades even. Looking back at the stores I have worked with just this year, 9 out of 10 are experiencing a steady decline in repair order counts, both in customer pay and warranty. Let’s examine just a few of the reasons our customers have left your dealership for the aftermarket service provider, and it’s not just about the price of an oil change.

  • No sales to service hand off process, or one that is rarely followed
    The dealership has spent a lot of money to attack new customers, only to fail in the introduction to the service staff. Have a process in place to introduce them to a service consultant. Provide them with a business card along with a brochure that includes the first free oil change coupon and your everyday competitively priced oil change clearly displayed and get the first appointment made.
  • Closed Saturdays!?
    I am amazed at the amount of service departments that are closed on Saturdays. I’ve even had a manager tell me his reason for not being open was that none of the other dealership in his area are open Saturdays. Be a leader, not a follower! This continues to be an area where most dealers who are open, fail to communicate them to their customers or do a poor job of scheduling Saturday service. In most markets I visit, the aftermarket service provider is even open on Sunday.
  • Hours of operation
    This is a customer-driven industry and needs to be treated as such. Your customers are getting their maintenance, and repairs performed when it is convenient for them. Have evening hours throughout the week to accommodate their busy schedule. The days of your customers working 8am-5pm are long gone in most cases.
  • Scheduling an appointment
    When your customer calls to make an appointment, are they given a time and date that’s convenient for you, or is the service advisor asking the question, what day and time works for you? Take a moment and listen to the service advisors or appointment coordinator while they are making an appointment to see if they are following your process. Are all the appointments being scheduled for first thing in the morning, making your customers,” wait only to be rushed through the write-up process? Appointment scheduling needs to allow the service advisor to spend quality time with the customer and present needed services.
  • Encounter with an indifferent employee
    I saved the best or worst for last, depending on how you look at it. We may have done everything right, completed the service or repair on time, washed and vacuumed their vehicle, provided a loaner car, exceeded every expectation, only to have one employee who exhibits an ”I don’t care” attitude. This could come from just about anyone within the dealership, the shuttle driver, porter, anyone.

The necessity to focus on customer retention could not be greater. The need to treat every customer as valued guests starts at the top. Dealers and General Managers need to take the lead; the time to act is now. Schedule meetings with all the staff and communicate the importance of customer retention. Meet with your managers on a regular basis to review your customer retention numbers, nearly every manufacturer provides this valuable information. We’re living in a customer service based world and it is important to implement customer service that exceeds expectation to improve and drive your customer retention numbers.


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