Customer retention has been a major focus of the automotive industry over the past few years. Dealerships and the manufacturers have come to the understanding that if they are going to thrive in the market they need to keep the customers they have. The challenge is that our customers have more options now than ever before when it comes time to getting service on their vehicles.
So how do we keep them coming back, time after time? It takes more than providing a quality customer experience. We need to make it easy for them to be our customers. We must take notice that customers place an extremely high value on their effort and time, and find ways to make the process more convenient for them.
Many of the companies that excel in making it easy for people to do business with them are household names. Google is a money machine because it makes searching the web a piece of cake. Apple prints cash and has raving fans as customers because its products revolve around making it easy for people to use them. Renting from National is a breeze because they figured out a way to allow people to avoid waiting in line to get a car. Amazon is on its way to making its founder and CEO the richest person in the world because it will sell you almost anything you want while you sit on the couch.
So our challenge is how to recreate this low effort customer experience in the dealership service department environment. Getting it done will require some serious changes to how things are done. There will be no place for an attitude of “that’s how we’ve always done it” if we are to be successful. Here are some ideas on how to be an easy dealership to do business with.
- Make decisions that help the customer win
Time is the single most valuable resource we have. When it’s wasted there is no way to get it back or buy more. We can’t save time, just spend less of it. It is this reason why it’s so critical that we help our customers win by helping them spend less of their valuable time with us.
We must also be exceptionally responsive to customer requests if we want to help them feel like they are getting a win from doing business with us. We must have a process and people dedicated to responding to their concerns with lightning speed. We proactively and reactively spend our time so they don’t have to spend theirs waiting for us or finding another service provider. If we can’t get a customer a quick response to their questions, we should seek out the answers and get back to them over the phone or through their preferred method of interaction, rather than keeping them waiting needlessly.
- Strip out the inefficiencies
Take a look at what the choke points are in the customer experience, where things slow down and take time but don’t add value to the customer. Some of the biggest opportunities are at the time of drop-off and pick-up. I often see customers arriving for service and having to wait to talk with someone or when they do talk with them the dealership isn’t prepared. The same happens when they are coming in to pick up their vehicles after service is completed.
Preparation and process will help to minimize the inefficiencies in the customer’s experience with your service department. Keeping the dealership well-staffed is essential during the more heavy times of the week. The service department has to be trained to handle its customers efficiently and emphasis sometimes needs to be placed on speed.
- Focus on building a relationship that works with the customer’s needs
Knowing and reading your customer is a job we must take very seriously. There are some customers that will want to spend more time talking about repairs and pricing.
We will retain more customers when we forge an emotional connection between them and the dealership that is desirable for them. Perception is reality in their eyes. It’s important to know what kind of customer they are and give them options.
Never argue about the little details – let the customer win. If they have a coupon that’s slightly expired, what is the harm in taking it to keep the customer happy? Focus on the big picture and the value of that customer over the long-term.
It’s important to let our more tech savvy customers know about the ways we can make it easier for them. Over time this group of customers will become the overwhelming majority so get ahead of the curve now and start making your service department the most convenient option they have.
Written by Adam Wright