While consulting with dealerships across the country, I encounter the same handful of questions at every stop. Why are we losing customers? What angers and makes them want to leave, and possibly never come back? There are five main factors that play into how customers perceive businesses, and to be profitable in today’s market each one must be given special consideration. The businesses that cover these factors always prosper, and the ones who do not, have stagnant output and growth.
First and most important is convenience, i.e. hours of operation. Competition is fierce, and there are a multitude of places for customers to take their business. To be convenient means staying open a little bit later and staying open on Saturdays, and maybe even Sundays. The world is busier than ever, and with a shortage of time, the busy people will simply go somewhere else if we are not open when they need us to be. Once a customer leaves, they seldom, if ever, come back. We have to open for business at a time the customer can work with.
Next is something often overlooked, and yet vitally important. More than ever, phone skills are crucial for a successful business. A recent survey called 100 dealerships to investigate their phone etiquette. The results were shameful; 21% of the time we didn’t answer in 5 rings, 26% were put on hold for over 2 minutes, and 47% never even got to speak to a service advisor. We spend more money than any other industry to make our phones ring, and then we don’t even answer and treat the callers properly! We don’t know how to get a name, how to set up an appointment, or how to get customers to come to the store. This is such an easy and effective resource to utilize. We have the internet to help these days, but not having competitive phone skills is a deathblow to the credibility of a business.
Pricing is an obvious factor that must be addressed carefully. Customers shouldn’t think we are too expensive. We have to be really competitive in the most recognized services: oil changes, tires, engine lights etc. As for tire rotations, why would we ever charge for such a thing? Offering rotations for free is a great incentive to offer customers to get them in the door. Offer free initial engine light diagnostics! Customers hate seeing a $100 charge for such a simple operation. Offering good prices, combined with professionalism and exceptional customer service, makes for a great business. When doing math on prices, consider how much will be lost when those customers go somewhere else.
Speed and quality are mainstay core values we must optimize. Fast, clean, and quality oil changes are money in the bank, and customers love getting in and out quickly. Customers want someone to greet them the moment they arrive, and have a streamlined process to get them out the door efficiently. Service advisors should cashier their own service and repair orders to create a connection to the customer. If a service advisor is too busy to connect with his or her customers, hire a new one! We are in the service business and so are your service advisors. Step up and staff up! To grow a business, one must have a growing staff with quality morals and who are properly trained.
Last is something that is disgustingly overlooked in businesses everywhere: Indifference. Customers want to deal with employees who care about them and aren’t just there to draw a paycheck. Customers want to be informed of what they need and when they need it. Call them, text them, or email them and show that their business is appreciated and not forgotten. Serving the customer should seem easy. Offer coffee, shuttles to work, review an invoice, and genuinely thank them every time. We work hard to get our customers, and we should work much harder to keep them coming back.
I have seen dealers who have adjusted to these factors and improved themselves tremendously. These 5 ideals are more vital than I can stress. Use these every day and the competition won’t stand a chance.