Customer retention has been a buzz-phrase in the automotive industry for quite some time now. Customer retention is essentially the ability of a company to retain its customers over a period of time. Customer retention is a percentage that measures how many customers a company keeps at the end of a specific time period. The number is impacted by the number of new customers acquired and the number of customers who “churn” or leave the database.
Just as “maintenance is cheaper than repair” customers are much more economical to KEEP rather than having to attract more. Retained customers are not only more affordable, they can provide a better ROI, are generally more loyal and also send referrals. Here are a few simple and effective ways to improve customer retention in your Service Drive.
1. Set expectations early and often.
If you don’t set expectations and communicate these clearly, customers can easily become upset. The way you communicate these expectations is key. Always overestimate the actual time estimate and, especially for waiters, mark it on your watch, that way a customer who has been waiting can see how much time is left in your estimate. Remember, sitting in a waiting room for 20 minutes seems like an hour! Make a PROACTIVE status call, there is nothing worse for killing the “mood” than forcing your customer to call for information. Furthermore, when they do call they will not be as open to being upsold additional needed services.
Understanding these points of view and communicating deadlines, progress toward goals, what’s included in a job, your process, your communication style, etc., is essential for making sure expectations are met. This, in turn, will keep customers happy within the relationship, longer.
2. Ask for criticism and take action!
You can’t improve customer retention without first understanding why customers leave. Once you know the reasons and the correlating signs, you can work to prevent customer churn by proactively dealing with issues. Factory surveys can seem very one-sided because only the problems get exposed and not all of the “good” experiences. Don’t get discouraged, make SURE you ask your HAPPY customers for a “PERFECT” survey to offset the naturally occurring poor surveys. Do, however, pay attention to the bad survey results and do your level best to correct any issues YOU can control.
3. Don’t take their next trip to you for granted!
Once you have done an outstanding job taking care of a customer, let’s not leave it to chance they return! Here are a few “musts” with every customer, every time
4. Make sure they know YOU! Your name, your email address, your best phone number. People are looking for “that girl/guy” they can depend on when it comes to service and repair for their vehicle. Make sure they have your business card and send them a PERSONAL thank you email or letter as a reminder.
5. Set the customers NEXT appointment/reservation reminder. This is where a lot of Dealers miss out. In order to retain as many customers as possible we need to set and remind people of their next appointment. Trouble is, if you ask them, a customer will usually decline setting the next appointment because they “don’t know exactly when they will get to 5,000 miles”. The best tactic is to TELL them when their appointment reminder will be with a statement and a reminder card. The BDC (Or Advisor individually) should receive a copy of every RO after close, inspect the history and set an appointment accordingly. 2 weeks before, the BDC (Or Advisor individually) should call and confirm and reschedule as needed. Then 2 days before call again and send an email reminder.
6. Follow up with postponed services. Statistically, and for a host of legitimate reasons, most people do not buy the first time they are asked. By providing a postponed service follow up we are able to impress on folks just how concerned we are with keeping their car in top shape and remind them of their needs consistently. Most people will buy on a second or third reminder BUT definitely may not if you don’t remind them OR WORST YET offer a DIFFERENT service than what you told them they needed before. Make sure you utilize your follow up on codes and reminder systems to keep track.
These quick and easy tips will make a huge impact at your Dealership when used religiously. Introduce these methods and ensure they are followed to the “T” and watch your customer retention improve each month!