The best way to gain and retain customers is by providing services that other dealerships won’t, and making sure that the customers know you value their business. Happy customers not only continue to do business with you, but will often pay more if they value the relationship. In my years in the car business, I’ve seen a trend in customer satisfaction proven out time and again: The people who pay more are generally happier and the people who negotiate the best deals are usually not as happy. Happiness and satisfaction are based on the customer’s perceived value of your dealership and services, and perception is reality.
Last month, we went over ways your dealership can change customer perception by making the most of online reviews and enhancing your dealership’s value proposition. This time, I’ll conclude by examining other ways to build your dealership up in the eyes of your customers.
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First, let’s talk about advertising campaigns. I am a big fan of customer testimonials. We use it on television, radio and social media. It works well for us — so well, in fact, that we actually have customers who reach out to us about wanting to be in the next spot our dealership will put together. It gives consumers who are considering doing business with you the validation that you are the right choice. I think the general consensus in the automotive industry is that customers are focused on price. While that is true to some degree, they are more concerned with service, reputation and community involvement. Consumers — not all, but most — want to do business with a dealership that has happy employees, happy customers and gives back. Let them know that’s you.
If television commercials and radio spots aren’t in the budget, that’s OK. You can shoot videos on most handheld devices nowadays — just make sure you get a release from the participants. Once you have that video, you can use them on your Website, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and even imbed them in emails to previous customers and prospects with a “Why Buy From Us” message. You can also e-mail them to customers who have purchased and not serviced with you, or serviced but not purchased from you. You could title that email “Why Do Business Here.” Remember, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
Another thing you can do is get involved with local charity organizations or schools. Most new vehicle franchises have some type of match program for certain charities or even a charity of your choice. You can contribute financially or, if that’s not an option, you can donate time and resources. Pick a group or groups that you feel have a significant impact on the overall health and wellbeing of your town and give, give, give. I would suggest creating a mutually beneficial partnership where both your dealership and the charity benefit. They should allow you to use their logo and maybe even appear on a television, radio or Internet spot. A lot of times you can even get some free air time from local news agencies or radio stations if you’re hosting an event for a particular charity like a food drive, toy drive, pet adoption day or even a high school carwash, depending on how slow the news is that day.
I was at a meeting recently and was discussing charities and the role they play in my brand image campaign when another dealership mentioned that they “didn’t want to brag.” Huh? It’s not “bragging”; people want to know. In fact, in most cases, that information will be a major deciding factor and can definitely sway the decision to spend a little more money with you than a competitor because the customer appreciates what you do. It’s a win-win. If you help enough other people get what they want, you’ll get everything you want.
If you can implement these ideas into your company’s culture and processes, you will be more successful. Keep in mind, however, that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it may take a little time for this to take root and impact your operations on a significant level. I have been practicing what I’m preaching for the past two years and it’s really made a difference — not just at the dealership but with each of the organizations we sponsor, each of the customers who are treated well and each of the employees who are experiencing the rewards of a successful business. You will have happier employees, happier customers and a thankful community.