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Cultivating the Customer Experience

Commonwealth Auto Group Increases Net Profits by 20% YOY

Like many dealership leaders across the country, Charles Daher Jr. grew up in the family business. He worked his way up the ranks of Commonwealth Motors in Lawrence, MA, by cleaning cars, fixing dealership lots and selling vehicles any chance he could get. After graduating from college, his passion continued as he transitioned into sales and service management positions. 

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Commonwealth Motors started in 1991 by Daher’s father Charlie, who, over the past 30 years has grown the business to include five franchises — Chevrolet, Honda, Kia, Nissan and Volkswagen — along with a business development center, serving communities throughout Northeastern Massachusetts.

Today, one of the group’s biggest challenges is their location. Lawrence isn’t known for its affluence or attractions, making it crucial to connect with customers in surrounding areas, such as Boston commuters and residents of neighboring cities. Because of their location, they found a blanket approach to their marketing efforts ineffective and realized they needed a more dynamic strategy to reach their target audiences. The Dahers decided to partner with Team Velocity to help them implement a winning strategy focused on data and a personalized customer experience. 

“With Team Velocity, we’ve homed in on where customers come from, their needs and constraints, and it’s made all the difference for us in terms of our marketing,” Daher said. Since then we’ve been able to even better serve a town that has been so good to us, while acquiring additional business from neighboring towns to help stimulate the local economy while driving highline profitability for the dealership.”

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Daher and his BDC manager, Lamar McLaughlin, turned to Team Velocity and their robust customer experience platform, Apollo, to provide each customer with their own unique and relevant shopping experience, no matter what stage of the purchasing funnel they are in.

“Our focus has always been about trying to cultivate our own customers — keep them here and engaged, but we didn’t have the best tools to do it or the one tool that could do all of it — until now,” McLaughlin said. 

With Apollo’s state-of-the-art website product, Apollo Sites, the Commonwealth dealerships provide every customer with an Amazon Prime-like experience through a personal website dynamically customized to their unique shopping history and purchasing patterns. Customers can access their personal website with a quick sign-in feature. From there they can view their customized upgrade offers, service coupons, vehicle history and even trade-in value using Apollo’s built-in equity mining solutions. With a click of a button, customers can even schedule their next service appointment and opt for a vehicle appraisal, without the need for additional plugins or widgets to the website. 

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“The websites literally sit on top of our DMS, so every customer has their own unique shopping experience,” Daher explained. “When they log into the site, no matter when they go back, it tells them exactly when their car is due for service or their eligibility for an upgrade, which is a huge advantage for us in this competitive market.”

Since partnering with Team Velocity and focusing on delivering a personalized customer experience, Commonwealth Auto Group has increased net profitability by 20% YOY while reducing overall costs and marketing spend.

Incorporating Team Velocity’s integrated technology has helped Commonwealth Motors stay competitive, attract and retain more customers, but focusing on building a strong relationship with the customer continues to be the center of their philosophy. 

“The family-owned aspect has a lot to do with the success of our business because it’s all about relationships,” McLaughlin said. “People have been cooped up in their houses for a long time. We’ve encountered people who come in and really just want to talk and have a genuine conversation. And that’s where it should start; you have a conversation with someone, find out what’s important to them and get back to the basics. A lot of times, if you establish a relationship with someone, it’s no longer about the money or the transaction. What we’re finding is people will spend the money where they see the value and it’s not necessarily just the price of the car, but the relationship they build — a relationship they envision having with dealership throughout the life their car.” 

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With waiting rooms closed and social distancing policies in effect, giving customers the tools and services to interact with your business with little or no contact can help them feel more comfortable in considering any service, whether it’s an upgrade, a trade-in or a service transaction. 

Making customers feel at ease has paid off in dividends. “Customers don’t want to go somewhere they don’t feel comfortable,” Daher said. “It’s a scary world right now. Our customers know that we are taking all the necessary precautions and doing the right thing, so they want to stay here and remain loyal.”

To pull in new and existing customers, the dealerships focus on local prospects, hitting them with targeted and customized digital, video and direct mail marketing initiatives to keep the Commonwealth Motors name top of mind. 

“With Team Velocity, we’re delivering targeted ads with specific offers catered to the customer’s exact needs, which is something we didn’t do before,” Daher said. “Previously, we only used generic blanket ads that focused on the group rather than a specific vehicle and offer, and it generated little to no traffic. I think selling the actual brand and focusing on specific and personalized offers has increased business tenfold and brought our customers even closer to us.”

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“We’re focused on lifetime value customers,” Daher said. “We’re not necessarily looking for a one-time buy or a one-time service transaction, where we never see them again. We’re focused on building personalized customer experiences and relationships that last. A full cycle, so to speak, where they buy, service, refer and repeat the process all over again on their next purchased vehicle.”  

“My dad is always pushing to get the repeat referral,” Daher said. “He always says, ‘Keep them happy in service. They’ll come back to buy a car.’ We strive for that with our service and sales employees. Everyone needs to work together because if one doesn’t succeed, the other won’t either. Now more than ever, every transaction, conversation and interaction that happens with a dealership can make all the difference.”

Cultivating loyal customers is at the heart of every successful dealership’s objectives. Marketing technology makes it possible to create a personalized experience for each customer, increasing their likelihood of returning for service and their next vehicle purchase — as well as recommending your dealership to friends and family.

For more information on Commonwealth Auto Group, visit shopuslast.com or for more information on Team Velocity, visit teamvelocitymarketing.com.

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