Competition to attract car buyers is as great today as in any other time. Transparent lead providers are arming price shoppers with all the information they need to squeeze almost all the profit from car deals. Car buyers have plenty of dealers to choose from when shopping for a new car, so what makes them decide to buy from you? There are car buyers out there who are looking for more than just the lowest price. Many want greater value and a relationship with a dealer that will help them maintain a safe and great-looking vehicle.

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Steve Zazove is the dealer principal and Jack Butler is the service manager at Howard Auto Group in Elmhurst, Illinois. They have created a retention program that builds long-lasting customer relationships by helping his customers keep their cars and trucks looking great. “We offer a free exterior paint protection and polish twice a year to every new and pre-owned customer,” Butler said. “The way the car looks when it comes out of the machine, it looks brand new.

“The sales department uses the twice a year paint protection and polishing as a closing tool,” Butler said. “It is something we do that the guy across the street doesn’t. We let every customer know that we are going to polish their car twice a year and their car will look great.”

Jack has been able to retain customers for both sales and service by offering a valuable service to his customers free of charge. The law of reciprocity makes his customers happy to return the favor and be loyal to Howard Buick GMC.

Every new and pre-owned vehicle the Howard Auto Group sells gets treated with a protective sealant that prevents environmental damage to the finish. Each customer is invited in twice per year to have the protection reapplied by the service department’s automated paint protection and polishing machine. “We wash every car that comes into service,” Butler said. “It is a great CSI tool for us. Lots of dealers wash the cars; we do a better job than most of them. Our porters clean the cars and make every car look great.

“Let’s face it, when you are driving down the street in March and your car is the only clean one on the road, you feel great,” Butler said.

As sales of new vehicles start to slow, dealers need to wrap their arms around their customer bases and hold onto the business they have already earned. Happy customers come back to service and buy again and again. They also provide you with referrals. Repeat and referral business is more profitable and much easier on your staff. Retention programs are the best way to do this. Whether you decide to use cookies, community meals, cards and calls, a car-polishing machine or something else,
it is important to be aware of the need for a retention program.


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