In my travels across the United States, I probably stop into three to four dealerships a day. I have had plenty of chances to look at all types of retention, loyalty and branding programs. Most of the people I talk to say retention and loyalty starts with the service department. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard some variation of “sales sells the first time, but service sells all the rest.”
Service has many more opportunities to work with the customer than any other department in the store. That said, I think in general, everyone sees how important it is to design a program to create long-term loyalty and retention.
Many dealerships give their customers lifetime powertrain, lifetime engine or lifetime tires when they buy a car with the hope of transitioning the customer to the service drive. The F&I department sells prepaid maintenance, probably the best thing you can sell a customer to keep him in the service drive, when they purchase a car. Managers offer first oil change free or loaner cars to customers when the customer purchases a car. All of these are incentives the sales department is using to close the sale and to help retain the customer in service.
Which leads me to the question, why is service so dependent on the sales department to develop programs to keep customers in their department? Rarely do I see a service department developing and managing their own program. To the contrary, not only are they not developing their own program but often you hear that they are too busy to even work with the programs that the sales department has set up to assist them. This is an opportunity lost.
Anything the sales department can develop for the customer, the service department can design better. Rewards cards finally seem to be coming of age with multiple factories now mandating that stores use them. Rewards cards are great, but why stop there? Service drive digital marketing can be highly effective and quite easy to set up.
Tying your rewards card and your digital marketing together is a great way to drive traffic. For example, do a digital ad similar to the one at left for oil changes and give 5,000 bonus points for anyone who comes in Tuesday afternoon to have the service done. Double points for anyone who has their service done on Wednesday. The options are endless. The beauty of using rewards points with your digital marketing is the customer comes in the first time and spends money to get the points and then comes back a second time to redeem them.
All stores have a customer website and some even have a customer app. The problem for service is the focus of most websites is to sell cars and provide the customer with other information. Service should develop their own website, or better yet, design a personalized site for every customer. The customer will be much more engaged if you route your digital marketing direct to their site, provide a quick reference to how many points they have available, review their service history and other information that is pertinent to the service experience.
While you’re at it, why not have a service app? Most customers don’t use the store app because they are just designed to mimic the website. A good service app could be so much more. You could provide the customer with a means to check their rewards points plus all your digital marketing could go right to their phone. Redeem your points on the app, geo fencing, notifications could be sent for oil changes and other routine services. Most of these programs are easy to set up and are not time consuming for the service writers.
Let technology work for you. Customers want to be engaged with the people they do business with. Service needs to develop programs that create this engagement. All the things I have just mentioned will help you reach out to every customer on a regular basis. Don’t let others create retention for you, control the process and you’ll control the results.
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