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Sewells best practise: Service marketing still sadly lacking

Franchised dealers have increased their share of the service market from a low point of 34% in 1998 and are now running at more than 40% by value. Quite a turnaround in a short time.

One reason is three-year new car warranties, which have also gifted franchised dealers more warranty repairs. Another is record new car sales leading to an equally record number of cars up to four years old – franchised dealers’ main service customers. Sadly, we can’t report improved service marketing by franchised dealers as yet another reason.

Marketing is all about customers and they fall neatly into three types. First, there are those you know – mainly existing customers. The second kind is ‘customers they know’, potential referrals like friends and relatives of existing customers. The third kind is ‘customers you don’t know.’

They are difficult and expensive to find but, on the other hand, the first two types are relatively easy and cheap to find and many franchised dealers utilise direct mail to get their message across to them.

For aftersales, this generally means service and MoT reminders. However, reminders only work if they are sent out and reach the intended recipient and this is all too often not the case.

For example, a Japanese vehicle manufacturer starting to build its new branded aftersales offer looked at customer databases held by its dealers and the effectiveness of service and MoT reminders. It found that half of service and MoT reminders were never actually sent out and that over a quarter that were sent out never reached their target because customer information was incorrect or incomplete.

Of course, many franchised dealers’ service departments are working at full capacity so spending thousands of pounds on improving customer databases and direct mail might seem like a waste of money.

All we can say is that there is always a point in drumming up more business, and keeping it. If new car sales fall away, the affect will soon be felt in the service department and then you will need the ‘customers you know’.

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