The internet has partially severed the link between dealership and customer.
With car buyers carrying out the majority of their research online, the opportunity for the dealership to grab them at the front door has diminished.
Now it’s more about how good your website is and how you react to email enquiries; once anyone crosses the threshold they are already a long way down the buying route.
They still need converting, of course, but with customers shopping around online instead of on-site at the dealership, the chances to convert are fewer.
Capgemini reported that customer loyalty to UK dealers fell from 46% in 2005 to 32% two years later largely due to the impact of the internet.
It’s even more imperative, therefore, that retailers offer their customers an enjoyable experience whether buying or taking the car for service or repair.
It’s about maximising every opportunity when you do see the customer – to keep them coming back for more.
Great customer service will not automatically translate into re-purchase, although that can certainly happen.
The best most dealers can hope for is to be added to the customer’s shopping list for their next purchase, whether car or service.
Customer service should be viewed as a chance to make the next sell; if the customer gives you that chance then it’s up to the dealers to make the most of it.
How do you get outstanding customer service?
The answer’s easy; have outstanding staff who follow outstanding processes.
Take the views of Mark Lavery, chief executive at Cambria Automobiles.
He believes having the right staff that are correctly trained leads to world class customer loyalty.
Lavery introduced a ‘guest delight’ programme to his business which included mentoring staff with corporate philosophy meetings and developing a one to one customer relationship strategy.
He says: “Celebrate success, but when things are wrong you have to admit it and find a way to figure out what you need to do to turn things around.
“If you do go wrong all you have to ask is for one chance to get it right.
"The single biggest restriction to our own growth is ourselves and what we except.”
He calls customers his guests and staff his associates and the business operates without a head office and doesn’t have tiers of management.
“Each associate should have the autonomy to make decisions that affect the running of the business and it’s important employers make it possible for their associates to achieve their ambitions,” Lavery says.
“If your associates feel empowered they will be happy to go that one step further for you in providing world class service to customers and willing to exceed expectations.”
The most important area of business that determines long-term customer loyalty is the aftersales department.
It’s often said that the sales department sells the first car; the aftersales department sells the next one.
Aftersales has the ability to make the customer feel valued by serving their needs but it’s crucial to maintain contact.
Pre-empting servicing or repairs by identifying future work through vehicle health checks will enable the aftersales department to set alerts via the dealer management system to follow up the customer at the right time.
Keep the car owner as a service customer and there’s a better chance of selling them their next car.
- Learn more about Car Care Plan.