The importance of aftersales is growing. According to the Cap Gemini Cars Online Report 2011/12, it’s now the fourth biggest consideration for car buyers, up from seventh in the previous year.
Promoting aftersales to the new car customer is easy, writes Richard Yarrow.
Simply walk them across the showroom before they drive away, introduce the service manager, emphasise he or she is the person they will be dealing with next time on service maintenance and repair issues (SMR), and make a joke about it hopefully not being too soon.
But getting them to remember that 12 months later is the hard part, and the risk of losing their business increases once the warranty or service plan has run out.
In light of sluggish new car sales, having an active, structured and regularly reviewed SMR promotional strategy is becoming more and more important.
Marketing agency GForces states 80% of revenue comes from car sales, but 80% of profit is from aftersales.
Dealers need to know what initiatives get the best results with their customers.
Chris Kidd, general manager of Gateway Peugeot, Crewe, said: “You used to send a letter and people came in, but it’s not like that anymore.
The biggest problem is one size doesn’t fit all.
Older people expect a letter or postcard, younger customers like a text, others prefer email.”
The customer database is the most valuable weapon in the arsenal and needs to be made to work hard. But effective marketing relies on clean data.
Robert Forrester, chief executive of Vertu Motors, explained: “We centralise aftersales marketing across the group, but what we need the dealers to do is manage the database quality.
"Have we got more than one telephone number? Have we got an accurate email address? That’s why we KPI them on it and they do it pretty well because they understand the importance. But if you let up on it, it drifts backwards.”
Andrew Ballard, product and propositions director for information supplier Experian Automotive, said: “Accurate and well-targeted communication is a basic requirement for the modern dealer.
Any campaign is underpinned by the quality of the marketing data, so getting this right is possibly the biggest challenge of all.”
Trident Honda, with dealerships in Weybridge and Woking, Surrey, is an example of how to sweat the database.
MD Richard Roberts said it’s always the focal point of his best campaigns, which involve sending service reminders via post or email, followed up by an in-house telephone call to the non-repliers.
“We’re achieving circa 40% take-up from the follow-ups, and these are people who haven’t responded to the initial contact and so are potentially lapsed customers.”
Data cleansing is big business and Experian Automotive offers a free database ‘healthcheck’ service which identifies issues which can impact on communication effectiveness, such as incorrect records.
Dealers can then pay for a package which includes amending incorrect addresses, flagging up duplicate entries, correcting vehicle details, confirming scrappage or a change of keeper.
Analysis of postcode data
It can also remove people who have moved house or died.
The company also receives anonymous DVLA car registration data – including vehicle make, model, fuel type, segment and age – linked to the postal sector in which each is registered.
“It allows for analysis of what vehicles are in use within a dealer’s territory and within drive-time of their location,” explained Ballard.
“Parts and aftermarket businesses can use it to assess business opportunities and where to target activity.”
It means service managers can calculate the opportunity in their territory by creating ‘counts’ of target vehicles. The information can be used to generate marketing campaigns.
Perhaps the biggest question for retailers is whether to stick solely with traditional aftersales marketing or go digital.
Family-run dealership Town Centre Citroën (TCC) in Sunderland took the plunge last autumn.
It used QR codes embedded in text messages to offer all fixed price repairs, such as an interim service for £99 and wiper blade replacement for £29.
TCC’s marketing co-ordinator Laura Robinson admitted she had no idea what QR codes were when it was first proposed.
But the SMR initiative – launched in September – has been so successful it’s been extended to the end of Q1.
“The stock we’ve been shifting shows it’s been a success. It’s made people more aware that maintenance is more than just having a service and MoT,” she explained.
TCC will definitely repeat the initiative, but put more emphasis on the QR codes.
Robinson explained: “We have one in a frame on the service desk with no details of what it offers, but a line underneath invites people to scan it, and it has attracted a lot of attention.
“It’s the new gimmick so people do it hoping they will get something from it.”
Digitaleo Marketing Solutions is behind the TCC scheme. It’ product is called Mobisiteo, a mobile website that links with other communications channels, including SMS and QR codes.
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