As a dealer, you probably have a solid understanding of the importance of customer retention. You’ve probably tried many different customer retention strategies and techniques over the years.
Many dealers turn to extreme sales messaging like email blasts and direct mail sends. Salespeople comb over thousands of client records in their DMS, making phone calls to previous customers and orphan owners.
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The problem many dealers don’t realize is that, all too often, those messages fall on deaf ears. Dealerships spend thousands of dollars sending messages to customers that end up being irrelevant.
Most customer retention strategies are sales focused. But what about the hundreds of customers service departments see on a daily basis? Or the customers who used to have their vehicles serviced regularly, but have stopped coming by?
The truth is, more sales and revenue exist in your service department than anywhere else in your dealership.
Utilize Your Service Department
How can you utilize your service department sufficiently? Try service clinics. Much like sales events, service clinics serve to invite people to your dealership with special incentives. But they differ in two distinct ways. They’re not sales focused and they offer a valuable service. This type of customer service is what makes service clinics such an excellent way to build relationships with your customers.
A service clinic is a chance for you to create an event specifically designed to overwhelm your current, inactive, defective, and prospective customers with your service and expertise. By offering a carefully targeted audience a complimentary 60-minute multi-point inspection at your service department, you’re offering a valuable incentive for those customers to visit your dealership, be on location for a significant amount of time, and experience the quality of care and service you are able to provide.
You’re setting yourself up for success because you’re giving your service department all the time they need to walk through each step of your process with the customer, in order to build or regain their trust in your mechanics and earn their respect.
Manufacturers are embracing service clinics because they know that building solid relationships and educating customers on the value of dealership service increases brand retention.
Dealers, however, tend to overlook service clinics because many don’t see value when attempting to implement and facilitate one on their own. Dealers send out mass invites, order catering and schedule staff for the event but, at the end of the day, if revenue generated from the event doesn’t exceed the costs, they declare it a failure and move on to the next idea.
Service clinics can be one of the most profitable events for a dealership… if done properly. Here are tips on how to run an effective service clinic:
- Invite the Right People
Dealers who want to see success in a service clinic must carefully consider who they invite. When hosting a party, most people will restrict their invitations to their friends and family members who are most likely to attend. In the same way, consider what type of customer you believe your service clinic will sway.
There are many reasons why customers may not attend your service clinic. Maybe they no longer own the vehicle you think they do or perhaps they’ve moved to a different area. Maybe they had a poor experience at your dealership and simply will not return.
Consider using data analytics to inform your decision. A strategic list is the best way to set your service clinic up for success.
- Deliver the Invitation (Correctly)
Assuming that your dealership has been able to figure out which of your contacts are most likely to attend, the next step is to ensure that your targeted current or potential customers get the invitation.
In this day and age, dealerships must take a multi-channel approach to delivering this message, including e-mail, targeted digital advertisements, direct mail, and even phone calls.
Don’t stop there, however. People are busy and have a million things on their plates. Simply delivering the message successfully isn’t enough. You must continue to send reminders as the service clinic approaches to avoid cases in which customers planned on attending but simply forgot – Or maybe they didn’t see your initial message.
- Staff It Properly
When holding a service clinic, one key to success is to know who attended. Typically, dealers ensure that management, service advisors, technicians, and salespeople are all on hand for a clinic. What tends to happen, however, is that staff gets busy and people get overlooked.
I know you get frustrated when your salespeople don’t log customers in your CRM, yet when it comes time for a service clinic, these are the same people you expect to collect the attendees’ information!
Successful service clinics will have dedicated people whose only job is to collect information. They will greet customers and get their information before the customers go anywhere else. This will ensure that you get all of the data you need, and people won’t slip through the cracks because your staff is occupied talking to other attendees.
- Have A Process
Many service clinics are arranged without any direction or flow. The dealer lets the customer decide who they speak with and how they will spend their time at the dealership. How likely is it that a customer who’s at your dealership for a service clinic will walk up to a salesperson?
Probably not very likely (unless they happen to be in the market for a vehicle). Having a designated process, which you control, is so very important. Be strategic in how you guide each customer through your dealership. Consider what steps you can take to make sure their time at your dealership isn’t boring – or worse, forgettable. As your visitors walk through your carefully created process, opportunities will arise that you would have otherwise missed.
- Follow Up!
After the event, it’s important to follow up with each and every customer who attended. Thank them for attending and see if they have any additional questions – this type of follow-up could be via email, direct mail and even through a personal phone call. I recommend all of them combined! The customer chose to dedicate some of their valuable time to visit your dealership. By reaching out to them and thanking them, you will further enhance the relationship you’ve started.
Profits from a loyal customer can go beyond one purchase and a few repairs. If your customers are convinced that you have the best service, the most knowledgeable technicians, and the most competitive prices, your customers will return time and time again, service after service, purchase after purchase. By encouraging customers to attend a service clinic at your dealership, you’ll gain loyal customers who will contribute consistently to your bottom line.