Most dealers recognize the value of their data base of past and present customers.  Many even invest in automated marketing programs that rely on algorithms to target qualified customers and deliver equity alerts for vehicle exchange programs and properly timed service alerts based on factory recommended maintenance to improve customer retention and loyalty after the sale.

The following potentially missed opportunities to maximize the R.O.I. realized by managing your most valued asset – your customers – includes many that I have overcome and a few that hopefully my friends will add in their comments:

1) Cross promotions between sales and service and service to sales:  Most dealers have a process in place to introduce new customers to a service writer to schedule their first service appointment and anchor future maintenance to preserve their warranty.  (If you don’t, make this a two for one missed opportunity and set up a process to insure a T.O. to service that extends beyond your service hours.)

However, few dealers have a similar structure in place to monitor and manage sales processes in the service lane that remind customers when they qualify to trade-up their vehicle to a new or newer one.  Typically, this is due to a lack of data, resources or staff that can research and notify customers when they have enough equity to qualify to trade-in their vehicle with little or no money down for a new or newer vehicle for similar payments.

As mentioned in my introduction, vendor solutions like Driving Loyalty can automate this discovery and notice to the customer.  However, to take maximum advantage of their marketing platform, they suggest a proven process that includes a dedicated individual in the service lane to assist the customer with their decision to exchange their vehicle vs. paying for the scheduled service that brought them to your dealership.

Driving Loyalty reminds their dealer clients that when quantifying their R.O.I. from this process they should consider not only the front and back end profit from the new or pre-owned vehicle sale but also the value of acquiring a potentially qualified Certified Pre-Owned vehicle and the increased customer loyalty and retention realized by your efforts.

2) Social Media – Marketing – Networking: Many dealers have become frustrated with using social media/marketing to communicate with their customers primarily due, in my opinion, to unrealistic expectations.  Sourcing vehicle sales and service appointments from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinetrest, Instagram, Linked-In and a number of yet to be discovered consumer centric social networking communities is not be as easy as through conventional and digital media.  However, once again, technology driven vendor solutions can provide a realistic R.O.I. from your social marketing initiatives.

Next generation apps like HELIOS developed by xChange Automotive reside entirely within the Facebook environment and provide relevant/transparent information to a customer without distracting them from their more socially driven conversations.  HELIOS provides everything from contests for cash to integrated processes that host one on one discussions with their “friend in the car business” about a considered vehicle purchase or pending service need that can be shared with their online friends and family in a non-confrontational manner.  More uniquely, the customers never have to leave their comfort zone within their Facebook page and the dealer is able to deliver/receive the information directly through their CRM/DMS and established sales/service processes.

3) Dealer Reputation/Referral Platforms: Soliciting positive feedback and referrals from customers before. during and after the sale is an old school technique that has survived into today’s technology driven marketplace.  Word of mouth advertising, bird dogs and simply asking for a referral is common place, however, third party marketing platforms that profess to be consumer centric and dealer focused have often left consumers out of the formula.

Carfolks.Com is a site that has existed for some time that adds an additional feature/benefit for consumers as well as dealers on several levels.  As expected, they notify a dealer of a poor review to offer them an opportunity to address and resolve it, however, to preserve credibility for consumers they do not allow the dealer to eliminate the bad reviews.  Instead, they insure that the dealer has the last word vs. posting a string of unwarranted attacks with the expectation that the dealer will either resolve the problem or support their position in a positive manner.

More uniquely, they offer sales consultants and service writers a “free” page on their site so customers can post their comments directly with/about the people that they actually did business with. As a result, the dealer can identify where/who the problem/opportunity originated with so they can address the individual and either critique or compliment them.  In addition, the sales consultant or service writer can learn from their replies and hopefully develop a customer base that will allow them to improve their sales techniques and increase their income.  The resulting increase in customer satisfaction/retention is coupled with an increased employee satisfaction/retention which directly benefits all parties; the customer. the employee and the dealer!

I can continue listing other examples of how/why a dealer can/should focus on their past and present customers vs. constantly investing new advertising dollars to attract new ones.  However, now would be a good time to ask you for your thoughts on the subject and suggested examples of how we can all maximize the R.O.I. from our DMS and our collected list of customers.

After all, what are friends and Ad Agency Online for!

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