The potential sale of the next vehicle begins during the service of the customer’s current vehicle. All dealers know this. They understand the importance of building customer loyalty.
But there seems to be a breakdown between knowing the importance of something and acting on that knowledge. I would bet service-drive loyalty is a hot topic at dealer 20 groups, but few dealerships have been able to demonstrate outstanding results. Building loyalty isn’t rocket-science, but it does take dedication. Let’s break down the steps of building that customer loyalty – and selling that next car.
The Schedule is King
Your doctor and dentist know the importance of the schedule. In fact, you can’t leave the current appointment without scheduling the next one. These professionals are invested in maintaining your well-being – and running an efficient, profitable business.
The service drive plays the same role in maintaining a customer’s vehicle.
Is Mr. Brown in for an oil change? Make sure to schedule the next visit, put it on the calendar, and call to remind him a week in advance.
Does Mrs. Jones need a 75,000 mile (120,000 km) maintenance check? Call her well in advance, make the appointment and contact her again as the date nears. In our busy 24/7 world, everyone appreciates a schedule reminder.
Gather Valuable Data
When customers enter the service drive, it is a prime opportunity to gather data. Resist the urge to just provide an overview of the service to be performed, get a signature and shuffle the customer off to the waiting room.
Instead, provide a thorough review of the vehicle with the customer. Note any significant changes, such as unusual wear on the tires or a dirty air filter. Let the customer know when to expect to replace those normal wear-and-tear parts. Ask pertinent questions. Is there an annoying rattle? Are the brakes squeaking? Has there been a significant change in mileage since the last visit? In addition to helping service technicians diagnose vehicle problems, collecting this information provides the sales team with discussion points on what customers like and dislike about their current vehicle and where they might be in terms of thinking about a next purchase.
That New Car Smell
If Mrs. Jones’ car is high mileage, consider treating her to a VIP test drive while she’s waiting for her current vehicle to be serviced. But make sure the sales team does its homework before she arrives.
Work with the F&I team to get an idea of Mrs. Jones’ current loan terms. If the service department has kept good notes on her driving habits and knows her vehicle is on its last leg, share that information with the sales department. Based on this “profile,” the dealership can offer Mrs. Jones a test drive in the latest version of her vehicle. She might not buy today, but she’ll have something to think about.
Again, relying on previous conversations and well-kept notes, anticipate the vehicle maintenance needs of customers.
If they tend to replace a tire or two every year, a tire-and-wheel policy could be well-received.
If they plan to keep an older car, consider sending them to finance to get a high-mileage vehicle service contract.
Create “options” packages in advance of that scheduled maintenance visit. Be prepared to review the details with the customer. Demonstrating attention to detail and genuine concern for the customer’s financial welfare builds loyalty and potentially gets one step closer to that next sale.
Building lasting relationships takes time, work and active listening by both the service and sales teams. It requires collaboration among departments.
The more information shared, the better prepared sales, service and finance managers are to provide customers with products and services they want and need throughout their entire ownership cycle.
Hollis Goode is regional vice president-dealer services for EFG Companies, a provider of F&I services, products and training.