What makes a loyal customer? For the moment, forget about loyalty programs, rewards points and coupons. When it comes down to it, the reason a customer returns to your dealership to get their car serviced or to purchase another car is because they had a great experience there.
What makes a great customer experience? Is it a clean lounge, free WiFi and coffee? Or is it the interaction the customer has with your employees? Your employees are the front line of every customer experience in your store. If an employee is having a bad day, it could ruin a customer’s experience. On the other hand, if an employee connects with the customer and finds something in common to talk about — like their kids or camping — chances are good your customer will like that employee and make an effort to see them next time.
Loyalty to a brand is one thing. You may have customers who swear they come to your dealership because they love Chevy or Ford. But they could easily find another Chevy or Ford dealership. What makes them come to your dealership, not once but over and over again?
It’s All About the Relationship
Relationship selling has been around for years, but sometimes what’s old can — and should — be made new again. This sales technique requires an understanding of the selling process as seen through the eyes of your customer, not through the eyes of your dealership. Is your dealership communicating what you want your customers to know, or is it communicating what they want to hear? Too often, it’s the former.
A traditional marketing campaign might happen something like this: managers hold a meeting and brainstorm how they can get more customers in the door. “Let’s have a weekend sale!” “Let’s offer this new rebate.” “Our manufacturer has a great lease offer!”
The next step is to send out email blasts to everyone in the database. Or you create a radio ad or online ad campaign. Does this work to generate customer interest? Maybe. But the problem is it does nothing to form a relationship with a potential new customer. The only thing a car shopper knows is that they can get a great deal. If that shopper decides they can get a better deal somewhere else, there’s no incentive to visit your store.
Tell Your Customers What They Want to Know
For effective communications that focuses on relationship selling, first figure out what it is that your customers want to know. What do car buyers want to know before they buy a car? They can research the make and model online, but what do they want to know about your dealership? They may want to know that you are trustworthy or that you offer fair pricing. They may want to know what other car buyers are saying about you.
What do customers who recently purchased from you want to know? They may want to know how to maintain their car or get better gas mileage. They may want to know how to use the infotainment system. How can you communicate this to them?
We’ve all experienced relationships where the other person only contacts us when they want something. Typically these relationships don’t last long. If you only send out communications when you are having a sale or service special, your customers get the message that you don’t care.
Sending out personalized communications based on your customers’ needs shows that you are paying attention to them and that you do care.
Try to be Useful
In addition to being personalized, communications should not always try to sell. Instead, send information that is useful or entertaining. One suggestion would be to send out newsletters and create social media postings with the following types of articles:
- Vehicle maintenance tips
- Travel tips
- Dealership employee profiles
- Manufacturer news
- Safety recommendations
- Community involvement
- Customer testimonials
- Dealership events
- How-to’s: Infotainment use, how to drive in bad weather, how to get better gas mileage, etc.
Useful, personalized communications is key to getting customers in the door who are interested in doing business because they like your dealership and what it has to offer: the promise of a relationship.
Of course, once the customer is in the door you have to back up that promise.
I’ve written and talked extensively about how to create a workplace culture that focuses on employee happiness. Happy employees take care of customers and are more likely to develop relationships with them.
As we all know, developing a relationship takes time, effort and maintenance. Relationship selling is developing a sales process that focuses on the customers’ needs instead of the dealership’s wants, and personalized communications is the key to making that happen.