By Charlie Polston,
Automotive Customer Retention and Profitability Consultant,
BG Products, Inc.
wedding takes a lot of preparation and costs a lot of money (I know all too
well because my oldest daughter, Elizabeth, got married last fall). Dealers
spend thousands of dollars to get customers "to the alter" (the showroom).
Selling the car is the wedding. It takes about an hour, and there is a little
paperwork at the end.
Putting Your Best Foot Forward in the Service Department Process
honeymoon (warranty period) is an enjoyable adventure with lots of smiles and
very little conflict. Vehicle owners are very loyal to the dealership during
rarely hear of a divorce happening during the honeymoon. After all, if the car
breaks, the manufacturer will cover the repair cost. It’s a beautiful
honeymoon lasts for 36 months or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. Dealer retention is 100% during the honeymoon; because there’s nowhere else the
customer can go to get their vehicle fixed for free!
honeymoon period is designed to get the customer familiar with the service
department process. It is the opportunity for your fixed ops employees to put their best foot forward, show how much they care, romance the customer, and manage expectations about a life-long marriage that’s to come!
after only three years of marriage – which is supposed to last "till death do
us part" – many customers divorce their dealership. The divorce rate goes way up after the powertrain warranty ends at five years or 60,000 miles.
owners apparently love the wedding and the honeymoon, but they don’t seem to
stay faithful to the marriage.
year, only 15% of all customer-pay parts and labor revenue went to dealerships.
(This doesn’t include warranty and internal.)
other words, as long as dealers give it away for free, the customers stay
loyal; but when the honeymoon ends, and they have to send their hard-earned
money, 85% of them file for divorce. Either that, or they start looking for
love in all the wrong places!
when should you tell your spouse you love them? Before someone else does!
when should you offer preventive maintenance services to your customers? Before
your competitors do!
example, most vehicle owners buy tires from the first place that asks them, and most stay loyal to that place for all their other service work.
you don’t educate vehicle owners on the importance of preventive maintenance
and ask them to buy, they’ll divorce you and marry someone who will.
let your marriage to the customer falter because you stop doing the things that
made them fall in love with your dealership in the first place. Make every
service visit a masterpiece. Romance them, make them feel like a million bucks.
Point out all the maintenance necessary for their vehicle to live a long,
trouble-free life. Mail them a handwritten love letter (a thank you note
expressing gratitude to them for choosing your dealership.)
Commitment & Loyalty
Some marriages last a lifetime, and some customers stay loyal to the dealership for life, but it takes a lot of work.
and I have been married for 38 years. The older I get the more I’m convinced
that the thing that holds a marriage together is commitment! Yes, she is
the love of my life and truly the finest person I have ever known –
but the secret sauce is commitment.
the same with your customers.
Here are some key questions to ask yourself:
long and committed marriage with your customers begins with a long and
committed marriage with your employees.
they all lived happily ever after!
personal thanks to Bob Atwood, NADA Dealer Academy Senior Instructor, for
inspiring this article. Atwood presented at the
NADA convention in Dallas earlier this year, and his analogy about “the wedding and the marriage”
really struck a chord with me.
steps are you taking to ensure the marriage lasts… till death do us part?
Charlie Polston is an automotive customer retention and profitability consultant with BG Products, Inc. Charlie has been with BG’s Fixed
Operations Division for over 38 years. He has trained over 7,500 dealers,
managers, and technicians – and has been a frequent workshop leader at NADA’s