Shared thoughts by David Martin, President, The Mar-Kee Group, Daphne, Alabama, USA
Dealerships are at risk of losing substantial revenue when necessary services and repairs are not offered to the customer in a way that explains the value of using the authorised Dealer network.
When a vehicle is purchased from a Dealer, a customer generally returns for the first inspection and usually the first service. As vehicles age and need additional or preventative repairs, customers are less inclined to return and can be influenced by repairers outside the authorised Dealer network. This may lead to servicing and repairs being performed without the customer being advised of the use of non-genuine parts as is required under the Australian Code of Practice.
Luckily, David Martin, president of US based automotive sales training company Mar-Kee Group shared his tips on how to overcome this issue and increase customer retention at the recent AADA National Convention in Melbourne in August.
Customer retention has a lot to do with emotion. Mr Martin stated there are at least 21 independents for each franchise Dealer, all trying to steal customers, which makes for stiff competition.
In addition, sales advisers do not always present the needed repairs and services to the customer in a meaningful way. This may be due to a variety of factors such as fear of rejection, time constraints, or concerns regarding affordability or appearing greedy.
Mr Martin proposed a simple solution to overcoming these issues: make sure your sales advisers offer services and repairs to everyone in a confident yet professional manner.
That may be easier said than done – but luckily also he shared his 12-step secret on how to improve this communication in a transparent manner and ultimately increase customer retention.
The first is what he referred to as ‘the grandma rule’ – make sure you and your staff treats customers in the same way they would treat their own family. That means only offering repairs that are needed. If they try to upsell, this may instill a sense of distrust in the customer, and they are likely to go looking for more honest service elsewhere.
Second, make sure you or your staff performs a walk around of the vehicle. Only 53% of service advisers do this, when it’s actually a great opportunity to put the customer at ease with casual conversation, identify pre-existing problems and even get a good look at the vehicle’s tyres. If you’re upfront and transparent with the customer about the repairs and services they need at the initial contact, they have a choice rather than a surprise, and are more likely to listen.
Staff should also make an effort to highlight the value of the services and repairs; they need to show the customer why the repairs are needed. Feeling like they received value for money is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to customer retention.
Good communication skills are important and your staff need to be trained in how to do this effectively. Avoid using jargon, acronyms or technical terms as this can confuse a customer. Empathetic and positive language also goes a long way in establishing trust. Body language plays a big role in how you make a customer feel. Eye contact, listening skills and of course a smile will help them feel at ease. Be open and transparent in your approach!
Clear communication also applies when you’re interacting with customers electronically. Concise, well-organised emails and text messages with correct spelling and grammar makes your dealership appear professional.
The process of customer retention starts from the first phone call. Mr Martin urges service advisers to ask the customer if they’d like to make an appointment, rather than simply answering their questions. There is no excuse for not asking, the person calling for assistance with their car and it’s an effective use of their and your time.
Finally, dealerships should pay specific attention to the last point of contact they have with a customer in the service department, as this leaves them with a lasting impression. You may have done everything else correctly and still have the customer’s perception of the visit tarnished by a simple thing like a delay at the cashier’s window, the customer’s radio station being changed or the car being dirtier than when it was dropped off. This is not acceptable!
Mr Martin’s insights refer back to the classic values of good, old fashioned honest service. Being genuine and paying attention to how you conduct yourself both online and in person goes a long way to increasing customer retention.
We’d like to thank David Martin once again for travelling all the way to Australia to impart his decades of experience and draw our attention to this important issue.