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Align Your FI Marketing with Consumers Wants

Bringing Customers Back

By: Glenn Pasch

Fixed operations marketing seems to be a big buzzword for 2017. With sales of new vehicles seeming to plateau, the reliance on Fixed Operations will be even greater for the success of your dealership. Dealers are starting to find ways that they can enhance their marketing for fixed operations to either retain current customers or bring more customers into service their vehicles.

It is an exciting time in marketing with all the new ways we can target our message with better direct mail to custom audiences on Facebook. But what if you don’t know what your audience is looking for?

PCG research just released its most recent report on automotive consumer service. We interviewed over 900 individuals and asked questions on why do consumers choose to service the vehicles at a dealership or why did they choose to go to an independent service station. (Jiffy Lube, Meineke etc.)

I want for focus on a few of these in order to help you better target your fixed operations message.

“Why do you service your car at a dealership?”

The top answer we received was because of the trained staff (26 percent).

Many of the individual responses focused on the fact that having trained technicians was important to the consumer. It gave them a level of comfort that the person working on their car was trained to handle their specific brand versus the perception that an Independent technician had a more general working knowledge of multiple brands.

How are you marketing this difference? Many times I see just a sentence saying, “our factory trained technicians” in a long paragraph of other information. Why not create a separate page to market what this training does? Why not explain how often your employees are trained and the high standards both the manufacturer and you as dealer require to work at your dealership? Highlight this fact because consumers think it is important.

This information aligns with the second highest response: having service performed by trained staff using proper parts kept the value of the car intact (16 percent). Many individual responses brought up having these services completed at a dealership made them feel that when it was time to trade in their car, that they would receive a higher price if the dealer saw this type of service record.

Dealers may want to confirm that these talking points are included in their marketing and their sales process. Consumers have reinforced that it is important to them in determining the value of the dealership’s service department.

“Other” Has an Important Message

In further inspecting the 35 percent responses for “Other,” one important message was uncovered: Many checked “Other” because warranty work or recall work was a key reason the consumer went to the dealership. While many respondents noted that they go to the dealership because of the warranty, over half also said that they would go elsewhere (Independent) once the warranty expired. Their reasons mirrored those reviewed in our survey question on why someone would service their car at an Independent: the perception of better price, communication, and convenience.

Here is another opportunity where dealerships can work smarter to retain their customers. Warranty service happens over a longer period of time. Develop a proactive and personal relationship in person and in your marketing in order to keep these customers once the vehicle is past the warranty period. If your team thinks that warranty work is not important or valuable, then you will increase your defection rate when the time comes.

It is important in marketing materials and for dealership personnel to reinforce all of the reasons customers PREFER servicing at a dealership: a trained staff, retention of vehicle value, positive experience, and convenience.

What Services Make You Go to the Dealership?

The answers to this question fall into two categories: complex and simple services. The top three answers are major repairs, transmissions, and interval services. These are all potentially complex in customers’ minds, and therefore require the dealership’s expertise to handle them. This is reinforced with the answers discussed in the previous question: having a trained staff that is using correct parts will maintain the value of the vehicle.

A few comments came across in the reverse. Consumers said they go to the dealership only if they don’t feel their Independent can fix the issue. In these customers’ minds, dealers are the backup for service, not their first choice.

With proactive fixed operations marketing the dealerships can explain their value proposition in these more complex service areas – especially interval services. So when the need arises, the dealership is the first choice for the customer and their business. It’s an opportunity to reinforce their brand as the expert.

Implementing better customer communication or explaining the need for certain services at the right interval may help change the perception that dealers try to upsell additional services.

Importance of the Warranty

Before discussing Simple Services, the findings in the “Other” category echoed the previous focus on Warranty work. Half of those responding to the “Other” category said that warranty or recall work were definitive reasons to go to the dealership. The revenue opportunities that warranty work offers the dealership were discussed in the previous question. That means the other half, or 14 percent, said that they feel they can get simple services done anywhere. 

Simple services such as tires, oil changes, and brakes recorded the lowest results to this question. These respondents view simple services as commodities. What these consumers are looking for, as mentioned previously, is the best price and perceived value to help make their decision. The more transparent and easy it is for customers to see pricing and the related value information, the more likely they are to consider the dealership when faced with a service choice.

Marketing for Fixed Operations should rely on knowing what your audience wants, not what we think they do. From your staff, to value to marketing the right services all will allow your dealership to grow their Fixed Operations revenue in order to retain your customers in the future.

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Glenn Pasch
Glenn Pasch
Glenn is a trainer at heart. He is a highly sought-after speaker, writer, coach and operations strategist, as well as a customer service fanatic. He has spoken throughout the U.S. and Canada, educating audiences on a variety of topics including business leadership, change management, digital marketing and the impact of this new technology on culture, business and society. Visit the website www.pcgcompanies.com

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