The ongoing new vehicle shortage has many dealerships stocking any used vehicles they can get their hands on. Selling off-brand vehicles is not new, but it’s heating up right now as the consumer frenzy for new and used vehicles continues. With the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting the average price of used cars is up 40% over last year, those sales are great for your bottom-line, but what about cultivating an ongoing relationship with those buyers?
Driving retention is not a new idea for anyone. Yet, convincing off-brand buyers to return to your store for service and eventually that next vehicle purchase is arguably more difficult than retaining buyers of the brands splashed across your store and website.
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Off-brand buyers may perceive your service department as only specializing in the primary brands you sell. They may also think of dealerships as more expensive than the independent shop down the street. Retention success depends on debunking these misconceptions.
Some ideas you may want to add to the retention strategy you already have can include:
Introduce your service shop. Walk the customer through your service department and introduce your service manager. Explain that your certified technicians are knowledgeable about the customer’s specific vehicle brand and model. Highlight how important regular service is to keep the vehicle safe and ensure everything is working as it should.
Dispel price gauging myths. Be upfront with pricing on common maintenance services such as oil changes, tires, and general tune-up. Even better, price shop independents in your area and create a side-by-side comparison to physically show customers you meet or beat the competition. Transparency engenders trust.
Set the first service. Set the first service appointment three months out with the customer at vehicle delivery. Make sure your CRM is configured to send automatic reminders according to the customer’s preference (text, email or phone call). Best practice is two reminders with the last sent a week prior to the appointment.
Highlight how your shop makes the experience easy. Customers want to know that doing business with you will be easy and convenient. Do you have an online scheduling tool that speeds up appointment setting? Or a digital voice assistant to answer and appoint inbound service calls so customers won’t experience wait times or get caught in transfer purgatory? Can your techs text MPIs and service updates? Do you offer loaner vehicles or other transportation options? Consider all the tools you have that an independent shop may not, and clearly explain the benefits.
Make it personal. Call customers a few days after vehicle delivery to check-in and see how their doing with the vehicle. When they come in for that first service, make sure the selling sales representative is there to greet them.
Make it welcoming. First impressions are everything. I’ll never forget pulling in for a service at the dealership where I bought my last car only to see techs outside smoking right in front of the entrance. I had to walk through a cloud of smoke to get inside and not one of them said hello. I did not feel that my business was valued and consequently I didn’t go back. A great customer experience begins outside your shop and should continue through every touchpoint. Not sure what impression you’re making? Have a friend or relative secret shop for you and report back on the experience. You’ll likely find areas of improvement that will benefit all your customers.
I’m sure you can think of other ideas to help retain off-brand buyers because super customer retention is the road to success in our industry. Create a strategy and make it part of your brand. You’ll keep customers instead of handing them to your competition.
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