customers

Building a loyal base of customers is one of the most challenging endeavors for any automotive retail store.

Research shows that a commitment to building lifelong, loyal customers can have overwhelmingly positive results for the bottom line as these customers are willing to pay more for brands they love. Reflect on your own life, and you’ll no doubt realize there are dozens of products and services that you use time and again without shopping around. From soft drinks to underwear and smartphones, the human brain has a strong propensity for loyalty, and that’s all built on trust.

Building loyalty toward an auto dealership is no different than how automobile manufacturers build brand loyalty. To build lifelong clients, retail automotive stores need to consider the following:

  • Communication is key.
  • Service can make or break a store.
  • Trust is powerful.
  • Trust equals lifelong customers (and referrals).

Let’s explore how you can build lifelong clients for your store.

Related: Four strategies for creating lifetime customers at the dealership

It All Starts With Communication

Much like our interpersonal relationships, effective and concise communication is a key tenant toward building lifelong customers.

When your dealership courts potential customers for the first time, a delicate dance begins. The initial encounters—whether it be via web, phone, BDC or email—all contribute to how that customer will perceive your store’s own personal brand. These mediums are the opportunity to begin the communications of who your store is:

  • History and standing in the community.
  • Values and morality.
  • Vision and future.

Aligning with your customer’s own values will instantly build a bond that can take you through the sales process, as long as other criteria are also met along the way. Much like a romantic relationship, this alignment of values is crucial to starting a long-term relationship

Share this vision with your team, and find and develop staff with the communication skills necessary to start every relationship off the right way.

Service Can Make or Break A Store

Once you’ve achieved alignment with your customer on their own personal set of values, it’s time to solidify the relationship with exceptional service.

If there’s any point in the process where things go awry, it’s here. Issues such as not following through on a commitment to call a customer back, or promising a vehicle would be in stock at a certain price, and then having that narrative flipped once the customer arrived in store erode trust. Once gone, trust can be very challenging to regain.

On the flip side, exceptional service that shatters expectations can have a much more positive net effect on building lifelong customers. Set expectations for service, and then exceed them.

Contrary to popular thinking, price is rarely a driver of positive experience and overall loyalty— honest and timely communications plus reliable service are key. Everyone from a lot courier to the general manager needs to have this mentality in order to build lifelong customers.

Trust Is Powerful

We build trust with others through a sociological process known as exchange relationships.

Customers provide you with their hard-earned money, and you provide a product you stand behind. As long as the product meets the expectations you set during the communication, and service stages, the customer will come to depend upon you.

Once a customer has bought a vehicle or received service, the foundation of trust is solid. Now, to build the castle of loyalty, retail automotive stores need to foster and maintain that trust well beyond that initial transaction.

Trust Equals Lifelong Customers

Loyal customers are much more likely to pay more for your product (within reason, of course).

Lifelong buyers also provide a ripple effect throughout their communities and can be a strong ally in getting those elusive referrals. Studies show that referrals are a powerful source of revenue and that these relationships (based on trust within the referring parties) are conduits for solid future business relationships.

In short: Building lifelong clients creates a virtuous cycle of referral business and a strong pipeline of new long-term relationships that will return to your store time and again.


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