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Three-tier approach to long-term service department growth

A successful long-term service growth strategy is really just about taking care of the customer. In order to grow, you need to retain the customers you do have, get them to spend more money with you, and attract new customers.

Think of it like a funnel. At the top of the funnel, your new customers. In the middle of the funnel, you have satisfied existing customers who want to spend more money with you. Finally, at the bottom of the funnel, you have customer advocates, who like you so much that they evangelize your services to friends and family.

So how do we move customers down the funnel?

Start with Customer Satisfaction (Top of the Funnel)

Attracting new customers is a useless endeavor, unless you have figured out a way to effectively serve their needs. Service customers want their vehicles fixed or maintained. Do that effectively and you will likely have many satisfied customers.

But customer satisfaction is only the beginning.

According to Fixed Ops Magazine, recent customer surveys indicate that there is a significant defection of customers within the first two years of vehicle ownership. This indicates that satisfaction alone does not equal retention. 

Focus on Loyalty and Retention (Middle of the Funnel)

Moving a customer from a satisfied customer to a loyal customer can dramatically increase the lifetime value of that customer. If you satisfy a customer only once, the value of the customer is capped with a single RO. But, if you are able to build loyalty, they will return again and again and spend a lot of money over time.service

Customer loyalty begins with trust, value and convenience that can be attained through the following suggestions:

  • Fix their car right the first time. 
  • Follow up when promised.
  • Have it done on time.
  • Make sure their invoice is at or below what you originally quoted. 
  • Communicate the true value of what you are providing the customer.
  • Make drop-off and pickup convenient. 
  • Offer shuttle services, or pick up the customers vehicle and return it to them upon completion.
  • Offer convenient hours and days of operation to accommodate those who cannot come in during normal business hours.  

Win the Long-Game by Creating Customer Advocates (Bottom of the Funnel)

At the bottom of the funnel are customer advocates. These are your loyal customers who love you so much that they will refer business to you on a regular basis. This is the holy grail of customer lifetime value. Not only do they spend money regularly, but they bring others with them.

Converting loyal customers into customer advocates is all about the “WOW” factor. In the car business, we are accustomed to thinking of customer satisfaction in terms of 1 to 5 stars. But 5 stars really only means that you did your job, and nothing more.

If you want to “WOW” your customers, you need to start thinking of experiences beyond 5 stars. AirBNB was one of the first to pioneer the idea of 6, 7, or even 10 star (and beyond) experiences, where 5 stars represent “my room was clean and I had no problems,” and 10 stars represent “the host picked me up from the airport in a limo with champagne and my favorite actor/actress escorted me to my room”.

In auto service, 5 stars really only represents that “my car was fixed on time and the price was what we agreed.” In order to obtain a 10 star review, you may have to do something utterly outlandish such as hiring Scarlett Johansen or George Clooney to be your greeter and feeding your customers champagne and caviar while they wait.

This is not possible, of course, but the idea here is that you go above and beyond what your customers might expect. What would make your customers go “WOW?” Figure that out, do it regularly, and you will build a team of customer advocates that can help ensure your long-term growth.



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This has been a JBF Business Media production.

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Ken Strong
Ken Strong
Retail automotive veteran and writer for CBTnews.com

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