The stark reality for dealerships remains that keeping customers loyal is difficult. After five years of ownership less than one in three-vehicle owners continues to frequent a franchised dealership for auto service and repairs, and even fewer still go to their selling dealer. Acquiring new customers is increasingly expensive, likely over $700 per new car buyer that’s attracted. Inarguably, the best practice for consistent front-end and fixed operations revenue is customer retention.

That’s easier said than done. Even when CSI scores are perfect and five-star reviews pile in, customers continue to defect. It’s particularly evident at the three-year mark when the factory warranty for most vehicles is set to expire.

Defection rates are caused by unmet expectations primarily. That can include factors like unclear or perceived high prices, comparatively slow service, and service that doesn’t differentiate itself from the competition. But because dealerships typically have more resources than the shops where customers are headed instead, there’s a window to inform, engage, and retain them before they leave.

Educate before warranty expires

One of the driving forces for customer defection in the service department is the transition from warranty coverage and pre-paid maintenance to customer-pay work. When their wallet is affected and customers see the costs associated with paying for service, many begin to look elsewhere. It’s sticker shock, plain and simple.

However, dealerships have no need to hide their pricing. According to InteliChek research, most services among dealers are within about 20% of local competitors. By clearly and transparently portraying the dealership’s service pricing and local competitors’ pricing side by side, it can show customers why the dealer is the better choice.

Explain the advantage

There’s a distinct advantage in servicing at the dealership, but do your customers know it? In fact, there are several benefits that can be exploited while customers are still under their pre-paid maintenance plans or coming in for warranty concerns.

Parts quality is one aspect that can be demonstrated, both physically and in comparison, you communicate in email funnels. But there’s excellent perceived value in time saved, such as when a warrantied leak is discovered while they’re in for an oil change. And definitely drive home the specialized experience that technicians bring to the table.

Boast about service and price with reviews

It remains true that more than 93% of consumers read reviews prior to choosing a service provider. It’s crucial that you pursue satisfied customers to leave reviews anywhere possible – the OEM survey, Google, Yelp, and more. And when excellent reviews come in that highlight your top-tier service and competitive pricing, use them to your advantage. Integrate reviews into social media campaigns and email blasts, and have reviews scroll across the digital reader board in the service drive. There’s no benefit in being meek or conservative about reviews.

Add value over the other guys

The acronym “WIIFM” – What’s In It For Me? – should always be a consideration. Customers want to know what sets your service department apart from other dealers and aftermarket shops, especially after having a negative experience previously. In many cases, the perception of added value is necessary to retain customers as much as it is to attract new clients.

What do they get out of visiting your service department? Value propositions could be monetary like a loyalty discount or they could be a service benefit like a complimentary car wash. It may also be a promised service speed, like an express lube, but only in as much as you can deliver on your promise. Find a unique service proposition and make it well known.

By putting a few of these tips into practice – if your store isn’t already – you can improve customer loyalty. With top-notch customer service and a little bit of luck, they’ll stick around through the start of their next vehicle lifecycle.

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