Automotive Customer Service Goes a Long Way
By Rian Locadia
I am often asked how a small, family-owned operation with limited budgets can compete with the larger, flashier, corporate stores. It’s something that I think about a lot. Coming from a few smaller family operations myself, I must say that, as an employee, those dealers tend to be a much more laid back environment than the larger corporately owned stores.
There seems to be a nice grassroots vibe in these kinds of establishments but on the flip side, a lot do tend to slack on the amenities for our clients. Coffee is weak, carpets and couches are older, televisions are smaller and there are no breakfast sandwiches! Now I’m sure this is not the case in all family-owned establishments, but I have seen plenty that fit this bill. But rest assured, you do not need to be a corporate juggernaut with a flashy showroom, Starbucks coffee service, state-of-the-art massage chairs and a gymnasium to make it in this business. All that’s needed is some good old fashion above and beyond personal service.
Having worked in both exotic and high-line dealers, I have firsthand experience with “premium” clients. I know what they expect. I know what they want and I know that they will keep coming back when you meet their expectations. They will scratch your back if you scratch theirs.
Every Client is a “Premium Client”
So what is the problem with treating every client as a “premium client”? If Premium treatment works so well for a client that is expecting it, can you imagine the outcome for a client that is not expecting that kind of treatment? The outcome is going to be a WOW experience!
But again, you do not need to wow with a gourmet cup of coffee. It’s just little things like attention to detail and personal service. For example, instead of your Subaru client asking where the coffee machine is and you point to the back corner exposing your low budget coffee pot, let’s wow them and take their order! “Let me grab you a cup of coffee ma’am. How do you like your coffee?” Have them take a seat, get comfortable and you can bring them a cup of nice, hot coffee. It doesn’t even take that long. Your dealership does not need to have a world class espresso bar to make someone smile about their coffee.
Other examples are simple things like walking someone to the rest room as opposed to pointing, little thank you cards in a client’s cup holder thanking them for their business and maybe adding a couple of pieces of candy with your business card and a personal signature. This, from experience, is a little tactic that goes a long way for making a client feel appreciated.
Don’t Forget the Car Wash
Then there is the car wash. This is a big one. You may not have a brand new $100,000 precision German engineered, drive through car wash, but a simple hand wash goes just as for in the client’s eyes. In fact, most people prefer a hand wash anyway. I find when you add tire shine to a freshly washed vehicle, there is no better look. This makes the client feel good driving away from your dealership and very likely to come back. Now, all of the above are very effective touches that you can do to keep them coming back to your doors but the most important and effective way to show appreciation care and class is the follow up call. This tactic is actually very versatile. Not only will a service advisor come off as genuinely caring that a client’s visit well, but is also a good tool to set up a future service visit and also a time to remind the client about a potential service survey. This will plant the seed and ultimately make your business grow by having these clients come back.
So as you can see, you as a smaller independent dealer can keep up with the big guns with a little piazzas and class. Most of these explained tactics take very little to no money to accomplish. All it takes is a attention to detail and the willingness to WOW!