Want Loyal Customers? Dare to Be Different
As I ponder the most important topic in our industry today, it begs the question all dealers should ask themselves—“What is the magic formula to keep our customers loyal?” In recent years, our industry has changed dramatically. Today, our customers expect more value, better service, and to be treated like never before. This is the case not only in automotive showrooms and service drives but in every business throughout the country. With that said we know how critical it is to our survival for our customers to stay loyal. But what can we do to ensure they return for service and repeat vehicle sales? More and more cutting edge dealerships are finding the answer is to bypass traditional marketing methods and instead launch highly creative customer loyalty programs designed to retain the customers they already have.
A successful loyalty program is a well-developed solution that will keep your customers talking about you, spending money with you and becoming fiercely loyal to your dealership. When researching a loyalty program for your dealership ask yourself these simple questions:
Does your loyalty program build value?
The most successful automotive loyalty programs around the country are the ones that allow your salespeople to clearly build value during the sales process. A good loyalty program should give your salespeople an exclusive tool that will help them build value in themselves and the dealership, instead of quickly dropping prices. If your salespeople can’t leverage the benefits of your program to powerfully demonstrate why your customers should buy from you, it is not built correctly. Let’s face it…if it does not help you sell the car, you have no customer to retain anyway.
Does your loyalty program reward your customers for staying loyal to you?
A successful rewards program typically has a points system that tracks and rewards your best customers when they remain loyal (i.e., spend money). These point structures should be easy for your customers to understand and allow you to measure the worth of each customer and reward them for hitting the spending benchmarks you set.
Does your loyalty program integrate into your customer’s daily lifestyle?
Since your service customers only visit three or four times per year, a good automotive loyalty program is one that seamlessly integrates into your customer’s daily lifestyle and offers them value in between service visits. For instance, highly successful automotive loyalty programs offer additional incentives at local restaurants, retail stores, golf courses and other local merchants. Don’t just “wow” them at the dealership, make sure they remember you in between visits as well.
Does your loyalty program effectively communicate with your customers?
A successful loyalty program offers an automated system that gathers information and sends customized contacts with the right message, at the right time. Additionally, the contact system should have the ability to offer time-sensitive promotions, free gifts, contests, and direct mail as well as customized loyalty certificates.
Does your loyalty program help you build long-term loyalty?
Successful loyalty programs should ensure the customer is earning towards valuable future rewards at all times. Some points programs allow customers to earn and redeem relatively small rewards at their very next service visit. Rather than offering a few bucks off their next service, offer them the ability to earn something much more valuable if they hold off. If your program is allowing your customers to earn and redeem small amounts immediately, in effect, you have deployed an electronic version of couponing and not a long-term loyalty solution.
Does your loyalty program allow you to stand out from your competitors?
A truly successful loyalty program should create a big advantage over your competition. If your program is the same as the one down the street, how does that make your dealership any different? The main goal with a successful loyalty program is to offer your customers another reason to buy from you, and not your competitors. If your program does not offer territory exclusivity, ask for it.
Always remember, a truly successful loyalty program should contain a valuable mix of hard benefits (points, rewards, discounts) as well as soft, lifestyle benefits (outside of the dealership) that promote long-term goals, as well as offer short-term rewards. Today’s customers are expecting more than ever and if we can have the courage to be different and offer our customers a program overflowing with value (even outside of the dealership), they will talk about us, spend money with us and remain fiercely loyal to us.
For the past 14 years, Jonathan Greene has been working directly with auto dealers throughout North America to design, build and launch the most creative loyalty programs in our industry. Since 1997, he has personally delivered over 4,000 automotive customer loyalty seminars to dealer groups of all sizes. Jon can be contacted at 302-696-6000 X 705 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.