CommentaryOct 28th, 2013

Three Uncommon Retention Elements


Over the last three months, we’ve examined the topic of retention. First, we looked at a new way to measure and increase retention using outcomes from targeting existing customers. Last month we discussed why retention and not the customer satisfaction index or CSI is the more accurate measurement of dealership success.

This month, as promised, we’ll look at three uncommon retention elements, which are simple yet powerful. If these are absent, there’s no technology or other magic bullet that can deliver the kind of stickiness that keeps customers returning. The great part about these elements is that none of them will cost the dealership a penny and everyone can adopt these immediately.

Since these elements all touch the buyer’s emotions, they can be very effective. Learn to weave them throughout every sales and service process by ensuring each becomes part of the dealership’s culture. These three uncommon retention elements are: Seeing, Surprising, and Serving.


Every individual who walks into the showroom or service area is concerned about being ignored. There is nothing more impressive than going into a business and being greeted by your name, and there is no easier way to prove to a customer that you value their business than by knowing who they are. People like to be remembered, because it makes them feel special. See your customers as more than just a name in your computer. The customer will notice and will be impressed. Though it sounds simple, many businesses fail by not knowing their customers. In today’s busy world, everyone is in a hurry. Be the business that is more interested in getting to know them than the one looking to get rid of them the fastest.


Befriending a customer will pay big dividends. These customers felt genuinely listened to — what a surprise! Encourage employees to take the time to get to know customers, by actually listening to them and asking appropriate questions to engage in meaning dialogue.

Start here by asking better questions. Ask questions about their family and their plans — and what type of vehicle they are considering and what they are trying to accomplish by visiting the dealership.

Answer their questions directly. Be conscious of their time and display real attention, actual interest, and genuine concern. Make no mistake: the smallest error can cost you a customer. Surprise them with world-class customer service from the moment they become your customer and throughout the entire relationship.

Moreover, whether they purchase that day or not, they’ll often share their surprising treatment with others via online dealership review websites, Facebook and by phone. When it comes to evaluating the dealerships they visited, the one where the salesperson made them feel important and special will indeed move to the forefront of their decision process!

This element of retention, this idea of surprising and delighting customers, works especially brilliantly where data analysis can pinpoint the convergence of key owner characteristics. Customers will be surprised when an associate calls them with the kind of calls that never come from car dealers!

These are the kind of calls that data-driven selling strategies make possible: the kind that truly help the dealership lift the customer up and out of problems like:

  • Struggling with monthly payments, as job or family situation has changed since they originally bought.
  • At risk of incurring mileage penalties before their lease expires and may not be aware that these additional penalty costs await them at lease end.
  • Inactive service customers who need encouragement to bring scheduled maintenance services current.


The third element of retention’s important foundation is serving. Serving is an all-out effort to recognize customers’ importance. For ensuring this retention with contention some sort of all-out effort is a must. Don’t make serving a simple a formality; rather do it heartily since this is all about real business. For example, don’t wait until there’s a complaint to follow up with your customers. Rather, recognize customers’ long-term value to the dealership by offering rewards and related loyalty programs.

A more personal approach that helps close more be-backs and appointments is through a VIP treatment. When scheduling these appointments, consider a specially designated parking spot reserved for VIP customers. These prospects should be ushered immediately to a manager for a special greeting, and have the vehicle of interest cleaned and parked in the “sold” spot. Have paperwork as completed as possible and have the F&I manager cued up so the deal can flow into F&I quickly. When executed cleanly the entire transaction shouldn’t take more than about an hour.

Serving is mostly an attitude. Serving is a willing act of humility that elevates others’ objectives and needs above our own. This leg of the retention foundation actually is the cornerstone of the other two, Seeing and Surprising. In practicing these three final elements of retention, associates who work hard to see and service every customer will be surprised at how retention grows.

Remember, Customer Retention typically delivers the most profits to the bottom line!

Boyd Warner is CEO of AutoAlert®, Inc. (, the most advanced lead generation solution available on the market today. Contact him at [email protected].

Authored by

Boyd Warner

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