As the amount of customer information available to dealerships increases, and the customer communication channels proliferate, understanding exactly how and when to reach out to your service customers becomes increasingly challenging. And yet, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The simple fact is customers do want communication regularly, but not too frequently—just often enough to be reminded at the right moment. And, they mostly want it in writing (not via robo-calls or text messages) and in the channels they use the most, email, and yes, print.
This is not to say that new channels, from social media to text messaging (not to mention mobile alerts and live operator phone), are not important. Dealerships that want a smart outreach plan must understand which customers want communication in those channels, especially when it comes to their younger, super-wired customers. But given the amount of noise out there about new digital media channels, we think it is important to bring some attention back to the platforms that a majority of consumers say they want you to use to communicate with them.
DMEautomotive’s strategy and analytics division recently produced two white papers that analyzed auto service customer preferences and behavior, based on a survey of 4,000 U.S. vehicle owners1. (Both reports are available at: DMEautomotive.com.) The reports identified three levels of loyalty for dealership service center customers: “loyalists” (who both visit and spend most); “swing loyalists” (who eithervisit or spend most, but not both); and “disloyalists” (who neither visit nor spend most). While the white papers analyzed, in depth, the differences in what these three customer types valued most in a service provider and where they are spreading their service dollars today, each segment was quite consistent in their communications channel and frequency preferences. About 60 percent reported they prefer communications from the dealership at least once every three months. And, a combination of email and direct mail represented the preferred platforms for receiving these communications by a significant margin: email was number one and direct mail was number two. These two channels decisively trumped live and recorded calls, text messages, and mobile app notifications.
So, if it’s been more than three months since you have communicated with your customers, send them an email or postcard about a relevant service need or offer. While other channels do have their place in the communication cycle, with just a small percentage of dealership customers stating a preference for live or recorded calls and an even smaller group interested in text or mobile alerts, it is important to be extremely targeted in the use of those channels (although you can expect text messaging to increase in importance as younger car buyers enter the service cycle and more and more consumers become text-friendly).
What’s the bottom line? Write regularly to your customers, both electronically and by post! For more information about how, and how often, all segments of service customers want communications, go to: www.dmeautomotive.com.
Mike Martinez owns brand and product marketing as chief marketing officer for DMEautomotive, the industry leader in science-based, results-driven automotive marketing. For more information please visit www.dmeautomotive.com or email [email protected]