What is your biggest asset? Is it your impressive floor plan, the lineup of new inventory you have on your lot or is it your employees, customers and service that matter most? In an industry where a significant amount of emphasis is still placed on units sold, I challenge you to rethink your approach to business. Customer service and brand management are your biggest assets and it is imperative that you dedicate attention there in order to be recognized as a great place to do business.
Without great customer service, whether it’s provided by your sales or service team, the receptionist or even your shuttle driver, your brand suffers. Consumers have lots of choice; and they have become extremely savvy as to who they engage in business with. So you need to provide an experience that is positively memorable and encourages them to share the experience with others, and come back for more. To quote Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, an industry leader of online shoe and clothing retail, “You need to deliver WOW through service“.
Service is the heart of any business. Getting people to make the initial purchase is one thing, sustaining the business takes work and dedication. And this work doesn’t have to be hard or tiresome. Try some simple acts of kindness, like greeting your customers at their vehicle when they roll in for service, offering a relaxed environment to stroll through your lot while shopping for their new vehicle. Or even making a point to be proactive and stay connected to your customers throughout the day via phone, text, email or personal websites, to give them a heads up on the progress of their vehicle service, can go a long way into “wowing” them.
Quality customer service should be at the forefront of your corporate values and mission statement. We can all learn a great deal from the experiences we have from businesses like Zappos. Zappos employees are encouraged to spend as much time as they need with their phones customers, make recommendations, and even direct them to a competitor’s website if they are out of inventory of the product that the customer really wants to buy. Sending a customer down the road is a very unsettling idea. However, offering to service that vehicle throughout the ownership lifecycle is a great opportunity to continue to earn the loyalty from that customer. Don’t just send them down the road empty handed. Offer them the same opportunities to participate in your loyalty programs, recognize them on their birthdays/anniversaries and continue to send your mail offers. Don’t lose the connection or the opportunity to provide great service. Transparency is a key element that can be pivotal in building your brand and customer loyalty.
To reinforce this customer first culture, regular quick-tip meetings with your entire staff is a good way to make sure everyone understands your mission and vision. Dedicating 10-to-15 minutes a day or week to go over your key customer service points is a method to ensure everyone understands the business culture and how to best service every customer or potential customer that walks through your doors. Fostering a positive environment can naturally be reflective in how your customers feel welcomed when they visit your dealership.
As a side note, if you ever come to Las Vegas (whether it’s for work or pleasure) and can pry yourself away from the intoxication of the ringing sounds from the slot machines, flashing lights and fascination of the elaborate casinos, I encourage you to drive to Henderson where Zappos is headquartered… which incidentally is just a few miles from MPi’s headquarter. Zappos offers tours to individuals and businesses to come and meet their dedicated team members, get a glimpse into their culture and offers free resources that you can take back to your office to create your own wow factor. Because MPi is so close in proximity to Zappos’s office, my staff has taken advantage of this opportunity on numerous occasions. Each time they visit, they return with great ideas about how we can foster a customer first approach to our business. And we’ve implemented them. MPi is known for the highest level of customer care in our market space as we work hard to live by our motto: “customers come first”.
Now is the time to get creative with your approach to service and put your customers first so they are customers for life.
Today’s world is full of review sites and social media- the epitome of information at your fingertips. And because of this, reviews have become that much more important for customer retention and new client business. Search engines are becoming increasingly savvier by routinely displaying reviews (and review sites) very high in search results. Many dealerships are recognizing this and paying more attention to them, thus creating processes to encourage customers to share their experiences when buying a new vehicle. This feedback is great and can help foster your next sale.
However, why solely focus on just the sales department? Your service department is the life-line to your customers after the sale is completed, from routine maintenance and repairs to aftermarket accessory purchases to the encouragement of buying their next vehicle from your dealership. Feedback on our service department is equally, if not more important, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
We all know it’s easy for a consumer who has had a negative experience to leave a horrible (or less than flattering) review of your dealership without any help from you. And, it takes a little more effort to get a happy customer to actually leave you a glowing evaluation. Does it have to be this hard? No; by taking the few minutes to engage the customer to ensure they are satisfied, then asking them to share their positive experience, can be that simple. Most customers who feel they have been well treated and received good value will be more inclined to share their experience, even if the request is suggested by your service team. For those customers who chose to share a less flattering review, do yourself a favor and reach out and try to turn a less positive review into one more favorable. People can (and do) change their written opinion if they feel you made an effort to turn a wrong into a right.
Don’t fall into the trap of focusing only on sales reviews, thus neglecting your service appraisals. Unhappy customers don’t distinguish between the two departments when sharing or reading negative feedback. In a perfect world, you would never have to deal with negative reviews or be in fear of customers rejecting your business because of an off day. But in today’s world, where information is shared in real-time and at a moment’s notice, you need to be prepared to take the good with the bad. Whether it is sales or service, potential customers will certainly see all the shared feedback and will make their buying decisions based off another’s experience. How you deal with the feedback is what really matters… it can either make you stronger or set up for failure.
Here are a few thoughts on why you should be encouraging your service customers to leave reviews for your dealership and how those reviews can translate into more revenue for your store as a whole.
- In most dealerships, the service department produces a large percentage of the dealership’s income. And because of this, I would argue that there are more people using search engines, such as Google, Yahoo!, or Bing, looking for dealerships to service their cars than to buy a new car. Maximize this opportunity to spread the word.
- The competitor base is larger for service than sales. When you factor in competing dealerships, aftermarket car care centers and DIYers you need to grab the attention of your service customers. When buying a new car, customers have limited options if they are drawn to a specific brand. For example, if you are a Ford store, even in a dense auto market, you may only have 5-6 real sales competitors. However, for service your competition can quickly escalate to 50 or a 100 (depending on the marketplace) with all the various service options available. Make yourself stand out from the pack.
- All dealerships strive to turn their sales customers into service customers. Apply this same logic to turning your service customers into sales customers. The fact remains that many of your service customers, if happy, will consider your dealership first when looking to buy a new car. Capitalize on this.
- On any given day, your service department, in reality, is going to be in touch and capturing the attention of more customers waiting for or having service performed on their vehicles than sales. It’s a numbers game. Take advantage of this opportunity. The best marketing is free marketing. Let you customers sell your business for you. AND, on the chance that you have a negative situation arise, work hard to turn it around. Don’t turn a blind eye to any opportunity.
With search engines incorporating more social signals into their algorithms, it will become increasingly important for you to get your customers talking about you. If you don’t already have a process in place to solicit reviews from service customers, start one today.
Final thought… at the end of the day, any customer review is an endorsement that can help you win new business, whether it is service or sales. Encourage your customers to sell your dealership, as word of mouth is the best form of advertising. It costs nothing and can empower you to gain a lot.