Every dealership in the United States strives to have great retention. It is no secret that the automotive business is easier, more profitable and a heck of a lot less stressful when working with repeat customers both in sales and service.

There are two basic building blocks a dealership needs to have a successful retention program. You need benefits and rewards. To get the customer involved you need a BRAND and a means to deliver your message. And finally, you will need ongoing training and accountability. Sounds too simple? It really can be accomplished by following these simple steps.

First the benefitsBenefits are something that the customer receives just for buying a vehicle from you. This can be lifetime engine or powertrain, oil changes, tire rotations, key replacement, car washes or any combination of these and more. The program term can be anywhere from 1 month / 1000 miles,  10 year / 250,000 miles or lifetime. You decide on the package of benefits you want to offer and for how long you want to offer them.

Next the rewardsRewards are what the customer receives when continuing to do business with you after the vehicle purchase. The customer earns rewards when they spend money with you. The more they spend the greater their reward. It really is this simple.

To get the customers involved and onboard with your program you will need a BRAND and a means to deliver your message. Decide on a major benefit you want customers to associate you with to start developing your brand. Do you want to be the Powertrain for life store or the Oil change for life store or both? Your brand can include a slogan or just a story about who you are and what you do in the community and how you assist your customers with their automotive needs. Building a good brand is an art form and you will want to enlist the help of some professionals if you do not feel that you are able to absolutely nail this part. This is how customers will feel about doing business with you.

How do you deliver your brand message? This is the fun part. There really is no incorrect way other than not going consistently with enthusiasm.  You must be creative and set yourself apart from your competition. Dealerships have had success with brochures, custom log-in and landing pages, mobile apps, desk mats, banners, posters, web graphics, addendums, service drive cards, custom email blasts, personalized enrollment membership cards, direct mail, stickers, flyers, Frisbees, postcards, glovebox enrollment cards, etc…the sky’s the limit. If reaching out with your brand works when you do it occasionally with only a few tools but imagine how well it will work when you do it consistently and use multiple tools. Your brand is about YOU and YOU need to be about your brand. Dealership for Life is the Gold Standard in providing these tools to communicate your brand!

Now for training and accountability. There are some dealerships that have done this internally and had limited success. There are many more that have tried, failed, and abandoned the idea of a retention program due to lack of implementation and accountability. Not due to a lack of talent or knowledge of their staff. It normally just comes down to time and effort invested in your program. Very few managers reading this article right now have the time to train and mentor every employee in the dealership through the metamorphosis that is required to have great success in retaining your customer. Every customer interaction with every employee must drive retention. Every phone call answered, service appointment made, every sales follow-up call, every desked deal and every service bill paid will have the whole interaction designed to drive retention. Once you have trained everyone on everything, now you must hold everyone accountable to instill this new culture in your business. Sales managers have been trying to get every customer logged-in for decades and we know they fail at times? This is where the right retention partner can really help to ensure you are successful.

If you are looking for a partner to assist you in achieving your retention goal, look for a company that is about process and not product. Every company out there will offer some level of training. Bad training is worse than no training. That company might lose you as a customer after a year. Think about how many customers you will potentially lose during that year. Look for a partner that will stay with you and your staff and will assist you every step of the way. You need a partner that will assist you in preparing your brand, make sure you get off to a good start, monitor your program and advise you along the way but that will also help you stay focused…and avoid all the things that can and do go wrong. Ask any potential partners for references and ask those references not only about successes but also ask them about an occasion when things might have gone wrong and how the potential partner handled it. True character is shown in times of trouble.

Dealership for Life (DFL) has been on the leading edge of training, technology, and administration of Dealer Custom Retention Programs for over 17 years.   DFL has assisted thousands of Dealers, in diverse geographical locations throughout the United States to achieve double the industry % on retention rates…some as high as 92%.

Good luck in undertaking your journey to greater retention. For a free copy of a variety of dealerships’ branding material please go to www.dealershipforlife.com and submit a request or call 800-717-4988.
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Jack Garrity

Vice President Sales BIO

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