I find it fascinating that everyone in the automobile business doesn’t use a rewards card to thank their customers for their loyalty. I don’t know the exact numbers who do but in the course of visiting over 200 dealerships per year it is a very low percentage.

Every industry wants to keep their customer engaged and coming back. How many people fly and don’t sign up for the airline rewards card? The same goes for hotels, grocery stores, and gas station. When you think about it, most of us have multiple rewards programs we belong to and get rewarded by.

The psychology of these programs is pretty simple to grasp. I’m going to spend my money with you and in return you will invest in me to get future business. This is a true win, win for both the customer and the business. How many people have stopped using cash all together so they can put their purchases on a credit card that is connected to a rewards program? The entire loyalty equation is changing. People don’t buy from you because their parents did. The prices on most products are already bare bones so they don’t just buy because it cost less. They don’t always come back because we treat them right. Customers know if you don’t appreciate their business, someone else will.

In the cost conscious world of the automotive industry some may look on reward cards as an extravagance. This does not have to be the case. A small percentage back can add up quickly for the customer and over time all of these visits will create numerous RO’s. Think of it this way, a coupon for a 9.95 oil change will cost the service department twenty or thirty dollars or more. Mostly like this will bring us a price buyer who spends money just for the oil change and we never see them again. That same money credited to a rewards card might bring us two or three RO’s and over time a loyal customer who continues to use the dealership for all of their automotive needs.

The difference between a rewards card and coupons or discounts are pretty significant. The latter is a bribe. We are spending money to gain business and hoping it leads to more business. With a loyalty card it is just the opposite, the customer gives us business and then we give them the thank you. The best part about this method is we have thanked the customer but he needs to do more business with us to reap the reward. Let me go over that one more time, when you use a discount or coupon the cost is up front and final. When you use a loyalty card the recognition is up front but the cost is down the road and is developing future customers not one time buyers.

The synonym for reward is award. Isn’t that what it is really about? We all want to receive an award for what we do. We give awards to our top athletes, our top writers, actors, and scholars. The same principle must apply to our customer base. How are you awarding the customer for doing the performance you want?

Reward cards are an intricate part growing your business. It is easy for the customer to understand and very cost effective. It answers two of our most important questions, why buy here, why service here. If we are not reinvesting back into our customers we are wasting a golden opportunity.

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Jack Garrity

Vice President Sales BIO

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