We throw a lot of words around when we get into a discussion of Customer
Retention. Words like loyalty, rewards, benefits, marketing, communication, value, etc. The word we do not spend enough time on is Culture! Having assisted dealers over the past 10 years with developing customer retention programs, the one thing that stands out among the most successful programs is the establishment of a new Culture within the organization.

What do I mean about a “new” culture? Every business begins, and succeeds or fails, by establishing a Culture within the organization. Sometimes it happens naturally, but more often it must come from the Dealer, and is usually expressed in a Mission Statement. Every dealer wants to be the most successful, the most profitable and the most respected. How they get to these measurements is largely determined by the Culture they have in their organization. A common Culture found in a lot of dealers is one focused only on Profit. While this is the reason for being in business I contend that this Culture is way too narrow and eventually fail. Take
some recent examples of large Dealer Groups that were thought to be successful but are no longer in business. (Bill Heard is a dealer that comes to mind). Their Culture was one of Volume and Profit and it failed over time. A better Culture model would be one that focuses on both employees and customers. This model will produce both volume and profits once established and maintained.

Upon deciding that a formalized retention program is needed, the Dealer must first evaluate his Culture and determine what needs to change. I tell you from experience that for any retention program to be effective the Culture in the store must change dramatically. How the employees interact with the customer, from the sales experience, to service, and to general customer service, must experience a paradigm shift. No longer should the Culture be one of “selling” the customer something but one of providing the customer with a new way of doing business by being customer focused. When the customer knows you care about them and are willing to assist them in keeping the cost of ownership under control, the reaction of the customer is positive.

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Samantha Smiles

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