Article

Retention University 201: Non-traditional Advertising

September 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Andrew Wolfe - Also by this author

In last month’s issue, Retentionology 101 made a call to action to hire a retention manager at your dealership. Investing in retention is an investment in the future and cannot be underestimated. If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to take retention seriously, adopt a program to help you achieve results and measure and track how the program you choose works for you. If not, you’re losing money to your competition.
Retentionology 201 will walk you through success stories from people like you who are faced with countless offers and proposals from people trying to sell you advertising space. Traditional media (newspaper, radio cable and direct mail) is just that … traditional. I would like to challenge you to think outside the box and continually ask yourself if this traditional advertising is doing anything to change your retention rates at your store. There are countless other ways of attracting public attention than simply sending out another direct mail piece like a customer birthday card.
 
Traditional advertising alternative #1: Quality Control Inspector
I recently spoke with Kelli McConaughy who is a Customer Service Manager at Towbin Dodge in Henderson, NV. We talked about several innovative service department ideas she implements. “Word of mouth is the most important advertising we have. If we make sure the car is fixed right and on time, this is the number one factor in making our customers happy”, said McConaughy. They recently named one of their technicians Quality Control Manager. In this role, he is in charge of making sure every customer’s car is taken for a test drive, reviewed for any problems, washes the vehicle and makes sure the interior is clean before the customer picks up the vehicle. At the end of the process, the Quality Control Manager puts a rose on the customer’s seat.

Traditional advertising alternative idea #2:
Greeter
 
How about a greeter dedicated to welcoming customers to your service department? In the morning, they can have a cup of coffee and a local paper ready for the customer before they get out of their vehicle. Other than learning that all my repairs are covered by warranty, I can think of no better way to start off my relationship with a service department. During down times of welcoming people to the dealership, this same person can check the customer waiting area looking for customers that are getting antsy or who might be waiting too long. This way your dealership is being proactive versus constantly reacting to customer complaints.
 
Most of these greeters and drivers can be had for little cost to your store. In case you haven’t heard, many of the baby boomers are now entering retirement years. A retiree is not only reliable, but they need little supervision and are flexible with his/her hours.
 
Traditional advertising alternative idea #3: Quick Lube
 
Sam Slaughter, owner of Bob Sellers Pontiac GMC in Farmington Hills, Mich. attributes his outstanding retention to his Quick Lube. The Quick Lube is separate from his normal write up area. “By adding the Quick Lube, we get our customers used to coming back to our dealership three to four times a year. By making them comfortable and getting them out in a short time, the next time they need something else done with their car, they naturally return to our business,” said Slaughter.
 
Traditional advertising alternative idea #4: Go to the customer
 
I recently purchased a used 2004 Acura MDX from one of my clients who is out of state. When I returned home, I needed service and called Jeffrey Acura in Roseville, MI. Why did I call them? In 1996 I purchased a two-year-old Acura Legend from a private seller. This car was coming off lease and Jeffrey was nice enough to help make sure the transaction went smoothly. Even though they did not sell me this car, they introduced me to the service department and told me if I needed anything to just call and they would come pick my car up. In three years of owning this car I never once set foot in the dealership. Every time I needed service they not only picked my car up, but they would leave me a loaner to drive for the day. Three vehicles and 10 years later, I am back having my vehicle serviced with them again. Not one penny was spent on advertising to me to get me to come back, just outstanding customer service.
 
The investment of these non-traditional forms of “attracting public attention” can be minimal based on the return.
 
QC person/Greeter/Driver: Hire a retiree at $10-15/hour; no benefits may be required, especially for Greeters and Drivers that might work as part time positions.
 
Roses at Costco: $7.50 per dozen
 
By taking a totally different look at advertising you too can have higher retention rates with lower out of pocket expenses each month. More importantly, think of all the time you will save by telling all advertising sales people, “I no longer need to advertise. I am a retention expert and we simply take care of our existing customers and they take care of us with repeat business and referrals!”
 
Volume 3, Issue 4

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