Article

Stop Satisfying Customers

November 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Paul Rushing - Also by this author

Are you placing a lot of emphasis on satisfying customers? Is the only time you hear from your customers when they have a problem after they buy from you? Do you have someone on your staff whose job it is to handle customer complaints and to resolve issues? Is your main follow-up push after the sale to ensure that your CSI remains intact?

If you answered yes to one of these questions, you may be placing emphasis on creating satisfied customers and not loyal ones. Satisfied customers are a dime a dozen; loyal customers are priceless and reduce marketing costs.

Your customers can be satisfied anywhere. Satisfying customers is providing mediocre service for a mediocre product that people can buy anywhere. Creating a satisfied customer base is a very mediocre way to ensure that your customers will remember you when they reenter the market.

Loyalty from your customers ensures they will not only remember you when they are ready for their next car, but they will also tell everyone they know where they should buy and why they are crazy if they don’t. Loyal customers become raving fans and walking, talking billboards for your store.

Breeding loyalty in your customer base will not happen overnight if your process is designed only around satisfaction. It may require you to look at how all customer interactions are handled and change your post-sale and post-service follow-up procedures.

When I first entered the car business, all post-sale follow-up was in the hands of the individual salesperson and “Betty Good Deal.” Betty and the salesperson called to thank the customer for their business. Betty ensured that the customer received everything they expected to make sure our CSI was golden. She was the precursor to the modern BDC. We generated tons of “Satisfied Customers.” They were happy with what they bought.

Now think about the salespeople who have built their book of business and concentrate on aggressive follow-up with their customers. One thing you will find is that their customers believe that salesperson is their friend, regardless of whether the salesperson, in turn, sees them the same way.

The consumer perceives that the salesperson really cares about their well-being and the salesperson is treated as their personal resource for everything automotive. Customers funnel a tremendous amount of referral business to them, thus creating an army of loyal followers. That is why dealers cringe when they lose these rare individuals who take the time to build a following.

Your branding is built through your people. Empowering them to build their brand while propping up yours will become a win-win if you can execute it properly and reduce employee turnover.

We have tons of technology available to help us build our brand and develop loyal fans.

• Many dealerships do not take full advantage of their CRM system, and most dealerships that do, put the wrong people at the helm day in and day out in post-sale and -service follow up.

• Blogging is an online engagement tool often wasted when used to deliver a traditional marketing message. Companies don’t write blogs; people who work for them do. Ideally, they should be used to build followers who look forward to your next update.

• Social media and networking platforms like MySpace, Facebook and Vox can be used to build loyal followers, leverage connections and stay in touch with sold customers.

Think of reasons to engage your customers. Give them something for their time other than a pitch for specials.

Does your CRM have all the data about your customers and their family members? Does it notify you that their kid is having a birthday? Think how special they will feel when they get a card with passes to the bowling alley for the whole family.

Do you sponsor other local events like “Relay for Life,” “Toys for Tots,” or other similar festivals for social causes? Blog about it and make sure you have people at the events representing your organization. Sure, your blog will link back to your Web site and list current specials. Just don’t make that the main attraction.

Social sites that have friend connections can be leveraged by the sales department to connect customers to service writers, body shop managers and your version of Betty Good Deal, as well as being excellent prospecting tools to build fans before they become your customers.

Become a part of your customer’s life, not a distraction from it. Be a friend and move your customers from satisfied to loyal. Improve other processes to inspire loyalty versus just satisfying immediate needs. Loyalty is more profitable. Satisfaction is overrated.

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