Article

Give ‘Em Something to Talk About

October 2011, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Jon Greene - Also by this author

Excite, Delight and Build a Bragging Base of Loyal Customers



Customers will brag about you, be more loyal to you and spend more money with you when you have the courage to surprise and delight them every time they visit your dealership. One proven way to create such strong customer engagement with your dealership is to reward customers for their continued loyalty.

When you reward your customers with something creative and different than the competition, they notice. When this reward is compelling and engaging enough, your customers feel appreciated and will, in turn, bring more of their business to you.

One of the ways successful dealers are working to establish themselves apart from their competitors is to launch a customer loyalty program. A successful customer loyalty program is one that brands your dealership and strives to engage your customers at the emotional level. Keep in mind that as vehicle differences tend to blend from one brand to the next, surprising, rewarding and emotionally engaging your customers truly helps them see your dealership as different and special.

Here are a few ideas for establishing a loyalty program focused on engaging your customers:

• Offer exciting rewards or incentives your customers want, not necessarily what you want to offer. Your customers will realize value from your program when you have the courage to be creative with your program benefits.

• Increase reward or incentive levels as a customer’s loyalty increases. Customers will appreciate your growing gestures of thanks and keep coming back.

• Create an atmosphere of surprise and awe. Occasionally add surprise rewards or incentives for no apparent reason. Done right, this will change the way your customer experiences the visit and dramatically decrease the potential buyer’s remorse they may feel at check-out.

A successful points-based rewards system built on this creative excite-and-delight strategy will prove over time to create more aggressively loyal customers.

Sell excitement and sell more
A successful loyalty program should incorporate every area of the dealership that might touch a customer. This includes sales, F&I, service, parts, the cashier – and why not the customer lounge and lot too? A successful customer loyalty rewards program that builds excitement will look for all opportunities to engage customers and surprise them. Consider the possibilities:

1. Delight: Mary enters the service lane for scheduled maintenance. The advisor informs her she’s accumulated enough reward points to earn a “free” dinner for her and her family at a popular area restaurant. Do you think she might tell others about that experience and start the word-of-mouth ball rolling?

2. Surprise: Mike visits your showroom. Your salespeople build value into the sale and the dealership by proudly explaining what makes your dealership different, including the valuable benefits offered in your loyalty program. You share with Mike how it works and highlight some of the benefits his membership offers, such as exclusive discounts available at local area merchants.

3. Retain: Often just a reminder of how the customer’s points are accumulating can keep him or her returning. For instance, remind customers they’re just points away from a free detail and that their next visit will get him there. Think they won’t be back?

Fire up the troops
To be sure that your customer loyalty program delivers results day after day, appoint someone within the dealership, with help from your loyalty partner, to be your program cheerleader. This job is critical. A job description might include:

• Helping staff understand how to build value in the rewards program as a means to sell more vehicles or service.

• Reinforcing program benefits and showing staff how to present them to surprise, delight and retain more customers.

These days, every successful dealership must do more to create interactions that leave the customer wowed. If not, the risk is to be viewed as a commodity, no different from a dozen other competitive dealerships in the customer’s market area.

The right loyalty program, one that truly helps to differentiate your dealership, is one that helps you create value in your business and pride in your employees. When customers and your community recognize your dealership’s unique difference, they’ll spread the word and help your business grow by the most powerful and least expensive marketing available: a personal testimonial.

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