Dealerships might not be sweating about moving inventory off the lot. Used car prices are still high, and buyer demand is surging, too. Sales might be great, even if the vehicle selection isn’t the most robust for customers. Yet, even when finalizing that sale seems effortless, dealerships need to recognize that demand won’t always be so strong.
The relationship between a business and the customer is vital to converting the customer into a buyer. If a customer has a bad experience, they probably won’t come back and they are unlikely to refer their friends. Customer loyalty can boost sales, and the dealership’s culture can enhance the customer experience.
There are many ways that dealerships can help ensure the customer is happy with their car buying experience and becomes a loyal and returning customer. How can the dealership build trust and improve or enhance the shopping experience? Here are a few ideas:
- Loyalty clubs/discounts
- Purchase perks
- A friendly ambiance
- Personalized service
- Outreach communications (like emails)
- Dealership events
Is the Dealership Culture Positive or Toxic?
Every dealership has its own culture. This culture tends to form the social-emotional undercurrent of the dealership’s atmosphere. Everyone has experienced a visit to a business where there was an overall tension or sense or frustration; this tense environment could be an indication of a toxic environment.
A toxic dealership culture might feature a very downhearted and negative staff and sales team. Is everyone seen as competitors instead of teammates? How do employees treat each other?
Customers can feel the culture; they can sense if a sales person is unhappy. In fact, sales team members might have one foot out the door and treat customers accordingly. Some dealerships might be so focused on the sale that they seem almost cutthroat.
Is the culture toxic? Auto/Mate lists 10 signs of a negative dealership culture, including:
- Work / Home Imbalance (there is no time for home life)
- New staff isn’t up to par (they just don’t have the experience)
- The boss is always right
- High turnover
- Performance (sales) might mean more than ethics
Another sign of a toxic culture is lack of customer loyalty. After all, who wants to come back to a dealership that doesn’t offer a positive shopping and buying experience?
If managers discover that their culture isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, it’s time to make some changes. Analyze why the culture has disintegrated. Talk to employees, and ask for suggestions. Do they feel valued? Changing the culture could lead to happier employees, satisfied customers and better sales.
Great Culture, So Where’s the Loyalty?
Maybe the dealership has a positive workplace culture. Employees are upbeat and happy. Yet, the loyalty of customers just seems to be lacking. What’s going on?
Customers might have had a positive experience. They could have meshed well with their sales person. Maybe they even negotiated a great price. Has the dealership kept in communication? Does the dealership offer any perks for customer loyalty?
Here’s how to help boost loyalty and ensure that customers keep coming back:
Many businesses offer loyalty clubs. Coffee shops might stamp a card for every coffee purchase and reward club members with a free drink when they accrue so many stamps. These ‘clubs’ or programs help customers feel appreciated.
Dealerships can offer these programs, too. Loyalty clubs or programs could help customers earn a free oil change or another perk. Dealerships might get creative and also look at their budget and numbers to understand what they could feasibly offer. Antavo provides a comprehensive guide about loyalty programs.
Purchase perks are different from a loyalty program or club. A purchase perk is something extra that the dealership provides the buyer when they purchase a new car.
Purchase perks can vary. Again, dealerships might provide a free oil change. Maybe the dealership gives out a free gas card. These little extras could go a long way for customers buying their car; sometimes it’s the small things that make the biggest impact on a customer.
A Friendly Ambiance
The friendly atmosphere of a dealership dovetails on the dealership’s culture. Customers don’t want to visit any business that has an underlying negative and tense undercurrent.
Positive, friendly and helpful employees will lead to a good customer experience, and, hopefully, a customer that comes back.
Customers don’t want to feel like just a number on the sales board. While they know that the sales team has others on their list, personalized service goes a long way.
Helping a customer find financing, working with them to find an alternative to a car that might not be available or maybe just going that extra mile to find the best option for their budget can help enhance the experience. Sometimes customers remember little details about the salesperson after the purchase; these positive takeaways can stay with a customer and can help build loyalty.
Outreach Communications (like emails)
The car buying experience shouldn’t be a one-and-done transaction. What happens after they buy the car? Is the dealership in contact at all?
Give customers the opportunity to sign up for emails to receive communications related to promotions and sales or even dealership events. Some dealerships offer coupons, while others might focus on keeping customers aware of new inventory and upcoming models.
Dealerships also can use their social media channels to engage customers. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and even Twitter can be useful platforms for car dealerships to interact with customers.
Most consumers have access to smartphones. This technology can be advantageous for customer outreach, too. Some businesses offer a special deal when a customer signs up to receive text messages. Use social media and technology as means to reach out and stay in touch with current, past and future customers.
Does the dealership want to celebrate its loyal customers? Hold a customer appreciation event. This is an opportunity to engage with customers and provide a ‘thank you’ for their loyalty. Perhaps the dealership offers a promotion or special deal for loyal customers.
However, dealerships might simply offer free barbecue or some fun activities. There might even be a drawing or fun giveaways and door prizes. Every dealership has a unique culture and can create an event that embraces their brand.
This is Why Customer Loyalty is So Important
Loyal customers are likely to return to the dealership again to purchase other vehicles. Yet, customer loyalty is important for another major reason: word of mouth.
Happy customers who are pleased with their dealership experience will tell their friends about the dealership. Referrals can lead to more sales and more loyal customers.
Conversely, unhappy customers might express their dissatisfaction to their friends. Too many bad experiences and unhappy customers could lead to plummeting loyalty and sales.
The number one reason why customer loyalty is so crucial to dealership success, though, is that it’s indicative of an overall positive culture. Happy employees greet customers enthusiastically, make customers feel welcomed and likely take their time to create a meaningful sales experience.
While dealerships might focus on sales numbers, they also need to look at how loyalty has impacted these numbers. If sales are lower than expected, managers might pull back and analyze why. When loyalty and sales are dismal, it might be time for dealerships to audit their workplace culture and make some changes.