The automotive market is highly competitive. In this context, customers have the upper hand. They have plenty of choices, are very demanding and well-informed. Moreover, the game has drastically changed with the advent of social media and online reviews. Customers have more power than ever. They can influence your business and hold your reputation in the palm of their hands. However, you have the power to influence them in order to make sure they influence your business in a positive way. It involves offering them an amazing customer experience.
Before getting into the nitty gritty, I want to make sure we are on the same page when talking about customer experience. Let’s agree on a definition! According to HubSpot, the best way to define customer experience is the impression you leave with your customer, resulting in how they think of your brand, across every stage of the customer journey1. Now the stage is set, let’s dive in!
By reading this blog post, you will explore the main steps toward a successful customer experience strategy.
Having a nice building, showcasing your brand-new vehicles in an outstanding showroom, and offering a comfortable lounge-style waiting room with free Wi-FI, treats and beverages boost your business’ image.
However, taking care of one's image is not limited to a good-looking dealership. Any interaction your staff may have with your customers contributes positively or negatively to your brand image.
It starts with how you set your appointments. Do you make it easy for your customers to book their regular maintenance? Do you send them gentle reminders so they don’t forget to show up? On the one hand, you want to make your customers’ lives easier. On the other hand, you want to reduce no-shows and improve your profitability.
Offering to drop off and pick up customers, extended hours, shuttle service, courtesy vehicles or even a valet service are great ways to accommodate your customers according to their needs, habits and expectations. You could also offer them to expedite their vehicle pick-up process by allowing them to pay online before they come for pick up so they don’t have to queue at the checkout.
All these nice touches contribute to offering a better customer experience and improve your business performance.
Did you know you own a goldmine that can become even more valuable? I’m referring to your customer database. Every time your customers interact with your business, they give you the opportunity to grow your database with relevant information on them. Seek every occasion to grow your database with useful and relevant information on your customers.
That information is not limited to data related to their vehicles, such as brand, model, year, mileage. It is not limited either to the details about your customers, such as name and first name, address, email, cell phone number and birthday. However, this latter information will be useful if you want to send your customers a birthday message with a custom offer, for example. Collect all the information your customers give you each time they come, from their preferred communication channel to a past conversation. You will more than likely have the opportunity to leverage this information for both your customers’ satisfaction and your business benefit.
Let’s look at an example. Your customer declines a recommended repair during her visit. Keep this information in your records so you can remind her about this due maintenance or repair next time she books an appointment with your service department. Don’t miss these opportunities to increase your business revenues and offer a great customer experience.
Now it’s time to operate your goldmine! Having the best customer database is useless if you don’t use it. This is when segmentation is needed. Group your customers based on the data you have, such as their behavior, preferences, demographics and habits.
Segmenting your customer database is the basis to send targeted offers that resonate with your customers. Some car models are known as designed for women or for men, for young people and for seniors. According to who is the targeted audience of a specific offer, you can customize your message and adapt it based on your customer profiles, such as adding emojis, making the tone more casual, etc.
A proper segmentation based or reliable data will ensure you send the right message to the right person at the right time. This is the beginning of increased customer retention.
A successful loyalty strategy comes with personalized communications. If you are not convinced yet that personalization is a must, read our blog post 9 Reasons to Add Personalization in Your Text Message Marketing. In order to personalize the message you send to your customers, you first need to gather as much relevant information as possible on their behavior and habits.
Don’t assume you know everything about your customers’ needs. Don’t assume that all customers are willing to drop their car in the wee hours of the morning. Some may prefer to avoid traffic and drop their vehicle the day before or in the middle of the morning. Then by knowing your customer preference, next time she needs an appointment you can anticipate her needs and offer her an 11 AM appointment.
Another customer’s tires are stored. Make sure you use this information when offering him an appointment to do his tire change-over.
Those little attentions won’t cost you anything but will show your customers that you know about their needs and care about them.
Measuring customer satisfaction is not an option. If you don’t do it, chances are that the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) you are dealing with, will send its own CSI survey to your customers. Avoid unpleasant surprises and get to know your customer feedback before anyone does.
The digital age offers plenty of ways to measure your customers' satisfaction and collect their comments. Nowadays having a quality website and both Facebook and Google pages are inevitable. Those online tools provide opportunities for asking your customers’ opinion, from surveys on your website, reviews on your Facebook page and satisfaction surveys sent by text messages.
In the eventuality of bad comments and rating, make sure you immediately contact your unhappy customer to offer him solutions to bring him back on the path to satisfaction and customer retention.
As we explained in a previous blog post How to Keep Your Dealership Customers Loyal, relevant and personalized communications are essential to a successful customer retention strategy.
Communications in person are usually not a complex concept; however, virtual communications bring their own set of challenges. Communicating with your customers is not limited to sending reminders for their next service appointment. It’s about starting a conversation with them.
Make sure you send your customers relevant messages, such as special offers, satisfaction surveys, updates and payment requests. However, don’t inundate them with tons of messages. Your messages have to be useful to your audience as well as short and specific. For more information, read our post 10 Best Practices in Business Texting.
Finally, make sure you engage with your customers using their preferred channels. Embrace technology and select the best communication solutions for your needs.
In conclusion, the steps to a great customer experience can be summarized as follows. You need to know your customers, their habits, behavior and preferences so you can both leverage this data you own on them to send the relevant offers that resonate and engage with them the smart way. What’s more, you must take the pulse of their satisfaction levels and address complaints diligently.
Every interaction you have with your customers is an opportunity for you to grow your reputation and strengthen the customer experience.
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