April marks International Customer Loyalty Month.
While customer loyalty should be a priority every month of the year, April is still a prime opportunity to consider your customer service tools and optimize your strategy.
As you know, loyal customers are a key part of long-term business growth, as they are a reliable source of revenue and provide your dealership with free word-of-mouth advertising when they share their experience with family and acquaintances.
However, it’s importance to distinguish between loyal and repeat customers. The latter are creatures of convenience, who prioritize factors such as store location, pricing and inventory options, and will switch to a competitor the moment they feel that brand is offering a better deal. Loyal customers stick with you because they have built a relationship with your business, and they could become customers for life.
The idea of convincing a shopper to become a lifetime customer can be daunting, but it’s much more attainable if you focus less on retaining customers for a lifetime and more on convincing them to come back next time. After all, 37% of consumers report it takes five or more purchases to become a loyal customer (1). So, ask yourself the following: Is your current customer service approach going to bring back a customer? What is working well for you, and what could be improved?
Traditionally, customer service is thought of in the sense of direct person-to-person interactions. However, thanks to an increase in digital consumerism, opportunities for customer service and building customer loyalty begin with a shopper’s first online interaction. To help you capture these opportunities, we created a list of five tools that drive ongoing customer engagement and foster loyalty:
Marketing Email Automation
While digital outlets such as social media and online ads are considered by many to be the most effective customer engagement tools, email is still as powerful as ever. Well-timed, relevant emails intercept customers’ fast-moving decisions and shorter attention spans by delivering content specific to their unique interests.
Few businesses have the bandwidth to personally engage every lead with specific content, which is why we recommend setting up an automatic email marketing strategy that triggers a custom email when a shopper performs a certain action. Here’s a list of potential emails that could engage your customers and keep them coming back:
- Featured inventory: Send recently viewed units to leads who browsed your site without making a purchase or share a list of hot-item inventory that’s going fast.
- New arrivals: Notify shoppers in advance when new inventory is arriving on the lot so that they purchase before it’s gone.
- Parts/service offers: Following a unit purchase, send customers a special discount on maintenance services and parts upgrades to entice them to come back.
You may already offer text services to your customers, but are you using texting to promote customer loyalty? Afterall, text messages have a 98% open rate, which is even higher than email (2). Texting is fast, easy and allows customers to multitask, making it a popular method to engage your shoppers. You can increase customer satisfaction by expanding your text service beyond just answering questions. A dynamic text application allows your team to send appointment reminders, safe payment links and notices of due services so that customers can complete these tasks on the go.
Pre-Orders on Inventory
Whether or not your dealership is currently struggling to get units on your lot, offering pre-orders can help you build customer loyalty. Pre-ordering allows customers to reserve units that aren’t yet available to the public, which means the customers have a better chance of purchasing their dream units and can shop a wider array of inventory (versus browsing only what’s currently on the lot). It also means you get to make a sale much earlier in the buying process.
Pre-orders create a sense of exclusivity for customers because they are buying a model that other dealerships may not offer. They also know that your dealership takes the extra step to ensure shoppers get the exact make and model they’ve had their heart set on.
As mentioned earlier, social media is a very popular customer service tool and one that dealers should not overlook. If you can, we encourage you to designate (or hire) a social media rep to respond to customer comments and testimonials. Even if a customer is unhappy and airs their complaint online, a good social media strategy can save that relationship by having a team member promptly reach out and offer a solution. Oftentimes, an unhappy customer becomes a loyal one if they feel heard.
The last four tools we’ve discussed have been digital, but please don’t forget your team of experts, who interact with customers every day and know them better than anyone. Give your team the opportunity to share their expertise by discussing the following: “What makes our customers loyal to us, versus what makes our customers leave us?”
By creating a strategy that engages customers early on in the buying journey and routinely delivers a positive experience, you are demonstrating to shoppers that they will have another successful outcome the next time they interact with your dealership. And the time after that.
Interested in exploring customer service tools that can benefit your dealership? Feel free to contact ARI today!