By Sarah Prellwitz
April is International Customer Loyalty Month! While I encourage dealers to focus on building customer loyalty all 12 months of the year, April presents a great opportunity to analyze your customer retention strategy and look for improvement.
After all, loyal customers are the key to growing your business and supporting long-term growth. Not only do they come back again and again, but they also provide free word-of-mouth advertising and can generate brand-new leads for your dealership.
The prospect of creating a loyal customer is much less daunting if you focus on an attainable short-term goal: convincing the customer to come back next time. Shoppers typically don’t convert to loyal customers right away – a report by e-commerce platform YOTPO shows 37% need five or more purchases. Ask yourself, is your current customer experience strategy going to bring a customer back the next time? What aspects of your process work well? What could be improved?
Thanks to the surge in digital consumerism, your opportunity to foster customer loyalty begins long before a shopper’s first visit to the dealership. In fact, it begins with their first online interaction with your brand. To help you optimize these online interactions, I’ve listed five tools (which you may already be using) that encourage customers to come back:
#1: Automated Marketing Emails
Despite the rise in flashier digital outlets such as social media, email continues to be a powerful customer loyalty tool. While it’s true that people today are distracted and have shorter attention spans, they are still highly receptive to well-timed, customized emails that are based on their unique interests.
If you don’t have the bandwidth to personally follow up with every lead, I have good news: You can design your emails to send automatically when customers perform a specific action. Here’s a list of emails that could be triggered by audience actions:
- Featured inventory: Send bounced leads a list of the units they viewed on your site and invite them to complete the purchase.
- New arrivals: Notify your customers of new unit arrivals – encourage them to buy before it’s gone!
- Parts/service promos: After a customer purchases a unit, send them a special discount on part upgrades and maintenance services.
#2: Dynamic Texting Tools
If you don’t already text your customers, this is your invitation to start! At 98%, text messages have one of the highest open rates, even better than email, according to software brand Techjury. Many customers prefer to text with businesses because it’s fast, easy and allows them to multitask.
You can take your texting strategy several steps further than the competition by employing a dynamic texting tool that offers services such as sending payment links, appointment reminders and a copy of the receipt after purchase.
Offering pre-orders gives customers the opportunity to reserve units before they even arrive at your dealership. It benefits both parties because customers aren’t restricted to browsing the immediate inventory and you can secure a sale much earlier in the buying journey.
Pre-orders encourage shoppers to convert into customers by offering units that may not be available on the other guy’s lot. Customers are also much more likely to come to you for future purchases because they know that your dealership will deliver on the promise of an inventory shipment.
#4: Social Media
As I mentioned earlier, social media among consumers is on the rise. I encourage dealers to be equally invested and choose (or hire) a social media rep to monitor customer comments and follow up on messages promptly. Even if a customer leaves a complaint, you can save that relationship – it’s your opportunity to hear their experience and create a solution. Oftentimes, disgruntled customers will completely change their opinion if they feel heard.
In short, dedicated social media engagement is a great way to turn shoppers of all kinds into loyal customers.
#5: Team Involvement
Thus far, I’ve discussed only the digital tools you have in your toolkit, but let’s not forget your team of industry experts, who know your customers better than anyone. Mine this resource by gathering your team together and discussing the following: “Why do customers choose us over dealers?” “Why do customers choose other dealers over us?” By employing customer service tools that positively impact shoppers at any stage of the buying journey, you can create a consistent experience that ensures they will want to come back the next time. And then the time after that.
Sarah Prellwitz is the corporate content specialist for Dealer Spike.