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Many dealers are intimidated by the concept of “customer loyalty.” The simple attempt at trying to design and implement a strategy that creates lifetime customers is certainly a daunting one. It takes a lot of work and effort to accomplish this, for sure. However, just like you train your sales advisors in the steps of the sale and the importance of following each step in order, customer loyalty is achieved in the same manner.


Customer loyalty doesn’t have to be complicated. You should certainly have everything in place to help create lifetime customers. To do that, you need to provide a consistent customer experience. However, customer loyalty should be thought of not only in terms of a long-term goal designed to create lifelong customers; but also as a short-term goal.


Just as in your sales process, think about leading customer to the next step. In service, that would be their NEXT visit. What do you need to do to ensure that the customer that just visited returns the next time? It’s certainly not by mass marketing messages that may be relevant only to a few of the recipients. If your customer came in for an oil change at 5,000 miles, the next goal would be to get them to come in for their 10,000 mile service.  Accomplish that first. Once they come in for the 10,000 miles service, focus on the next service.


Customer retention leads to customer loyalty. You retain customers by providing an experience that’s different than your competitors. Stand out in their minds and make them want to choose your dealership over a competitor, or perhaps an independent they may view as more convenient at that moment. You may or may not be the least expensive. However, by building value in your service department, customers will recognize that you’re worth the extra money. People don’t shop at Nordstrom because it’s less expensive. They shop there because of the service they get and with the knowledge that the products sold are high quality.


If you have children, you’ve probably faced the dilemma of buying them shoes. Some people choose to buy less expensive shoes and then end up having to purchase more frequently because they are inferior in quality and wear out faster. Others feel that investing in a more expensive pair of shoes will ensure that they last longer and don’t wear out as quickly. Oftentimes, parents discover that paying for the more expensive shoes is actually less expensive in the long run. The same concept applies in your service department. Stress the value of factory parts and certified technicians when confronted with a price objection.


Creating a lifelong customer isn’t something that will happen overnight. It involves slowly building the confidence and trust of the customer through efficiently providing quality work and a great customer experience. In-store Starbucks and movie theaters are nice, but not something that most dealers can afford. It’s not necessary to have these things to earn loyalty. Simply do what you do best and create a memorable experience. Focus on the customer’s next visit and create relevant messages tailored to them, and you’ll discover that your efforts will create loyal customers. 

Views: 411

Tags: automotive, customer, dealership, experience, goals, loyalty, service, strategy


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Comment by Richard Holland on March 6, 2014 at 7:49am

I appreciate all the great comments! Thanks David, Anne and Brian!

Comment by Anne Fleming on March 4, 2014 at 4:51am

Richard -- thanks for the article...all good stuff. You open up a very topical discussion regarding the very business we are in: customer service. Yes, its selling cars, but the way we sell cars is through a sales and consumer engagement process. With women, the 50% of the population our company focuses on, its even more "opportunistic or dicey".

One of the key metrics we track is telling: Two-thirds of women who go to a dealership looking to buy a car leave and don't return. So the VERY path that you are discussing gets thwarted. The reason women say this happens? "They don't like the way they were treated."  

One person at a time, one conversation at a time.....There is nothing to be intimidated by, but rather embrace loyalty and all the practice and mistakes and expertise and greatness that comes with it! Its the lifeline to each dealer's business. Thanks for the blog post!

Comment by David Ruggles on March 4, 2014 at 3:05am

As a parent, why would one by expensive shoes when your child outgrows them in a few weeks? 

Why on earth would a dealer be intimidated by the concept of owner loyalty? 

All the tech messaging in the world won't make up for a dealer who turns his/her sales staff over regularly.  Dealers who do this either make bad hiring decisions, or are guilty of poor management.  What?  Our entire industry does this? 

Perhaps we should look inward.

Everyone doesn't shop at Nordstrom.  Dealers who take the "Nordstrom Approach" had better prepare themselves for the fact that they have taken a niche approach.  Dealers have been leaving a HUGE segment of service business to independents.  Who forced them to do that? 

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