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Don’t Be Intimidated by Customer Loyalty

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: 217

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


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Comment by Louie Baur on March 11, 2014 at 6:39am

Richard -  I love the shoe comparison because as a skateboarder for my whole life I really wore out shoes and I tried going the cheap route which obviously didn't work. 

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

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

Comment by Brian Bennington on March 4, 2014 at 5:17pm

Richard, Richard, Richard....  Once again you've made me respond and stop my work, which today happens to be both extra challenging and fun.  I'm writing to cancel an appointment with an old customer and explain to him, via email, that I no longer want to work for him.  Well, that's not quite correct, as I'll work for him if certain conditions are met, beginning with a sizable check upfront and complete autonomy in what I write for his reps.  That's the goal, but I really don't give a damned either way.  I hate to gloat (not really-gloating's fun), but it's extremely satisfying knowing no one we've met will be able to "replace" us.  I've got eight sentences in two paragraphs to handle it, and I'm seriously curious as to what I'll finally say.

I read your post twice, and you never mentioned anything about "stimulating" the positive emotions of a customer.  Don't get me wrong.  I love what you posted.  It's just more proof that, even a pro like you, doesn't understand the gigantic importance of admiration and reassurance in customer retention.  That, in itself, gives me an unbeatable advantage in what I do.  (Hey, it's easy to win when your only competition is yourself.)  As an example, haven't you ever witnessed a rep, who's complete devoid of anything but basic product knowledge, continually outselling those "product gurus" around him?  There's an excellent adage that says it all.  "People do business with those they know, they like and they trust."  Have you heard it before?  (Notice, it doesn't say "if they know there product" or "if their service is fast" or "if they've got new carpet in their showroom.")   

This goes back to the fundamentals of every relationship everyone's involved in.  If reps looked at their customer relationships like they look at "courting" someone they're really want to "sell" themselves to, that'd be a good start.  My business is "Relationship Centered Marketing," and if you Google it, you'll find my links are the first three on the 1st page.  (In fact, every search engine has two or three of our links on their 1st pages.)  No SEO here, though, as I'm too much of a novice to know what that's about.  Manny Luna, our resident SEO pro on ADM, looked at it and told me it was because my writing is "content rich."  Hell, all of my writing is, including this response.  What separates my marketing is that it focuses directly on how important the customer is to the rep, as opposed to how “important” the rep or dealership is, or should be, to the customer.  It’s not about pricing, services, products, facilities, etc.  It’s about the value the rep places on their customer.  It works…just like it works when you tell someone important that you love, like or care for them, rather then telling them why they should love, like or care for you.

I'll give you a little "exercise" you can do to get an idea of what I mean.  Starting now, when you talk to anyone you don't regularly talk to (the clerk at the grocery store, the person in line with you at the bank or Post Office, the cashier at your dry cleaner), greet them with you best, most sincere smile, and then pay them a believable (and as original as possible) compliment.  If you do it right, you'll watch their "resistance" melt and (I hate to say this 'cause it sounds so corny) you'll actual "see and feel their love."  At my favorite deli, the girls there all know me by name and always makes sure I get the biggest, freshest sandwiches they make, and I never tip them, but their smiles always tell me they're happy to see me, God love 'em. 



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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