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As times change, so do consumer desires.
What hasn’t changed are the fundamental business practices which have led to customer loyalty for hundreds of years. That small shop owner in the early 1900’s kept his customers coming back through friendly and familiar customer service. Granted, those customers didn’t have as many choices as today, but that’s why businesses need to work harder these days to create loyalty. Today, for consumers it is all about convenience.
An interesting article in Automotive News shares why Audi has been able to post 96 straight months of increasing auto sales and soared from #18 in 2008, to its current position of #1. It’s not due to great deals or superior vehicles. Instead, it is fundamental changes in business practices at the OEM level which support dealers and allow them to provide better and faster customer service. Two key changes credited for this consistent increase in sales are over-nighting parts and empowering dealerships to make decisions.
Previously, Audi used a slower method to ship parts for customer repairs. Customers were frequently forced to reschedule appointments as the parts did not arrive on time. In fact, according to the article, Audi previously discouraged dealers from ordering parts overnight. By changing their parts shipping policies to all overnight, Audi dealers receive parts faster and can turn around customer repairs with greater speed and efficiency.
Audi also changed its goodwill repair program and now allows service managers to perform goodwill repairs without authorization from the factory. Service managers can fix problems immediately, rather than making the customer wait, which of course means an improved customer experience.
While overnight shipping is costlier, the benefits derived from increased customer satisfaction proved to be well worth it. Of course, Audi was nervous about giving its dealerships an open wallet with the goodwill repair program. However, after an initial spike in goodwill repairs, the program relaxed into a stable amount, which alleviated those concerns.
Modern customer loyalty is cemented in convenience and experience. Customers don’t have time to wait around or reschedule. Nor do they like the aggravation when the employee has no power to fix their problem. They will simply vote with their wallets and head to the next dealer or independent.
By consistently providing convenient and friendly service, quickly and proactively fixing problems as they appear, you can keep those customers coming into you shops. In addition, if you wisely work a well-run equity mining program, that can also translate into additional sales, without the expense of acquiring new sales customers.
Evaluate your service department and see just how convenient it is to your customers.
In addition, analyze your dealership’s use of an existing OEM goodwill program, if one exists. Is it being used regularly, or not at all? If your manufacturer doesn’t have a goodwill repair program, consider creating one at your dealership and empower staff to individually decide when it’s needed to fix a customer experience issue.
Your service staff will be motivated to fix problems rather than be left feeling powerless. Customers will not only appreciate it, but forgive. Sure, mistakes happen. But a mistake will only hurt loyalty if it cannot be resolved to the customer’s satisfaction
There’s nothing worse for your bottom line than regularly losing business that should be yours. It’s certainly much less expensive to fix a problem and have that customer stay loyal, than to spend the money to acquire a new customer to replace them.
Consider that as you ponder whether your dealership should have a goodwill repair program -- or not. I promise you’ll come out further ahead by having one. Audi discovered this – and it took them to the top and has kept them there!