Engendering trust, offering convenience, going the extra mile and delivering value for money – these are just some of the things that franchised dealers need to do to increase their rates of customer retention.
There is an inherent problem in the way many dealers currently look upon the subject of retention, which stems from a focus on selling cars. Though sales teams may have the most impact when a customer visits a showroom for the first time, it’s primarily their experience with aftersales thereafter that keeps them returning for subsequent car purchases.
Regular, high-quality engagement – both online and online – is what counts. Think about it this way; it’s much easier to keep water near boiling point than reheat it from cold.
The importance of aftersales as a medium for customer engagement should not be underestimated. Automotive searches on Google are dominated by aftersales with MOTs being the most searched for.
Worryingly, a recent GForces study of 2,000 motorists showed that 37% aren’t even aware that franchised dealers offer MOTs – an area where independents dominate the market with 43% of motorists trusting them the most.
Other results from this GForces consumer study showed further customer perceptions:
– 38% of new car owners won’t use a franchised dealer for servicing, 66% across all car owners
– 51% of new car owners don’t think that franchised dealers do a better job than fast-fits and independent operations, 71% across all car owners
– 61% of new car owners don’t think franchised dealers are clear on pricing – 52% of car owners are unaware that most franchised dealers offer tyres.
These issues must be addressed to ensure that customers are motivated to come back for more.
A lack of trust is a major issue for franchised dealers with research showing that 68% of people say reviews impact their choice of dealership. Retailers can easily incorporate independent and uncensored consumer reviews on their website, using a supplier such as Reevoo. This warts-and-all approach demonstrates honesty and integrity, especially if negative comments are seen to have been addressed.
Of course to retain customers, you also need to be competitive in the breadth of services you offer. Notably, franchised dealers are falling short on fast-fits which enable customers to research and then purchase products and services online and independent garages which dominate the tyre and MOT sectors.
Two thirds of the UK’s top 200 dealers do not incorporate an online parts and accessories shop. Only 9.5% currently enable customers to book a service via their website, and just 6% use their website to promote service plans. A similar number offer the ability to purchase tyres online – an area where fast-fits and independents dominate and successfully cross-sell other services.
All of this contributes to a declining share of aftersales for franchised dealers. But offering online tools, like online service and MOT booking or tyre sales, provides consumers with the convenience that they crave and will help franchised outfits close the gap to fast-fits and independents.
Of course not all dealers are lagging behind. Some are now even using technology to personalise customer experience even further, such as using video to demonstrate why a customer’s car needs work when it’s in the service bay. Produced promptly and emailed directly to the customer, video clips can demonstrate transparency and foster trust.
Price perception is a difficult issue to overcome for franchised dealers. However, there’s scope for flat-rate prices for servicing, MOTs, tyres, parts and accessories. The issue of losing margin by publishing prices is a concern, but communicating the extras a franchised dealer can offer is a good way of negating this.
Overcoming consumer perceptions across aftersales is a big hurdle, but the tools and best practice is out there already to elevate a franchised dealer’s reputation. Those dealers that embrace these will inevitably retain a greater proportion of their hard-won customers, thereby increasing the chances of keeping them coming back for subsequent aftersales work and even vehicle purchases.