A full 56% of consumers say they might stop going to a dealership after a bad experience. That’s according to survey data from nearly 1,500 dealership customers who get vehicle maintenance done at their dealership, when asked as part of DriveSure’s 2023 Dealership Service Retention Report.

In the quest to retain customers in such a highly competitive industry, it’s critical to understand what keeps customers satisfied. The insights from this report underscore the importance of maintaining high standards in customer experience, but they also reveal how maintaining high customer satisfaction requires a more proactive approach than it used to.

So what can your dealership do to keep customers happy and loyal?

1. Make sure your staff create a pleasant experience

It may seem obvious, but the role of dealership staff in enhancing customer satisfaction cannot be overstated. They are the face of your business and play a pivotal role in shaping the customer’s experience. Here’s what you should aim for: 

  • Foster a welcoming and professional environment: Train your staff to be the embodiment of your dealership’s values, ensuring every interaction is friendly, knowledgeable, and positive. This creates an atmosphere where customers feel valued and respected from the moment they enter your dealership.
  • Practice clear and honest communication of services and expectations: Emphasize the importance of transparency in discussions about services, costs, and timelines. This approach builds trust and helps customers have a realistic understanding of what to expect, enhancing their overall satisfaction.
  • Ensure effective handling of complaints and feedback: Instill a culture of responsive and empathetic customer service, where staff are trained in active listening and problem-solving. Viewing complaints as opportunities for improvement can transform negative experiences into positive outcomes, strengthening customer loyalty.

This last point is worth diving into: customer feedback helps you make changes based on the data specific to your dealership, which is the most reliable way to give your customers what they want.

What keeps customers coming back to your dealership in 2023?

Insights from Nearly 1,500 Dealership Customers

2. Call customers after a sale or service

A feedback loop is the most powerful way to make sure you keep customers satisfied, so effective follow-up calls after a sale or service are crucial for enhancing customer satisfaction at your dealership. Timely calls, ideally within a day or two of the customer’s visit, help address concerns promptly when the experience is still fresh.

  • The tone should be professional yet personable, showing genuine care for the customer’s feedback.
  • These calls should include questions about the customer’s satisfaction with the service, any issues faced, and suggestions for improvement.
  • This also presents an opportunity to inform customers about relevant offers or services, further personalizing their experience and fostering loyalty.

Calls help get you more accurate data too: customers who don’t fill out your surveys are just as important to get feedback from, if not more so. A high percentage of customers not filling out surveys can indicate a deeper issue: a lack of connection with the service department.

3. Don’t overreact to bad feedback

The thing about getting feedback is that you can’t improve if nobody ever tells you what you’re doing wrong. It doesn’t always feel that way though: car dealerships face heightened challenges due to the impact of online reviews, as emphasized by a 2023 study. This research highlights a significant trend: a rise in dissatisfied customers voicing their frustrations on social media.

Instead of viewing each bad review as a crisis, it’s important to understand it as an opportunity for improvement and customer engagement. Effective handling of negative feedback requires acknowledging concerns and demonstrating a commitment to service excellence, rather than hastily reacting in a way that could further harm the dealership’s reputation.  

Emphasizing a measured, proactive response, dealerships can maintain a positive image and use feedback constructively to enhance customer experiences and dealership operations.

4. Offer value-added services

If you want to make customers happy, nothing does the trick like value-added services. These are extras provided by businesses to enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty, and they significantly influence customer decisions to return for services. These benefits give customers more than just the basic service at each visit, creating a sense of added value and appreciation.

Recent trends, highlighted in our Retention Report, reinforce the importance of value-added services. The report, based on feedback from 1,380 vehicle owners, reveals that when it comes to preferred amenities, a growing number of customers look to value-added services. These three won out over all other amenities:

  • Free tire replacements due to wear, favored by 46% of customers.
  • Complimentary powertrain warranties for regularly serviced vehicles, preferred by 45%.
  • Free tire replacement for road hazard damage, chosen by 44%.

While the first two items aren’t common for most dealerships, free road hazard tire replacement can be simple to implement and manage, and customers love it.

These findings suggest that customers increasingly seek tangible, practical benefits that directly enhance their vehicle ownership experience. By offering these kinds of value-added services, dealerships can better meet customer needs and preferences, leading to improved satisfaction and higher retention rates.

What else keeps customers coming back, and what makes them leave?

For new-car dealership leaders, fostering business growth and retention hinges on a proactive approach towards customer satisfaction. From personalizing communication to reflect each customer’s preferences and history, to maintaining consistently high-quality service in all aspects of the dealership, some things might seem straightforward.  

But preferences shift, and the aftermarket competitor down the road might have figured out something you haven’t. Learning to keep customers satisfied requires up to date knowledge on what they care about. To get the latest insights on what matters most to dealership service customers, check out the 2023 Dealership Service Retention Report.

What keeps customers coming back to your dealership?

Download the 2023 Dealership Service Retention Report to see what dealership service customers have to say.

Join us for a free online event on July 28th!Battling 5 Dealership Service Defection Points with DriveSure