When business is booming at your dealership, it’s tempting to think you don’t need to worry about improving your customer retention. This is probably why so many managers are surprised when they learn how retention is actually more important when they’re busy. It provides a way to not only maximize profits, but also protect against revenue loss when things slow down again.

Intuitively, it would seem you could deprioritize retention when your dealership has so much business – you’ve already got more customers than you can handle, so why would you focus on making sure they all return? You’re stretched thin as it is, why make it harder?

If you want to understand why you need to prioritize customer retention when business is good (and learn the risks of not doing so), then keep reading.

Discover Lilliston Ford’s secrets to 33% service department growth.

6 reasons you can’t neglect retention when your dealership is busy

1. Get more bang for your buck when you start a retention program during peak business

While it seems odd to increase retention in times like this, the strategy becomes a no-brainer when you take a long-term view of your business. First off, any retention program you introduce during an uptick will reach far more people than normal.

In other words, you multiply the impact of your retention program, because more people will experience the benefits of a single effort.

Think of it this way: if you went above and beyond to provide a great customer experience on a busy day (or offered extra value, like automatically qualifying each customer for extra perks if they come back to you for service), your efforts are going to impact far more people than if you waited until a slow period to start boosting retention.

Further, you get to reap these benefits without extra time spent on marketing, meaning you free up more of your time to focus on priorities, like providing remarkable customer service.

2. Retention is cheaper (and more profitable) than acquisition

It’s 5x more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing customer. Conversion rates are better too: the odds of selling to an existing customer tends to run between 60% and 70%, while your chances of selling to a new customer is only between 5% to 20%.

If that doesn’t drive the point home, remember that on average, a loyal customer spends much more in their third year as a customer than they do in their first six months — typically about $167 at year three for every $100 spent in their first six months.

3. Loyal customers are more likely to refer their friends and family

Once you’ve won a customer over through a retention program like DriveSure that adds value to their lives, it sets you apart from competition. Happy customers will tell their family members and friends about you as well, meaning extra business at no extra cost.

4. Good retention rates make your sales team’s job easier

When new customers are coming in via referrals, that means less effort on the part of your sales team, because a baseline of trust has already been established. It also means your sales team can spend less time on outreach.

5. The more loyal the customer, the easier it is to keep them coming back

When you’ve built a relationship with customers to the point they’re fiercely loyal, they’re much more willing to overlook small issues, and much less likely to switch where they go for service based on convenience, price, or referral. Many of them will stick around no matter what.

6. Retention protects your dealership from losing money when the market slows down

Normally, 70% of customers who purchase or lease from a dealership do not return for service, which translates to a huge loss of potential revenue.

Running a retention program when you’re busy will help ensure that your dealership stays busy, even if things change in the marketplace. The better you’re able to boost customer loyalty when the market is hot, the better off you’ll be when things calm down again.

Industry research shows that vehicle owners who had returned to a dealership for service within the prior 12 months were more than twice as likely to purchase their next vehicle at that dealership (35% vs. 74%).

Let’s say you tend to get about half of your customers wanting to come back to you. If 100 customers come in on a busy day, and 50 of them know they’ll be returning to you next time they need help, how does that affect your business later?

When everything slows down and there are only 10 customers walking in each day, instead of just hoping you keep 5 of those customers, you now already have 50 people you would’ve never seen again, coming back to you for service and purchases.

This way you can minimize the dips in customer traffic, making retention one of the smartest things you can do for your business.

How to increase retention at your dealership even when your staff is busy

There are many ways to improve your customer retention, but here are some areas to focus on if you want your customers to keep coming back:

  • Provide a superior customer experience: customers value fast service, and a streamlined experience. Things like online scheduling, vehicle pick-up and delivery, mobile service, and training advisors to be both friendly and knowledgeable go a long way.

  • Improve customer service: after pricing and quality of work, great customer service is the top reason customers return to your dealership for service.

  • Practice more transparency in communication: customers will quickly lose trust in a dealership when there’s a lack of transparency for goods and services, so show them prices early on, such as with online estimates. If you’re unable to deliver any services as promised, quickly address it with the customer and make it up to them.

  • Offer unique value-adds: aside from online appointment booking, amenities and incentives like free road hazard tire repair and free renewable roadside assistance are the top things customers value in a dealership service department. When you use a program like DriveSure, you can automatically provide customers with valuable perks like these and keep them coming back to you.

How DriveSure increases retention rates for new-car dealers

When you work with DriveSure, we empower you to provide additional value to your customers in the form of renewable benefits such as roadside assistance, road hazard tire protection, and more (rather than simply offering discounts, which don’t work well). Benefits like these keep customers coming back to you for on-time maintenance, unplanned repairs, and tires.


The bottom line is that customer retention should always be a focus for your dealership, but especially when you’re busy. By improving your retention efforts during these periods, you can protect your business from future dips and ensure that you have a strong and consistent customer base for years to come.

Ready to boost your customer retention and make sure your dealership continues to grow no matter what comes next in the marketplace? See how Lilliston Ford leverages DriveSure to do just that in this case study.


Service Department Grows 33%

Discover how Lilliston Ford uses DriveSure to crush the competition and keep service customers coming back again and again.

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