Your customer has signed on the dotted line, happily driving off the lot in their brand-new vehicle. It’s easy to think of what comes next as a bit of a honeymoon period. Whether they’re covered by a factory warranty or lucky enough to have factory-paid maintenance, the brand-new vehicle owner is enticed to come directly to your dealership for their maintenance and repairs.

But like most good things, your customer’s warranty must come to an end. 10 years or 100,000 miles later (even sooner if we’re talking factory-paid maintenance) and that loyal, revenue-driving relationship suddenly hits a bit of a roadblock. Why? The vehicle owner’s coverage has expired, and literally overnight every ding to their car is now a ding to their wallet. Hello, sticker shock.

Customer defection equation

With your customer at a proverbial fork in the road, your dealership faces a critical challenge: incentivize ongoing loyalty or risk losing out to the auto repair chain down the road. The good news: the industry as a whole is seeing an upswing in customer loyalty. But it’s up to you to make that swing a home run.

Prepare for the 5 make-or-break moments that can cause service customers to start going elsewhere.

Driving Customer Retention

So, how do you do it? How do you take advantage of what could be a critical moment to ensure your customers don’t drive off into the sunset with your competition? We’ve put together our top four tips for keeping customers and keeping them happy.

Before the Expiration Date

Think of these tips as your building blocks, setting the stage for when expiration day hits and your customer has a choice to make between you and someone else. Because in reality, it should never come down to just one interaction. You need to be continuously building out a loyal (and lasting) relationship with every customer that comes to your dealership.

Educate Your Audience

Think sticker shock is bad? Imagine the shock a customer faces when they are handed a bill with a hefty price tag AND they have no idea what went into their vehicle maintenance. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Keeping your customers educated is the easiest (and most cost effective) way to build loyalty and trust. When you can position yourself as both the expert in your field and the expert on your customer’s car, you become the go-to person for all things service and maintenance – from oil changes to tires to whatever check engine challenges your customer might face on their journey.

Pro Tip: Don’t wait until your customer has an issue with their car or warranty to start educating them. Before they even drive off the lot make sure they have a clear understanding of their car and their warranty – what it covers, what it doesn’t, and how long it lasts.

Reputation Matters

Reputation can mean different things to different people, but unless you fancy yourself a Joan Jett impersonator, chances are you don’t want a bad one. And thanks to factory-paid maintenance and/or warranties you have a chance to prove yourself – and build out a sterling reputation – before your customer is faced with deciding between your dealership and another service provider.

Don’t waste that opportunity. Show off your service skills. Prioritize the customer experience. In short, make it so your customer never even considers another option. Because you are THAT good.

After the Expiration Date

It’s expiration day and your customer has started shopping around for the best deals. They come to you with one critical question: How you are better than the shop down the road?

Not sure what to say? We’ve got you covered.

Define the Difference

As a dealership you face an unfortunate, but true fact. Many of your customers simply don’t understand how you differ from any other service shop. While you may have been able to make some headway building up your reputation prior to expiration day, if you want to win in the fight for loyalty you’re going to have to highlight how and why you are better than your competition. Whether that’s your customer experience or your service expertise or both.

Luckily for you, you have the chops to back up your claims. Now you just have to communicate it out to your audience.

Want to widen the gap between yourself and your competition? Partnering with a service offering like DriveSure, that bundles renewable value-added benefits with your customers’ regularly-scheduled maintenance puts a feather in the cap of your already outstanding offerings.

Put the I in Incentive

What’s the best way to keep your customers coming back again and again? Incentivize them. Because who doesn’t love a free extra or a discounted deal?

There are a few different ways to think about incentives when it comes to your customers, but we are going to focus on two of the most common:

  • Loyalty/Reward Programs: These types of programs encourage, well, loyalty. It’s a concept we see across industries, but which has a particular strong-hold in the automotive world. Whether it’s a point system that ends in high-ticket rewards or a freebie with purchase, these programs are often used to encourage customer retention.
  • Value-Adds: It’s a commonly accepted business principle that customers are willing to pay more for a better experience. And how do you elevate their experience? By bringing in more value. Why go somewhere else for an oil change when going to the dealership means your oil change is complemented with extra perks? Incentive programs like DriveSure help dealerships elevate their value by offering customers a unique suite of renewable benefits including: premium roadside assistance, road hazard tire protection, and emergency alternate transportation.

The Bottom-Line Impact

Two simple but hard hitting facts:

  1. Close to 50% of dealership profits come from service and maintenance departments
  2. Dealerships provide less than one third of all service visits.

Just because the factory-paid maintenance or warranty has expired doesn’t mean your customer relationship should too. Understanding how to leverage this moment into ongoing revenue opportunities ensures your bottom-line never hits a roadblock.

Looking to avoid other common potholes and pitfalls in the customer journey? Download our free dealership customer journey guide to explore the critical moments when customers are most likely to hit the eject button and (more importantly) how to stop them from doing so.

Master These Moments to Keep Your Customers

Discover the 5 critical moments causing customers to abandon your dealership service department, and how you can overcome them.