From Lead to Loyalty: AutoAlert’s Guide to Dealership Customer Retention

Turn One-Time Buyers into Lifelong Fans!

This guide focuses on the entire customer journey, from the initial lead generation stage to maintaining customer loyalty, to increase dealership customer retention. Gain strategies, best practices, and innovative solutions for your dealership to enhance customer satisfaction, increase customer retention, and ultimately build long-term loyalty. Explore effective techniques for dealer customer retention, ensuring that your dealership not only attracts new customers but also keeps them coming back for future purchases and services.

The What

Customer loyalty measures how likely customers are to repeat business with your dealership. The current times are arguably the most competitive for automotive sales, and it’s more important than ever to focus on customer loyalty.

Consumers will go out of their way to pick their favorites in all areas of consumerism. However, not all products have an equal level of what is needed to gain that loyalty. The stakes are higher for the automotive industry because it is such a large purchase the consumer is making. So, while Coca-Cola and McDonalds can get away with advertising campaigns to drive business, customer retention and brand loyalty for dealerships greatly outweigh all other marketing endeavors.

If we blame customers for not being loyal to us, we’re saying they are not faithful, devoted, or raving fans. What we should ask is, what have we done to earn their faithfulness, devotion, and fandom? After all, retaining customers is much less expensive than acquiring new ones.

Consider the following types of customers:

1. Satisfied Customers:

Clients who are pleased with the service provided and will consider buying again.

2. Loyal Customers:

These customers were not just satisfied; they were happy with their service or purchase. When asked, they will recommend you.

3. Raving Fan Advocates:

Not only will they return to buy from you, but they want everyone else to know about you. They will actively urge others to give their business to you.

Which type of customer would you prefer? You probably chose raving fan advocates, and you’re right! The goal should be to create as many as possible.

Understand Their “Why”

For the vast majority of customers, a visit to your dealership removes inconvenience from their lives. They hope that you hold the key (literally) to fixing a problem that is causing discomfort. You are part of their customer journey, and helping them navigate through this stage should be considered an honor.

The dealership’s job is to uncover their customer’s reason for shopping for a vehicle. Some examples could be:

They don’t currently own a vehicle and need one to accomplish their daily tasks.

Their current vehicle no longer meets their needs (growing family, changing work situation, entering a different stage of life, etc.).

Their vehicle needs service, and they want to get their routine back to them quickly.

They want something with the latest technology and perks to make their commute safer, more dependable, and more enjoyable.

For many people, a vehicle equals freedom. They can go where they want when they want and do what they need to do. When your salespeople understand this simple but powerful fact, they know what this transaction means to their customers on a deeper level. It’s their job to try to fix this problem, first and foremost, for their customers.

How to get to the next level

Dealerships satisfy customers when they have good, consistent processes in place. If your sales team members follow the basic road to the sale, use effective scripts, and build value in your product, they will create satisfied customers.

To achieve the next level of loyalty, you must improve your process. The more efficient your processes, the more loyal your clients will be.

When your team can do something better or faster, it sets you apart from your competition.

Your process must become proactive and empathetic to create raving fan advocates. Advocacy happens when a person feels a deep connection to a cause or a person. When your sales team learns to be proactive and use empathy, they create raving fan advocates.

Your Staff is Your Brand

Customer loyalty starts with your employees. There’s no way around it. The staff interacting with your customers are your brand. Expecting superior customer service will set you apart and keep them coming back.

Utilizing all the tools available also simplifies processes, creates efficiencies, and boosts your brand.

Here are some ways to tackle those objectives:

Interpersonal Skills Are Key

After being in a dealership day after day, year after year, even the best, most attentive staff can forget what it’s like for customers walking into the store. Most customers have some level of intimidation. This is a major purchase, and they don’t want to make a bad deal and have regrets. Because of the sometimes-deserved stereotypes of car dealers, they often come prepared for battle.

The quickest way to disarm the customer and defuse the situation is to show that you’re there to help them select the vehicle that will best meet their needs and not just try to make the sale. When you become a partner in their quest, the dynamic shifts. Instead of an “us versus them” mentality, the experience becomes a “win-win” relationship.

So, how to best accomplish this?

Be Interested

Show that you want the best for your customers by asking them pertinent questions about what they want in a vehicle and why they want it. By asking questions and listening to their answers, you’ll get a much better understanding of what it is they’re looking for.


Be Knowledgeable

You can’t find the right vehicle for the customer’s needs if you don’t know everything about the vehicles in your inventory. This can be more challenging when dealing with used vehicles of various makes, models, and years, but try to know what you’ve got to work with.

Be Realistic

Get a feel for what your customer can afford or is willing to spend. While you should treat all customers with respect, showing a customer a vehicle they cannot afford doesn’t do anyone any good. Make them feel good about the vehicles they can purchase rather than envy the ones they can’t.


Be Empathetic

This purchase is a big deal for your customer. It’s not just a financial transaction; it’s emotional. Some customers may need more handholding than others, but everyone needs support. Customers who buy from you will leave in one of two emotional states: excited about their new vehicle or apprehensive that they’ve made a huge mistake. Help them leave feeling good about themselves, their vehicle, and your dealership.

The Greeting Breakdown

Satisfaction happens when a salesperson delivers the standard industry greeting. It typically includes shaking hands, welcoming customers to the dealership, and exchanging names.

Loyalty begins to grow when you incorporate efficiency into the greeting. For example, instead of saying, “How may I help you?” a salesperson asks, “What information can I get you today?” It’s more efficient because the salesperson understands why the customer is there.

Advocacy happens when proactivity and empathy are added to the greeting, and you approach and greet a customer based on their body language, verbal, or other clues. When you adapt yourself to a customer’s behavior, they feel like you are sympathetic to who they are, and you will seem familiar to them.

Examine your processes to see where you can add proactivity and empathy and offer a service that makes the customer feel understood and appreciated. This will help you create raving fan advocates and dominate your market!

Get Personal with Marketing

Spray-and-pray marketing isn’t very effective for modern consumers. Sending a customized message to each customer, or the one-to-one approach, is much more effective and ultimately leads to a sale.

Address customers as individuals by sending them a specific offer through personalized social media ads. It’s essentially saying, “Hey, you aren’t just a number to us. We know what you want and how to accommodate you.”

Use the Digital Space

One of the greatest things about the modern consumer is that they communicate directly with your social media pages. How you handle those interactions will make or break the relationship. The important thing is to have a strategy in place for quick, informative, and personal responses that will encourage customers to become long-term, loyal advocates of your brand.

A key component to assuring quick and personal customer interaction is having a point or team dedicated to monitoring and responding to customers. Quick attention to issues with the product or service will always be appreciated.

Tell Your Story

Consumers are becoming exponentially more interested in buying the story behind the product. They want to feel a human and ethical connection to the companies they buy from and will even pay more for a product if they do.

Show your dealership’s history and culture. Let your customers in on how your dealership got started and how it’s maintained. This could be narrated on the “about us” page of your website.

Social media posts can show your values through announcements and celebrations. These could include your dealership’s anniversary, employee honors, and volunteer and philanthropic causes you participate in. This shows your personable side, allowing customers to relate to your dealership and opening a pathway for conversation.

Don’t Discount Follow Up

As good as the customer may feel driving off your lot in the vehicle of their dreams, many things are clamoring for their attention once the initial excitement wears off. The relationship your salesperson forged during the sale won’t survive long without an organized, systematic plan for keeping it alive. By offering relevant communications with the customer, they’ll keep your dealership in mind when servicing their vehicles or purchasing a new one.

Good times for follow-up include:

  • A few days after the sale, to ensure they’re enjoying their vehicle and to answer any questions they didn’t ask.
  • When it’s time to perform routine maintenance (oil change, tire rotation, seasonal adjustments, etc.)
  • When their circumstances change (new driver in the family, impending retirement, new baby, etc.)

Don’t let your dealership’s staff get so busy bringing in new business that they forget to maintain their relationships with existing customers. A properly configured, properly utilized CRM is crucial to ensuring this follow-up occurs. An equity mining platform keeps these imperative touchpoints from falling through the cracks and gives your staff a relative reason for getting in touch.

The key to creating loyal customers and raving fans is understanding some basic philosophies. When your dealership is seen as a trusted partner, the sales and service process is easier for everyone involved. After all, retaining customers is much less expensive than acquiring new ones. Following these strategies and principles will make an immediate difference in how customers react when shopping and buying vehicles. And you’ll see a massive increase in repeat and referral business.

Investing in a dealership CRM tool is the best way to drive your customer loyalty objectives forward with speed, automation, and efficiency, thereby enhancing dealer customer retention. These tools are the most cost-effective way to ensure customer satisfaction, retention, and loyalty. Are you using the right tool for the task?


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