By Bob McCann
Once you’ve convinced newly acquired customers that they bought the right product, from the right dealership, you must subtly lead them back to you for service, future purchases, and referrals of their friends and family.
Regardless of what product was purchased, it’s important to nurture customers, so they remain loyal to your dealership, especially considering the growing competition from major retailers, as well as dealers, both on– and off–line.
Building long–term loyalty goes a long way toward increasing customer retention and fostering a base for future sales and service. It requires a sound customer retention strategy. The following guidelines will help you turn one–time buyers into lifelong customers.
Deliver an excellent customer experience.
Customer service is not an expense; it’s a critical part of your business and the most cost–effective, loyalty–building tool you could possibly have. Everyone on your team should not only be well trained on the technical aspects of selling and servicing your products, but they should also be passionate, following service protocols designed to solve problems beyond handling repairs and providing technical advice or user guidance.
Exceeding expectations also includes fulfilling the exceptional need or the odd request. For example, one of the dealerships we work with provides loaner equipment, when repair work requires more than 24 hours, to ensure that landscapers can continue serving their customers. Some dealers have similar programs for homeowners or they offer free delivery. One of our dealer clients even offers to plow a customer’s driveway if their snow blower is in for service! That’s what will differentiate your customer–oriented business from the big–box store. Going the extra mile will convince customers that they made the right decision, and should keep you as their dealership of choice.
Special customers deserve special offers.
Know who your VIP customers are and treat them as such. Create customized special offers and loyalty discounts. Remember to tell them that these exceptional opportunities are only for them. Pat Lyons, owner of Pat’s Power Equipment, Charlestown, R.I., gives priority service scheduling to consumers who purchase equipment from him. Not only do his customers appreciate the perk, but it encourages them to buy equipment from him rather than his competition!
Rewards fuel referrals
Word of mouth is the most convincing form of advertising. It confirms that a customer thinks highly of you and the service you provide. As an incentive, you can offer cash or gift cards for every referral that becomes a customer. Make the process easy. Customers can either send the referral to your dealership, or they can provide you with that person’s contact information, including name, number and/or email.
People do business with people they know, like, and trust.
Put yourself in front of customers. Participate in online user groups and forums, as well as social media platforms to maintain a two–way, free–flowing dialog. You can write how–to posts on unit maintenance and other helpful best practices. You can also simply answer any questions or concerns that participants may have. Your customers will get a deeper understanding of the value you bring to the table. You’ll have a better idea of what’s on their mind, so you can better serve them. This soft–sell approach is a great way to build credibility.
The hand-written note is not dead — It’s very much alive and appreciated!
In this age of hyper–convenient email and instant messaging, a hand–written note will make you stand out. You simply can’t duplicate that one–to–one feeling with any other communication tool.
Sometimes, it’s the more personal and traditional touch that means the most to people, as many customers are still very impressed with a salesperson who has taken the time to write a note instead of sending an email. For a greater impact, make sure that you mention the product they purchased in your note. Remember to include a business card, even if you’ve already given one to the customer in the past.
Don’t forget about parts and service.
Though retail sales are beginning to grow again, many consumers are still reluctant to invest in new products, electing to repair their existing equipment instead. Positioning your dealership as the go–to contact for repair and maintenance work and providing a high level of customer service will help build loyalty and, more importantly, drive incremental parts sales.
Combining new lead generation with existing customer retention is the cornerstone of your long–term business success. A customer’s loyalty is earned — not granted. Turning one–time buyers into lifelong customers and getting referrals starts with your commitment to a consistent, meaningful, nurturing strategy designed to foster credibility, trust and confidence. Diligence is the only path to ongoing sales growth.
Bob McCann, a 20–year sales education veteran, is the author of the nationally recognized e–business sales method known as TIPS (Traffic, Interactive Website, Process, Sales). As Director of Education at ARI, McCann has developed proven e–business sales processes to support the company’s growing list of dealer and manufacturer clients in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine and RV industries. McCann can be reached at (877) 806–2150 or firstname.lastname@example.org.