I recently read a very thought-provoking article asking this very question; “Is the simple fact that the customer has money enough to make the purchase a determining factor for you?” Too often the customers dealerships try and attract aren’t necessarily the customers they really should be targeting. According to the article, it’s solely the dealership’s fault. Retail automotive dealerships are known for throwing out all sorts of mixed messages trying to attract the widest audience possible.
No matter what dealership department you work in, you have those customers that take up a lot of your time, sometimes are difficult to deal with and that, in general, are customers you’d rather not have. There are countless stories of sales that were not made simply because the sales manager decided that it would be more trouble trying to get the deal closed than it was really worth. According to the article, while these troublesome customers “did indeed have the money [for services], they were hard on the staff, on occasion disruptive and were gone as fast as they came.”
You may be a dealer who specializes in special finance, obviously there’s nothing wrong with that. However, you must be cognizant of the simple fact that the message you put out there will dictate the type of customers you get. If you don’t want your finance department spending a lot of time trying to get financing, collecting stips and having bank fees eat into your front-end profit, then you may want to rethink your approach in attracting credit-challenged customers with your marketing.
If your marketing message is attracting un-loyal customers who are only doing business with you short term, this will detract from any sensible growth strategy and cause the very thing you don’t want; a shift in focus away from customer retention and an increase towards acquisition. If you’re a 100-car a month store, you’ll never be a 150-car a month store if you are continuously having to seek out customers, especially if those customers are the ones that have no intention of sticking around. There’s nothing wrong with deep discounting a car to a person who lives in your market and will be servicing their vehicle with you. At least there is an upside to that loss. If you’re doing the same thing for a customer who doesn’t live in your market and you will never see again; you’ve taken a loss with no opportunity for future growth. The same applies to your service department. If you are trying to acquire customers with $19.95 oil changes and find very little up-sell happening, chances are good that those customers won’t be back… that is until the next $19.95 oil change.
Many dealerships don’t know how to isolate or segregate the customers who are doing this when in fact, it’s a very simple process. Technology offers solutions to dealers that allow them to track purchases and customer interactions through sophisticated loyalty programs. The installation of a loyalty program would help you identify the customers that only come in for these deep discounts but also allow you to separate them from your marketing efforts. It becomes very simple then to not offer coupons or deals to those specific customers that are in reality actually costing you money. The opposite also applies. When you have a customer that you consistently up-sell when they come in for a $19.95 oil change, you can send them these types of offers on a more frequent basis. They are the predisposed profitable customer, and will in all likelihood make that same purchase again.
As the article states, “…in order to build a business that truly can thrive, you must understand who you are equipped to serve best and you must do everything in your power to attract, serve and choose them over all else.”
Next time you are contemplating marketing strategies, think about which customers you want to attract. Then tailor your message to them and ensure that you are equipped to offer those customers everything they need and want. By doing so, you’ll decrease the number of customers you don’t want, and position your dealership to choose your customers. Chances are good that if the choice is mutual, everyone will win in the end.
A fascinating article in Forbes shared a concept that is increasingly winning over customers. In the article, the author described what he termed “anticipatory customer service” as “a customer experience that manages to serve even the unexpressed wishes and needs of your customers through the use of technology and automation.”
People are busy. A gesture such as an emailed service reminder that a customer can view when they have time in their hectic schedule, is certainly appreciated by many. However, Anticipatory Customer Service takes this to another level. Depending on the circumstances and the customer preferences, not only would you e-mail the customer, you would also call them, send a text message and then a letter as well. This method works well for customers who want this communication. When a customer drops their car off for service, they want to be kept up-to-date on progress and completion. If they’re in a meeting, they might prefer a text message. While if they are working at their computer, an email might be their preferred method. Anticipatory customer service is all based on providing consumers information before they know they want it themselves.
The popular pharmacy chain Walgreens has refined the art of Anticipatory Customer Service and makes dealing with them easy and convenient. They allow you to refill prescriptions online or via a free app. If that’s too hard (or you forget), they will e-mail you. All you then have to do is reply, and they will refill your prescription. When it is ready for pickup, they will email you again. If you forget to pick it up they will then call you and remind you that it’s ready… multiple times. Once you pick it up, they thank you through their rewards program. No doubt this works to Walgreens’ advantage by decreasing the amount of time between a customer being eligible for a refill, and actually refilling it. It also decreases the time between when the refill is ready and the customer collects it. The pharmacy doesn’t make money until the prescription is picked up. By continuously reminding customers, they are increasing their revenue. Of course, there is a fine line between using multiple methods of communication and badgering a customer. So businesses need to ensure that there is a way for customers to inform them of their preferences. This is simple through opt-out links on email communication and the “stop” message for text messaging.
Parallels definitely exist in the automotive world. For example, minor and regularly scheduled service such as an oil change. Walgreens doesn’t know how many pills you have remaining, just as you may not know how many miles the customer has driven since their last service. However, based on the customer’s visit history, it can be closely approximated.
Many companies send out one email and call it a day. The strength in Walgreens system is its repetitiveness. A service customer may get that e-mail reminder and not be ready for an oil change based on mileage; or perhaps think it’s a good idea but be too busy to make an appointment. By continuing to contact them via multiple methods, you give yourself more opportunities to reach the customer at the moment in which they are ready. A scenario none of us want to happen is to remind the customer, have them agree to the service, then they become busy and forget. You fail to stay in contact, and on a future date the customer pops into a Jiffy Lube to get that convenient oil change, simply because they are near it. I’m sure Jiffy Lube thanks you, however.
Making it as easy and convenient as possible for your customer to do business with you is the key point here. There is no reason why you can’t text a customer and allow them to text you back to make an appointment. The same applies to email, or a phone call reminding the customer about their upcoming service appointment. According to the article, “it’s here that you shift your customers’ perception of your company out of the ‘they’re perfectly fine, for now’ to ‘they’re my one and only.’ It’s here that they become truly committed to, loyal to, the idea of working with you on a permanent basis.”
A more proactive approach and the use of technology to maintain contact with your customers about information they WANT to receive, can help builds better relationships and a more loyal customer base.
In a recent announcement by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, it was revealed that Yahoo will soon stop allowing its users to login using their Facebook or Google credentials. This move is an effort by Yahoo to better control its content and services. On the surface, the move makes sense and doesn’t seem as if there would be significant backlash from consumers. Facebook and Google log-ins have become very prevalent over the past couple of years, accounting for 80 percent of consumer social logins. Consumers have widely adopted these because they allow easy access to many sites using one secure log-in. Forcing users, some of which don’t even have Yahoo accounts, to register and use those login credentials may hurt traffic and users may choose to patronize other sites with similar services.
Yahoo has seen its ups and downs over the past decade in web traffic. Since Marissa Mayer became CEO, she has guided the company back to become the most trafficked site in the United States, according to comScore data, even surpassing the search giant Google.
This is not the first such experience for Yahoo. A few years ago, in an attempt to increase traffic to it’s popular photo-sharing property Flickr, it dropped the Yahoo-only login requirement. In a 2012 article, Flickr’s product manager Markus Spiering said, “We don’t care so much about what kind of passport you have – a Google ID, Facebook.” However, now, in one swift move, Yahoo has decided that it does, in fact, care.
Yahoo has some incredibly popular services including Flickr and Fantasy Sports, yet both of those services have very tough competition, from most major sports networks ESPN and CBS on the Fantasy Sports side, to Instagram, Facebook and others on the photo sharing side.
Convenience aside, social logins are attractive to users because they allow the user to share of photos and content with a wide variety of networks, without actually leaving the site they are on. By disconnecting Facebook and Google passports, Yahoo will effectively be isolating its visitors, and content, to its properties. With a billion people sharing content on platforms such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, a Yahoo user would now find it necessary to leave Yahoo in order to share that content.
Will this inconvenience detract from the user experience in a big enough way to actually deter users from sharing content originating from a Yahoo property? If it does, Yahoo properties may experience a decrease in audience. When users share content with their social networks, that content delivers more traffic to Yahoo. If people stop sharing it, it would seem logical that Yahoo would experience the opposite.
It’s obvious that Yahoo feels confident enough in the quality and value of its content and services that its willing to bet that any loss of traffic through defected users will be replaced by the increase of registered users on its site and, perhaps, to an increased loyalty base. It’s certainly a risky experiment. In our increasingly inter-connected world, choosing control over user experience could either be a huge mistake or a brilliant move. Only time will tell.