Don’t View Questions as a Weakness

By Mike Gorun  //  Uncategorized  //  Comments Off on Don’t View Questions as a Weakness

A recent article on CustomerThink explains how many companies view requesting customer feedback as a weakness. However, by asking questions you can optimize the results of your CX experience and save money because, sometimes what WE think should improve the customer experience isn’t what the customer wants.

If you don’t consult with customers about what THEY think is wrong with the experience, then craft solutions to solve those issues, you can end up like a fortune teller, attempting to read the minds of your customers without really having a clue.

On top of that, customer experience is an ever-evolving thing. You could create the best customer experience in the world and flourish from it. But, if you just maintain the status-quo, you may soon find that your customer experience is outdated – not unlike that laptop or iPhone which is succeeded by the “next best thing.” Customer experience is dynamic and should be a continuous initiative.

When developing any CX initiative, keep in mind that the only way to truly know issues of importance to your customers is to ask them. Find out what they want improved or how their experience is negatively impacted by asking them directly!

However, you won’t get all the data just by asking your customers, because they don’t always respond honestly — perhaps they are too polite, afraid to offend anyone. So, you also need to ask your employees. I promise you this is far from a weakness, but rather a show of strength, leadership and caring.

By asking questions of your customers and employees your dealership can show that it cares about them; that you are open to suggestions, ideas and criticism. Nobody thinks anyone is perfect, I guarantee you that. The person who thinks they are perfect is the one that probably isn’t.

Take the time to be inquisitive. Never stop asking questions of both your customers and employees. Then adapt, change processes or implement new ones and you will see that everyone works better together to win the game.


The Allure of Cross-Monetization & Evolving Loyalty Rewards

By Mike Gorun  //  Uncategorized  //  Comments Off on The Allure of Cross-Monetization & Evolving Loyalty Rewards

Today, consumers have grown used to loyalty programs and they have become the norm. So, to keep their customers’ interest, businesses have been forced to become more innovative and creative with their rewards. In fact, experiential rewards which transcend simple discounts or free services are very much on the rise.

As loyalty programs seek to further entice members to focus on gaining points towards rewards these members desire, a new trend is developing … and the interesting part is that those rewards are products and services at other businesses!

While this may seem counterproductive to the foundational goal of a loyalty program – keeping customers loyal to your product — it’s quite clever. It’s also not that new, it’s just expanded beyond magazine subscriptions and such. Now, many global brands have teamed up with the retail behemoth Amazon, allowing customers to use loyalty program points to purchase items.

Two large brands I know off recently partnered with Amazon: Hilton Honors and American Express. Both have strong loyal customer bases. Hilton loyalists tend to stay at Hilton hotels exclusively, so they can earn points – like frequent fliers — who tend to choose a single airline. Points are more valuable – and rewards easier to earn – when they arent spread thin across many retailers.

Why then, would Hilton and American Express choose to partner with Amazon, allowing customers to utilize their earned loyalty points as currency on the retail giants site?

Because Amazon has EVERYTHING. Think about it. In the past, a customer with a bunch of Hilton points could only look forward to someday utilizing those points for a future hotel stay. And, customers with the most points are mainly business travelers. Their companies pay for travel, which reduces enticing rewards to just personal vacations.

Businesses have the challenge of keeping rewards fresh, interesting and desirable to their customers. By partnering with Amazon, allowing members to utilize points on the site, they literally transform available loyalty rewards into anything a customer desires! And, the biggest benefit of this is that the loyalty rewards offered will always be attractive to the program’s members!

While some members may choose to use their points towards Amazon purchases, others will continue to use them in the more traditional way (such as towards future hotel stays in the Hilton).

Either way, the consumer is motivated to continue their loyalty with the original business. While also excited and motivated to earn loyalty points. Seems like a win-win-win in my book for the brands that have implemented this, their customers and, of course, Amazon.


You’re Not Going to Create Brand Loyalty with Urgency

By Mike Gorun  //  Uncategorized  //  Comments Off on You’re Not Going to Create Brand Loyalty with Urgency

For many marketers, most consumer messages have long been based on some sort of sense of urgency. Take dealerships, for example. Even when the customer is in the dealership, everything is about the “big sale” and the threat of “buy now or lose this deal.”

The problem is, it is no longer effective. Consumers have become numb to these messages; the simple reason being that they don’t believe them! There’s always a big sale and consumers fully expect that, if they come in next weekend, or a month from now, there will still be a big sale and a good deal to be had. They believe this because they have all the information needed to confirm it through the many Internet resources available to them.

But what does this have to do with customer loyalty?

First, by continuously throwing out these messages, you thoroughly destroy whatever credibility you may have built prior to them coming in. Rightly or wrongly, consumers are already jaded when dealing with car dealerships. This is simply exacerbated if they come in only to be met with high-pressure salespeople extolling how the dealership only wants to earn their business “right now!” Not in the future. Not for life. Not even for another day.

Imagine going on a first date and telling them that tonight is the only chance they get to have a relationship with you. You’d probably get laughed at right before your date gets up and leaves you standing there with a disbelieving look.

Relationships with your dealership are no different. In fact, it’s much harder for a business to build a relationship with a customer than it is on a personal level. And, by beginning the relationship with a message of “this is your one and only chance,” you send a message contrary to the one you should be sending.

Customer loyalty is built on emotion. That’s why we spend our money on brands we love and that make us feel appreciated. Those brands don’t focus on immediacy, or messages of “right now!” Rather, their message is focused on long-term customer relationships by catering to emotions.

Think of the last commercial you saw that brought tears to your eyes. What about that business involved in philanthropic efforts that you care about?  Or, if nothing else, the one that always delivers excellent customer service and fulfills its brand promise? Those are the businesses which build loyalty organically and enjoy a stable base of loyal customers built on a strong foundation.

The next time your dealership is tempted to push a customer into deciding “right now,” consider how that will affect the long-term relationship you have yet to build. If lifetime customer value means anything to you, and you would like to see hundreds of thousands of dollars flow into your dealership from repeat, service and referral business, you may want to reconsider your tactics.

Of course, if you are only interested in the immediate gross profit and don’t care about the future, you may find yourself in an eternal search for the next date. And that may be a lonely journey.


The Fight Club: Why Your Dealership Should Have One

By Mike Gorun  //  Uncategorized  //  Comments Off on The Fight Club: Why Your Dealership Should Have One

I know that in writing this article, I’m completely violating the first rule of the fight club. However, my guess is that your dealership doesn’t have one, so I’m willing to risk the wrath of Tyler Durden to help you get started in creating a fight club of your own.  

First, I’m not talking about the fight club that involves salespeople arguing over half-deals taking it “out back” to settle it. The fight club I’m talking about involves one simple truth: 

Your salespeople should be fighting to work in your service drive.   

You know this is true. I bet that you also fight tooth and nail to get your salespeople to work your service drive but, more importantly, to get them excited to do it!   

Look, you’re probably spending somewhere north of $5,800 per month on sales-related software, of which over 90 percent is dedicated to showroom or Internet sales. The average dealer also spends $28,000 per month on advertising. However, most dealers allocate less than 5 percent to service. Yet the average profit per vehicle retailed in service is almost 20 percent higher than walk-in or Internet sales. Why? Because the typical service customer doesn’t come prepared to buy, which means they haven’t had time to price shop you, or research all 24 touchpoints consumers supposedly visit!  

So, why does the average dealer have NO dedicated sales professional for service lane sales? 

Every dealer is going to fall into some sales from their service drive. But, if you’re sitting back thinking about how many service lane sales your store generates every month, that’s the exact opposite of what you should be thinking. Stop focusing on the ones you sold and shift your focus to the ones you didn’t! 

The main challenges in successful service lane sales are people and processes. Integrating a sales process into the service lane isn’t rocket science, but it must be tailored to service customers. Simply throwing a salesperson into the service drive, saying “Go get ‘em, tiger!” will only accomplish two things: it will alienate your service customers; and it will cost you more money from those salespeople drinking the “good” coffee you have for service customers. 

In addition, your service writers don’t have any skin in this game. For every customer you succeed at dragging out of service and selling a car to, that’s a repair order they don’t get a commission on. Sales and service have always butted heads, but that’s only because most dealerships don’t operate as a cohesive unit, but rather as two entities.  

Get your service advisors on board the sales train by including them in your sales meetings. Start spiffing them for bringing prime sales candidates to your attention — You know — that customer about to be presented with a $3,000 repair estimate. You might find that suddenly there is less friction and more cooperation between sales and service.  

Don’t throw that super-aggressive closer out there and expect results. Service customers are willing to listen, but they don’t want to feel harassed. In addition, blanket selling to your service customers is unwise. You should know who is coming in to service the next day. By reviewing the service appointments, you can identify customers that are great candidates for a new vehicle. Have value propositions waiting for them when they arrive. I’ve found the most effective sales personality in the service lane is your soft sell guy. The salesperson who presents a value proposition in a non-aggressive, fact-based way can avoid alienating service customers. The customer is then more open to listening to the proposition.  

By failing to have a good service sales process in place, most dealerships are not only missing out on additional sales, but those sales which are typically the most profitable. Gather the troops. Have a heart to heart. Get everyone on the same page. Train the best soft-sell sales candidates you have on how to handle service customers and put them in the service lane. Identify the best prospects and approach them with a previously prepared value proposition in a non-aggressive manner. You’ll find that your service to sales units increase, while holding some good profit. And that’s what it’s all about.  


The Essential Ingredient to Customer Loyalty

By Mike Gorun  //  Uncategorized  //  Comments Off on The Essential Ingredient to Customer Loyalty

When it comes to customer loyalty, one thing I find that many businesses fail to analyze — and perhaps one of the most essential ingredients to earning and keeping customer loyalty – is quality.

Customers may love you and love your staff; they may keep coming into your beautiful facility packed with all kinds luxuries. But, in the end, if the output from their visit isn’t of the expected quality, you may quickly find that the customer’s eyes cloud over and they start to look at taking their business to your nearest competitor.

Examples of poor quality in service could include failing to fix a vehicle right the first time; forgetting to put the air filter in the car; communication errors; mistakes on the bill; or even something as small as returning the vehicle with a dirty carpet.

Sometimes the customer will inform you and you can immediately address the situation. But other times the customer may just stay quiet and/or not notice until later. Either way, there was a bump in the road for the customer because the service they received wasn’t of high enough quality.

Being reactive is much more expensive than being proactive. Think about it. When customer hiccups do occur, dealerships will often not only fix the problem, but also throw in something “extra” as an apology. That extra could be a free oil change, or a gift card. Regardless of what it is, those extras cost money and detract from revenue.

Dealerships with a quality control process in place that helps ensure they don’t happen in the first place, and identifies these issues before the customer even becomes aware of any problem, find less occurrences of poor quality work.

What does a quality control process look like? It could be as simple as having the service advisor inspect the vehicle before giving it back to the customer. Perhaps a second technician could do a once-over inspection after the work is completed, just to get a fresh set of eyes on the vehicle. In sales have a sales manager review the deal with a customer prior to sending it to F&I. This can help ensure nothing was missed, that the customer understands all the terms, and that it includes everything the customer has voiced they want included in the deal.

These simple stop-gaps installed within regular dealership processes can prevent issues from arising. Whether service or sales, many tasks are routine and the simple process of performing the same tasks day in and day out can lead to fatigue or carelessness. No dealership wants to make mistakes. But they do happen – it’s just part of being human.

To keep the highest quality possible, all staff need to be on the same page and share an ambition for quality, which is of utmost importance in the quest for customer loyalty.

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