Can efforts to capture customer loyalty be thwarted by employee loyalty?
Evidence gathered from top retail groups, including auto dealerships, indicates that employee loyalty directly affects customer loyalty and thus business results.
Dealer operators and their managers do their business, their stakeholders and their shareholders disservice when they fail to foster, develop and reward employee engagement. Get this loyalty driver fixed first. Then watch the ROI on customer loyalty improve.
According to customer experience researchers Temkin Group, engaged employees are key to engaged and loyal customers.
“Engaged employees deliver a better customer experience; a better customer experience creates customer loyalty; puts employee engagement; and, customer loyalty leads to more profitable business results,” Bruce Temkin, managing partner, told Direct Marketing News.
Among auto dealership franchises, Toyota does the best job at this, according to Temkin’s Experience Ratings report, just released.
Is employee loyalty killing your dealership?
When employees are taken for granted, not given clear direction, rarely cheered on and viewed as utilities, don’t expect them to engage customers in positive ways.
Absenteeism, water cooler huddles and high turnover are signs employee loyalty is in bad shape.
The good news is that developing employee loyalty is not rocket science, but a good dose of the Golden Rule, treating others as one would like to be treated.
Here are some ideas for engaging employees so they can deliver better customer experience:
- Hire the right people. Look for those possessing the required job skills – as well as having the heart and desire to serve others.
- Lead with vision. Employees who can articulate the dealership’s guiding principles and reflect them in their engagement with others have bought into leadership’s vision. Wall plaques cannot adequately convey this vision. Ongoing cheerleading sessions and desk side chats will.
- Equip staff to master and own their jobs. Only when employees know their jobs and are comfortable performing them will their attitude and actions allow them to focus more on others and their needs than their own. Provide training on both hard job skills and soft attitude skills.
- Care for their families. This is a tough business, given the hours, competitiveness and personality types it attracts. Nothing tells employees you care about them like paying attention to their personal life and family. Include families in company events. Send flowers or other forms of condolence when an employee’s family member is ill or otherwise struggling. Can the dealership fund a scholarship program for employees’ children or sponsor a kids’ day program during summer months? Might a letter to a spouse of a hard-working member of the team encourage both employee and spouse?
- Link their loyalty to customer loyalty: Some people get it naturally, that warmth, helpfulness and personal interest in others, that sparks social interaction. Most of us need a few clues. Consider an all-staff event to talk about the link between customer loyalty and employee loyalty. Help them see clearly that their behavior and attitude on the job (as well as off) either bolsters or undermines efforts to build customer loyalty long-term. If you need outside expert help, make the call and the investment.
“Most industries earn their reputations,” Temkin told Direct Marketing News. “What happens is industries end up cultivating their mediocrity.”
What reputation is employee loyalty cultivating for your dealership and your customers?
How do you “lead with vision” at your dealership?
When did you last share with someone important why you enjoy him or her? We’re fast to convey disappointment or dissatisfaction with others, but uplifting the attributes in them we like feels rather strange.
Yet when it comes to building loyalty, whether in customers, coworkers or family members, nothing will engage their attention – and draw them to us in response – like taking the time to consider and then share positive observations about them.
You may be thinking that an idea like this has no place in the rough and tumble world of auto sales, when in fact, you wouldn’t be further from the truth. Anytime that there is any interpersonal friction, misunderstanding or a feeling of ingratitude, an uplifting and edifying discussion about the values you perceive in someone else will carry the day for a long time to come.
The hardest challenge for most of us is identifying specifically what it is we like about someone else – and then being courageous enough to share these observations with them. You don’t want to spin an attribute that’s not exhibited in someone, but you can identify qualities in him or her worth mentioning. This means though taking time to observe your employees/coworkers and learn their interests.
When you build up others, both you and the recipient should experience a lift while building the working relationship.
If your goal is to build a loyal customer base, there’s no better place to start than by building up your employees’ loyalty and engagement by making sure they know how they are valued. Properly timed sharing of encouraging remarks like “things I like about you” is the most cost-effective means for improving employee morale and loyalty.
Here’s how this might work in the dealership. Chatting with a service advisor in the break room, the service manager says, “You know, Larry, I’ve known you now for what, three years? You know what I like about you? I like that you’re always punctual. I like the way you greet our customers and always have something to say to them that makes them smile. I like it that when you talk about your kids your stories are always upbeat; it’s obvious you love them very much. I’m glad you’re on our team, Larry. Thanks for your commitment and loyalty. It means a lot to me.”
How would such words shared sincerely with you make you feel about your employer, your job and yourself? The fact that someone else took the time to recognize these qualities in another speaks volumes.
Life can beat us down, and no one is immune from life’s trials. We can’t do much about those matters, but we can learn to speak grace into others’ lives. Why not choose today to be a deliverer of grace to those who labor with you.
Share an example where you have improved employee morale and loyalty at your business.
How does your business build a loyal customer base?
- 98% of Customers Who Join a Rewards Program Provide an Email Address
- Email Open Rates for Reward Members are 300% Higher Than Non-Members
- Dealerships That Provide an Incentive for Customers to Return After a Visit Have a 20% Increase In Sales
- Statistics Show a 35% Service Visit Increase with Rewards Members
- Members Spend 11% More Annually on Service When Participating in a Rewards Program
I think it’s pretty obvious after seeing those numbers that having a rewards program in place can more than triple the overall profit for your dealership.
Customers are always looking for the best deal and the best ways to save money. When you offer a rewards program, you are giving your customers what they want. The upside for you? You create loyal, repeat customers that will return to your dealership time and time again and spend more money while doing it. What’s not to love? By contacting a third-party provider, like LoyaltyTrac to help you setup a successful rewards program, you can increase your customer base and profit.
Also, there is a huge marketing potential for your rewards members. With statistics showing a 300% increase in email open rates, you better have a marketing strategy in place to reach your rewards customers.
Offer special incentives to only your rewards members – like an extra 15% off their next service visit or double their reward points for that entire month.
It is important not to SPAM your reward members. Each customer’s email address is like gold, so don’t blow it by dumping ten or more emails a month into their mailbox. They won’t appreciate it and neither will your bank account. Instead, offer thought-out marketing campaigns each month that have a specific focus and offer real value to your rewards members. Take time to sit down and plan out your marketing strategy for the next two months, or even the whole year and craft engaging content.
By utilizing your rewards members through your email marketing, you will more than triple the ROI for your efforts.
What are some of the successes you have had with your rewards program?
How are you utilizing your rewards program to grow your dealership?
With service departments finally getting the credit due to them for contributing to the growth and profit of dealerships, pre-paid maintenance programs (PMP) are starting to make a huge impact on the overall profit of dealerships as well.
I think it is well established that most PMPs are being sold in the F & I department. But is that the only place that they can make the dealership money? Pricing your pre-paid maintenance program is a big part in whether a customer will even consider purchasing a plan. Recently we noticed that dealerships were overcharging their maintenance plans, arguing “what’s the point if we can’t make profit on the program?”, which made us realize that some dealerships are taking the wrong approach to their PMP.
When selling a maintenance plan to a customer, you tell them that they are saving money in the long-run and that they will not have to worry about the maintenance on their vehicle for 2 -5 years, depending on the length of the plan they choose. But when looking at the benefits from a dealership standpoint, there are several things to look at, and not just the profit. If you are concerned about losing your shirt when selling PMPs, then consider building your own PMP through a third-party provider like UltraCare and keep more profit for yourself. By cutting out some of the costs associated with most PMPs, you can lower your prices and still come out ahead.
What should you consider when looking for a pre-paid maintenance program?
Pre-Paid Maintenance programs, when delivered effectively, increase customer loyalty and create repeat business for your service department AND sales department. A customer is seven times more likely to return to your dealership if they have purchased a maintenance program from you. In addition, customers are 83% more likely to purchase their next vehicle from you if they visit your service department regularly.
Try to keep the bigger picture in mind. By stepping out of the box of profit and stepping into the one of loyalty, you can start to see the forest and not just the trees right in front of you. PMP are a great tool for dealerships, but if not used correctly, they will be unsuccessful and can actually hurt your reputation with your customers.
So, it is not just about adding to the profit of the sell. It is about adding a loyal customer that will return multiple times and more than triple that number. Price your programs competitively and to the advantage of the customer. In the long-run you will make much more profit. Not to mention you will have a happy customer who will bring more customers to your business through word of mouth.
What successes have you had with your PMP?
What are some of the frustrations you have with the PMP that you offer?
Many of the so-called loyalty programs in operation today don’t really develop loyal customers at all; rather, they create “frequent” customers. Loyal customers do more than just visit your business more frequently than other customers; they are your businesses’ best marketing tool and your biggest fans! They want your business to do well, and they ensure that you’re there for them when they need you by sending more business your way. Besides bringing their own business to you, they encourage others to do the same.
These loyal customers are the most valuable assets businesses have, and yet many loyalty programs provide these customers with the same standard treatment every other customer receives. Good loyalty programs, rather than “frequent customer” programs, recognize and value customers for their loyalty, rewarding them for more than simple patronage. And by keeping its best customers happiest, businesses reap their own rewards through several channels of business growth.
Below are 15 key business benefits of properly implemented loyalty programs. We recommend you evaluate each one to determine how well your loyalty program is providing each benefit:
1. Retain Existing Customers: Not only do loyalty programs provide tangible incentives for continued patronage (via earned points, etc.), programs collect customer data that allows a business to better meet the needs of its individual customers. This provides for more targeted and customized service, making the consumers more likely to remain customers.
2. Acquire New Customers: While it should not be the central focus of any loyalty program, acquiring new customers is essential to any business and should be a benefit of your loyalty program. How effectively your program attracts new customers will depend on how exciting and how valuable the rewards seem to the target audience. Use your program data to determine demographics of your most loyal customers; then target prospective customers with similar demographics in acquisition campaigns.
3. Move Customers Up to Higher Tiered Rewards Levels: Build into your program the ability for customers to “graduate” to higher rewards when certain thresholds are met. This will encourage lower spenders to increase their spend in order to move up to better rewards brackets.
4. Filter Out Unprofitable Customers: It can be more expensive to retain bad customers than it is to acquire new ones. Customers who only purchase during times of sales and discounts can cost you money rather than increase sales. Design your loyalty program to reward better customers without rewarding those just watching for the bargain buys. Professor Philip Kotler’s adaptation of the Pareto Principle states that while the top 20% of your customers generate 80% of the profits, the bottom 30% of your customers eat up 50% of the profits generated by the 20%. Ensure your program is only rewarding the customers actually bringing in business.
5. Recover Orphan Customers: Salvaging former customers can be infinitely more effective – and much less expensive – than acquiring new customers. Discover what it takes to win back old customers and target this group with “We’ve Missed You” campaigns. Then ensure their new experiences with your business are positive and meet their needs.
6. Increase Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): It’s easy to get discouraged or underestimate a customer’s value when you are viewing their transactions in isolation. Look instead at the bigger picture. Determine what your best customers bring in through lifetime patronage and focus on that when interacting with them. When your customers are valued not simply for one purchase here and there, but for their lifetime business with your company, their loyalty – and their lifetime value – will increase.
7. Target Your Best Customers: Best Customer Marketing (BCM) involves spending more time, energy and resources on your best customers in order to maximize the ROI. Use your loyalty program data to determine who your best customers are, then recognize and reward them.
8. Build Relationships: Always remember that customers are people too. When your program is focused on the “human” aspect of customers, it will go further toward building customer relationships, which in turn leads to improved loyalty – and profits.
9. Create Advocates: Advocacy is one of the highest forms of loyalty a customer can show. They are so satisfied with your products and services that they feel compelled to share their experiences with friends and family. And any good marketer will tell you that word-of-mouth marketing is far more effective than any amount of promotional material.
10. Adjust Pricing Levels: A good loyalty program can help develop solid pricing structures. If customers are happy purchasing products at a particular price, why discount it? You can also use your loyalty program to study the effects of prices changes (e.g. what customer segments’ changed their buying habits when the price changed?).
11. Respond to Competitive Challenges: By monitoring customers’ purchase histories when new competition opens nearby, businesses can quickly and accurately identify what customers defect to the competition. These customers can then be enticed back with customer-specific incentives, special offers and even direct contact.
12. Select Product Lines Effectively: By knowing your best customers’ buying habits, you can more accurately predict which products lines to keep in stock, which to expand and which to discard entirely.
13. Plan Merchandising Optimization: Again, monitoring customers’ purchase history can allow businesses better determine which inventory items need to be ordered and when, as well as more strategically place merchandise on the sales floor.
14. Reduce Promotional & Advertising Costs: Targeted marketing efforts, through loyalty program data, allows businesses to zero in on specific customer segments, to reach the right customers with the right message at the right time.
15. Selecting New Business Locations: Your loyalty program provides you with valuable details on your customers’ demographics and geographics, allowing you to choose new business locations that would be the most profitable for you and beneficial for your customers.