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5 Things That Make a Great Customer Experience

By Mike Gorun  //  June, May, Uncategorized  //  Comments Off on 5 Things That Make a Great Customer Experience

Customer experience is increasingly important in business. Retail shops now compete for customer wallets with behemoths such as Amazon. As a result, stores now have to prove to customers will receive a superior experience more valuable than the convenience of clicking a button to have their product show up at their door in 2 days.

In addition, customer experience can be a fuzzy concept, with many definitions floating around. While most know what a great customer experience FEELS like, it’s very hard to define. And, if you can’t define it, you can’t create it.

I came across an excellent article that outlined an interview with Brainshark COO Diane Gordon. In the interview, Diane shared the best definition I have seen of customer experience, outlining the five components that make a great customer experience. I thought I would share these points and how they can apply to our industry:

  1. Relationship is mutually beneficial. For dealers to build customer loyalty, customers must feel as if they are not just a transaction. People don’t want to feel as if all they mean to you is money in the cash register. They’d rather feel that they’re helping your dealership succeed by paying money in exchange for you helping solve a problem for them – and that you are doing it with genuine and sincere intent.
  2. Customers feel valued/respected. Remember the classic TV show “Cheers.” One line in the theme song resonates and illustrates this point, “You want to go where everybody knows your name.” Who doesn’t like walking into a business they frequent regularly and be greeted by name. Why does this make a difference? Because when this happens, customers realize that a business values them enough to remember them. You can also make a customer feel valued and respected through quality loyalty programs, and by taking the time to listen to customer feedback and then act upon it.
  3. They believe doing business with you is easy. Everybody wants easy. That’s exactly how Amazon has grown so fast, put some companies out of business and disrupted entire industries. However, don’t immediately confuse easy as fast. There are things customers want done quickly, as time is valuable to them. But sometimes personalized attention, which makes the process easier and a better experience for the customer, can mean a longer process. Every customer will have different needs and wants. The ability to tailor the experience based on that particular customer is the key to your customers knowing that doing business with you is easy.
  4. Sense that employees love working there. Genuinely happy employees are one of the best ways to broadcast your dealership is a good place for customers to do business. Typically, when employees love working for you, that translates into better customer service, empathy for customers, and the desire to ensure your business succeeds by providing extraordinary customer service.
  5. Feeling that they (the customer) are part of a strong community. Feeling included has been important to most people their whole lives – from grade school sports and clubs all the way to the present. When your customers can tell that other customers are happy and enjoy doing business with you, it encourages them to feel the same way. So be sure to have a good review program in place that promotes good reviews, allows customers to post reviews and that has a way of contacting and handling any negative customer reviews.

A great customer experience is something that all businesses should strive for. But keep in mind that it is not just something you define, but rather something your customers do. Take time to examine these five components to a great customer experience as they relate to your business.


Why Employee Retention Effects Customer Retention

By Mike Gorun at Performance Loyalty Group  //  2013, June  //  Comments Off on Why Employee Retention Effects Customer Retention

Why Employee Retention Effects Customer RetentionIn the automotive world, the bottom line is that many dealerships experience very high turnover rates with employees, especially in sales. Our world is one of high stress, long hours and feast or famine. (This might not be as true in the service departments.) However, the face of your dealership to a customer who bought their car from you is their salesperson. Yes, it is. The person that sold them their car is their go-to person for everything. If there is a problem, they usually don’t call service, they call the salesperson.

So, assuming that’s the case, if your dealership experiences high turnover in sales, how can you expect a customer to be loyal to you when they feel as if they’ve been abandoned? I like to refer to them as “orphan owners”. People have an emotional need to connect. They can’t connect with your billboard or giant inflatable gorilla. They certainly can’t connect with the mysterious shadow-figures sitting behind the desks in the sales tower that they never see. Their connection is with their car and the common bond between their car and your dealership is their salesperson.

I’ve talked to many people who have purchased vehicles from dealerships over the years and, in many cases, the customers go into the relationship already thinking that their salesperson won’t be around for long. No matter how much reassurance a salesperson gives them, they typically have little confidence that, when they need him or her, they’ll be there for them.

The fact remains that your employee retention has a direct effect on your dealership’s customer retention. If your salesperson did their job well and provided a great buying experience for that customer, it creates a feeling of obligation and reciprocity between the customer and that salesperson. Mind you that I never once said this customer bond was between them and the dealership. Emotional connections are made between people. In many cases, the only human a customer could connect with is their salesperson.

So, what do we do about this? Well, the obvious answer is to build a better workplace environment. Create an environment that people want to work at and enjoy coming to. Treat your employees well and understand that they have lives outside of work and respect that. I understand that, no matter how “above and beyond” you go, turnover is inevitable so…

Make sure that sales customers, during and after the sales process, have multiple interactions with people other than just the one salesperson.  Have the Sales Managers, General Manager, Service Director and anybody else that can take a moment, actually meet and talk to these customers in person– not just come over, say hello, thank them for their business and then walk away – but interact in some way. This simple technique increases the number of people in your store that a customer has the opportunity to bond with. It also decreases the chance that a customer would ever feel “orphaned.”

If the customer didn’t buy their vehicle from your store but only service it there, the same principle should be followed. Make sure that the customer is introduced to as many of the advisors as possible including the Service Manager. Once the emotional connection is created and the customer believes that you care, the customer is not bringing their business to your business, they’re bringing it to the people at your business. We all know that people do business with people, especially ones that they like. Make sure that your customers like your people. The more of them they like, the easier customer retention becomes. 

By creating more emotional connections between people in your store and your customer during the first transaction, you will decrease the likelihood that the loss of a salesperson could influence the loyalty a customer feels towards your store. These early stages of relationship building with customers are vital, and it is worthwhile to do everything in your power to build that relationship as quickly as possible.

When your customers start referring their friends to you by beginning with the phrase, “ I have a friend that works at Bob’s Dodge…” not only have you gained a friend, you’ve also gained a loyal customer and brand advocate.

How does your dealership prevent customers from feeling abondoned?

Do you introduce new sales customers to your service department? Why or why not?


Explode Your Loyalty Program with Social Media

By Mike Gorun at Performance Loyalty Group  //  2013, June  //  Comments Off on Explode Your Loyalty Program with Social Media

Explode Your Loyalty Program with Social MediaAs social media gets more and more entrenched in our daily lives, it’s becoming the easiest and most visible place for one of the most important things your company can have but can’t buy – word-of-mouth marketing.

You can have your customer experience down pat, a loyalty program that rocks and customers lined up to do business with you; but does that mean you’re leveraging everything you can?

Many social media sites like Facebook, Foursquare, and Yelp have some sort of “deal” type feature. What would happen if you take advantage of this feature and tie it in to your existing loyalty program?

Here are some things you may or may not know about these deal features. (I’m going to focus on Facebook since it has the most advantages, in my opinion.) There have been many studies that have concluded that 60% of people “Like” a business’s Facebook page for special offers and deals. Facebook has two features: check-in deals and offers. I’m going to explain how check-in deals can benefit your dealership since this feature is free and easy to maintain.

When you have a Facebook check-in deal running, a customer would go to Facebook and “check-in” using their mobile device to your dealership. When they do this, it shares with their entire network that they are at your dealership. That’s great exposure! It gets better however. If you have a check-in deal, and the customer checks-in and claims the deal, not only does it share it with their network, it will share that 1) they are at your dealership 2) they claimed a deal and 3) the specifics of the deal, quantity remaining and deal expiration date. The best part about this is that these posts to their walls go into their friend’s news feeds and cannot be hidden!

Here’s an example of what one looks like after it’s been claimed:

Example of Facebook Check-In Deal

Imagine is your “deal” was tied to your loyalty program. What would that look like?

Let’s say you give “points” for each dollar spent at your store towards your customer’s loyalty account. At some point you’ve placed a value on these points. How much would this advertisement, which, in reality is word-of-mouth advertising to your customer’s entire social network, be worth?

Instead of the check-in deal being “20% off any order,” it could be “1,000 loyalty program bonus points” with a check-in. Of course, you could disclaim it as a one time offer per loyalty member or one per customer per day and include that the check-in must correspond with a purchase to avoid people simply stopping by to claim their free loyalty points without spending any money. However, even they just stopped by, wouldn’t that endorsement to their entire network be worth something to you?

If you could get every one of your customers to recommend your dealership to their friends, you would. You certainly try all the time. You ask for referrals. You might even incentivize current customer for bringing you new ones.

Word-of-mouth advertising is still one of the most powerful forms of marketing in existence. The fact remains that it’s continuing to shift online all the time. Leveraging some of these social sites to increase the visibility of your loyalty program by incentivizing your customer for “checking-in” and sharing their endorsement of your dealership with their entire social networks is worth its weight in gold.

You couldn’t pay for better marketing.

[Note: Facebook is merging its “check-in deals” with it’s “Offers” product as of July 1, 2013. It is still free but allows for more flexibility in creating different types of promotions. You can read more here.]

How is your business using social media to get more word-of-mouth marketing?

Have you ever ran a check-in deal on Facebook? If so, what were your results?


Study Reveals that Dealer-Branded Prepaid Maintenance Programs Boost Customer Retention and Service Up-sell

By Kathy Winslow  //  2013, June  //  1 Comment

Dealer-branded prepaid maintenance (PPM) programs that are 100 percent funded by customers are boosting service revenue by 15 percent and customer retention to 60 percent (and even higher). These findings and other auto dealer reports are featured in a new white paper from Performance Loyalty Group.

Ancira Winton Chevrolet in San Antonio, Texas, enjoys $80 additional up-sell per repair order from customers using its plan. Approximately 96 percent of its 8,000 customers currently have a prepaid maintenance plan.

“Our plan holders have generated more than $635,000 in service up-sell revenue during their program service visits,” notes the dealership’s Parts and Service Director, Jim McAfee. “Our Ancira-branded prepaid maintenance plans have boosted service customer retention here to 50 percent.”

Dealers’ results when selling PPM plans to new- and used-car purchasers, lease customers, and service-only customers are detailed in the downloadable white paper, How Dealer-Centric Prepaid Maintenance Programs Significantly Increase Automotive Customer Retention.  The study also details additional compelling third-party statistics about the power of PPM programs to brand the dealership first, while supporting OEM retention as well.


This new white paper details why dealers are attracted to prepaid maintenance programs now more than ever:

  • These types of plans brand the dealership. OEM programs brand the OEM. Most dealers consider branding their dealership far more important in their local market.
  • This type of program is funded 100 percent by the customer so there is no investment on the dealer’s behalf.
  • They are affordable. Customers recognize their value, and will purchase with a higher frequency.
  • Ninety percent or more of customers purchasing prepaid maintenance plans redeem more than 80 percent of the plan elements.
  • Plans are self-managed through the DMS and administered by the dealership, thus all profit, reserve and forfeiture monies are retained and recognized by the store.

Dealers see a big advantage with lease customers as well. “Selling prepaid maintenance plans in F&I to lease customers is all about retention – keeping them returning to Honda Cars of Boston for ongoing service and their next vehicle acquisition. When presented with these benefits, 40 percent of lease customers choose to purchase a plan,” reports Dean Talley, General Manager for Honda Cars of Boston.

According to this study, more than 25 percent of the dealerships that utilize a prepaid maintenance program today are selling dealer-branded, self-administered plans that provide many tangible advantages over third-party administered or OEM-branded products.

“The average age of vehicles on the road today is nearly 11 years, and as an owner progresses through the vehicle’s lifecycle, dealership retention drops and service spend increases,” notes Jeff Shenk, Director of Operations, at Performance Loyalty Group. “As this is happening, however, standard dealership service marketing fails to attract many of these owners of older vehicles. Time erases the initial loyalty or relationship with the dealership.”

“Additionally,” he added, “many others are pulled away by force of competitors offering below-market pricing incentives. A well-implemented PPM program will not only boost customer retention, but it will also drive service revenue as a by-product of plan ownership.”

As How Dealer-Centric Prepaid Maintenance Programs Significantly Increase Automotive Customer Retention points out, customer loyalty and automotive service retention are essential today if a dealership is to be productive and profitable. Dealer-centric prepaid maintenance programs are one of the most powerful loyalty and retention tools at a dealer’s disposal. To download directly go to:


A Concept That Could Double Your Loyalty Program Results

By Mike Gorun at Performance Loyalty Group  //  2013, June  //  Comments Off on A Concept That Could Double Your Loyalty Program Results

A Concept That Could Double Your Loyalty Program ResultsThe whole idea of a loyalty program is to encourage and reward customers for doing business with you. The easier you make it for them to earn rewards and the more desirable those rewards are, the more likely a customer will utilize your program by returning to your business. How many supermarket “loyalty” cards do you have? Most people have one for each grocery store they go to, both regularly or occasionally. Is that proving loyalty? No, it’s a customer using the loyalty card only because they happened to choose that grocery store on that day.

So, how do you make your loyalty program meaningful? A program where the customer chooses your business every time, not just when they were going to anyways?

An interesting study by two consumer researchers resulted in a concept they named the “Endowed Progress Effect”. In essence, the “Endowed Progress Effect [is a phenomenon], in which people who are endowed with progress toward a goal increase the effort that they exert in reaching that goal.”

One of the studies conducted by these researchers was at a local car wash. One day they handed out 300 loyalty punch cards. Half of the punch cards required the purchase of 10 car washes to receive one free. However, these cards came with 2 of the 10 car washes already stamped with special stamps, which they explained to the customers, was part of a promotion they were running that day, so they only really had 8 car washes to go to get one free. The other half of the cards required the customer to purchase 8 car washes to receive one free. The fact is that both cards really had the same offer; buy 8 car washes, get one free. Half of the customers received what they perceived to be a head start, however.

Over the course of 9 months, the researchers tracked the purchases and use of these punch cards with the owners affixing dated stamps to cards whenever presented by customers.

The results? The customers that were given the cards that had no “head start” converted – meaning they satisfied the requisite 8 purchases and redeemed the card for the free car wash – at a rate of 19%. The customers that were given cards that had a 2-stamp head start (but still needed to purchase the same number of car washes) converted at a rate of 34%! That’s almost double!

It became clear that the customers with perceived progress in the beginning were statistically more apt to complete the program to earn the free wash. They also wanted to see if there was more effort put into the achievement. Those with the 2-stamp head start cards had on average 2.9 days less between visits which decreased an average of ½ a day after each additional visit.

What does this mean? Not only did giving the customer the illusion of progress from the start almost double the success rate of the promotion, those customers made more of an effort to achieve the goal faster.

After reading about these findings, you might want to consider incorporating this practice into your existing loyalty program or, if you don’t have one yet, using this to your advantage once you get one.

The bottom line is that the car wash never gave any special treatment to any of those 300 people. They were all required to buy 8 car washes in order to receive a free one. It’s all about a perceived advantage and is an interesting concept that can be used to maximize the value and use of any loyalty program. It could help to create a loyalty program people make an effort to use, not one they use only when it’s convenient.

What is your business doing to increase customer loyalty?

Do you have any tips & tricks to help improve customer loyalty program results?

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