The most important things in life aren’t necessarily free… they’re earned.
The best things in life are free,” says the old adage. And, while there may be some truth to that—sunsets, quality time with loved ones, etc.—I would put stock in a slightly modified turn of phrase:
The most important things in life are earned.
Your reputation. Your credit rating. And, for dealers, the loyalty of your customers. It doesn’t just happen; it’s built over time through honesty, integrity and delivering the goods. And, according to the latest Kijiji Autos Research Report, it’s getting harder to build and maintain, so it needs to be top of mind for dealers looking to stand out amongst the competition.
The decline of loyalty
Two-thirds of dealers we surveyed agree that car buyers are less loyal than they were five years ago. Roughly eight out of ten say it’s also more difficult to retain them. On the buyers’ side, of those who bought a vehicle from a dealership in the last year, fewer than half would recommend that dealership to others (42 percent), return for their next vehicle (45 percent) or come back for after-sales service (44 percent).
Think about that: every other person you sold a car to last year won’t be back—nor will they send any friends or family members to come see you about a vehicle.
What’s the problem? A lot of it appears to be generational change. Younger buyers (under 35) are savvy researchers; they live online, and they think surfing around to find the best deal is actually fun. Generating loyalty from this demographic is going to be challenging–and if you’re not actively engaging with them to earn their business and their long-term trust, it’s just not going to happen.
Just as with sales, loyalty to a dealership is also more strongly tied to the individual salesperson than to the business itself. Good people don’t just make their sales targets; they build relationships with customers so that they’ll come back again and again, long after the deal closes. This reminds us how tremendously important it is to not only hire great salespeople, but to work hard at ensuring your staff is happy—and loyal—to you and your dealership. You need to invest in finding the best, and in being committed to finding ways to keep them.
Communication is key to loyalty. Keeping in touch is mandatory. People who are willing to buy from you have made a trust investment in your dealership. They want to hear from you—follow-up with them to check on their recently purchased vehicle’s performance (86 percent of buyers say this is important to them) and be sure to notify them about special deals on services or accessories (83 percent say they want this). Almost two-thirds of buyers stated they want to hear from the dealership at least once per season.
That’s not a call for spamming, by the way. Different folks want different levels of contact and approaches. Some want less, some want more—one person’s “good service” is another’s “pushy.” Customize your approach as much as possible, so customers can opt-in to the level of follow-up they want.
Transparency. Follow-up. And above all, quality. The fundamentals of building and maintaining loyalty aren’t complicated, but they’re essential. Like other most important things in life, loyalty is earned.