Henry Ford was right. “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.” Of course, if customers will not buy from you, your dealership will perish. To build a business where people will open their wallets, there are two key items you need to have: a quality product and good customer service.

While customer service is obviously necessary to close the sale, it is even more important in building customer loyalty and retention. The lifetime value of a customer should not be viewed in the sale of and services rendered to a single vehicle, but rather the four or five automobiles that your dealership will sell to and service for that individual customer.

How do you develop customer service that goes above and beyond consumer expectations? Well, in today’s ultra-connected, technology-driven world, you need to think creatively, and you need to incorporate social media into the mix.

As social media becomes the most prevalent form of communication, it has never been easier to develop a dialogue with a consumer. Treat customer service like sales by anticipating the needs of the customer. Superior customer service only commands simple actions and doesn't require a large investment. Here are five ideas to get you going:

1. Start with a “Thank You”
Today, the art of the “thank you” is lost. From the moment you close a sale, your customer needs to know that their business is appreciated. Show that you care with a token of thanks, be it a handwritten note or a “New Car Owner” party for select buyers at a local restaurant. With the latter, pictures can be taken of the new owners and their new cars outside the restaurant and posted on Facebook. Instantaneously, buyers become advocates, spreading excitement for their new ride, in turn increasing friends’ perceptions of the brand and the dealership.

2. Provide Relevant Content
We’re all busy. When customers lose track of time, they lose track of the simple maintenance work needed to keep a car running smoothly. Estimate the amount of time it will take for your buyer to need an oil change and remind them about it a week in advance through text messages or Twitter. Develop video tutorials that help to answer FAQs and post them on your website or a YouTube channel. Take the work out of your customer having to search for information, and play a larger role in assisting with their scheduling.

3. Be Overly Giving
Develop a loyalty program, and surprise customers with extra or unexpected coupons, deals and benefits. Their satisfaction will spread like wildfire through word of mouth, especially if it is built through a social networking site. American Express offered extra perks with partner organizations like McDonalds and Best Buy for consumers who tweeted about the brand. The program generated over 250,000 tweets talking about AmEx and rewarded customers with over $2,000,000 in bonus deals. For a dealership, you don’t need to spend a lot, but offer items that are relevant to your business like discounts on gas, motor oil or service.

4. Ensure Employee Participation
Managing a dealership is challenging because of the vast array of responsibilities. Everyone needs to be on the same page with respect to customer satisfaction. Your credibility crumbles when you offer an oil change discount and your service manager is unaware. The negative backlash can travel through word of mouth and social media, leading to more damage than just the disgruntled customer.

5. Never Finish Building the Relationship
Relationships are the crux of great customer service. Provide employees with useful information that will help personalize a conversation during their next interaction with a customer. Note consumers’ birthdays, dates of purchases and hobbies.

Give customers a personalized, one-year-of-owning-the-vehicle anniversary gift. Ask about how they view your dealership and pay close attention to constructive criticism. These conversations no longer need to take place with a direct mail survey. Post polls on your Facebook page and frequently monitor what others are saying. Most importantly, respond. Your customers simply want to be heard, so make sure they know you are listening to their needs. Remember, your communication with the customer is a dialogue, so it is equally important to obtain their opinions, as they will dictate your appropriate call to action.

The future is now. Develop customer relationship strategies that will give back in years to come. If you do, you’ll receive the lifeblood of the dealership business—repeat purchases and services. So give the customer a pen, and let him or her write your paycheck.

Vol. 9, Issue 8

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