By Charlie Polston, Automotive Customer Retention and Profitability Consultant, BG Products, Inc.

The automotive service industry has adjusted to the digital landscape where more are working remotely, getting everything from groceries to automobiles delivered to their home, and even getting video medical care at home. More dealerships now have digital kiosks, mobile scheduling, mobile service, and concierge vehicle pickup and delivery.

With so much emphasis on less human contact, it is rather ironic that the new buzz is centered around “customer experience.” It seems like the rationale goes like this: 1) a good customer experience on the service drive leads to 2) good customer satisfaction (CSI) and results in 3) good customer retention; then, when satisfied customers return to the dealership, they’ll 4) spend more money.

The process usually stops there, yet the only way customers will spend more money is if they are asked by a service sales professional.

The service sales process, when done correctly, enhances the customer experience, and the circle is complete.

The service sales process involves personal interaction, person-to-person communication, and outrageous customer care. The isolation of the pandemic and the explosion of digital devices have caused us to lose something as a society. We have forgotten that people matter most. We aren’t in the automotive business; we are in the people business.

The way for consumers (vehicle owners) to have the ultimate customer experience is for your service personnel to do all the things they learned in kindergarten, etc.:

  • Be nice.
  • Put others first.
  • Say please and thank you.
  • Be respectful of older people.
  • Be respectful of younger people.
  • Have a servant heart.
  • Be a man of your word. Do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it.
  • Be respectful on the phone.
  • Smile.
  • Give an honest days work for an honest days pay. Don’t ‘quiet quit.’
  • Don’t be lazy.
  • Practice hospitality.
  • As much as it depends on you, try to live at peace with everyone.
  • Remember every person has great value and great worth.
  • Be compassionate.
  • Be quick to forgive. 

This is nothing new. The rules of behavior have never changed and have proven effective for thousands of years.

You want your customers to love you, right? You want them to gush about you on social media. You want them to be raving fans, don’t you? Well, then follow the simple principles listed above. No one wants to do business with a cynical, jaded, grumpy jerk. They don’t want to be around a foul-mouthed, obnoxious, low-IQ curmudgeon. I’m not saying you have to appear weak. I’m just saying that a strong-willed person with a kind heart will blow your customers away. A spine of steel and a soft heart is a winning combination.

Consumers gravitate toward a gentleman with good manners, a woman with a spirit of graciousness, a person that is polite and respectful.

I have said it many times: The ultimate customer experience tool, customer satisfaction tool, and customer retention tool is the ability to sell preventive maintenance services. So often, vehicle owners see the dealership as a place to get free warranty work and a glorified Jiffy Lube for oil changes. When the warranty expires, consumers are out the door so fast it will make your head spin.

The customers are the dealership’s to lose, and that is what happens if you don’t sell preventive maintenance services while you have the chance. Be nice and sell needed maintenance; they will not only keep coming back, but they’ll spend money when they do!

The automotive landscape may continue to change, but the important things remain the same!

About the Contributor

Charlie Polston is an automotive customer retention, and profitability consultant with BG Products, Inc. Charlie has been with BG’s Fixed Operations Division for over 38 years. He has trained over 7,500 dealers, managers, and technicians – and has been a frequent workshop leader at NADA’s annual convention.

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This article was originally published in the Jan/Feb 2023 Issue of Dealer Magazine. You can view the latest digital edition as well as past issues of Dealer Magazine here.

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