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How Not to Have One-Time Customers

News and Insights November 02, 2022

By: Fuse
10 minute read

No matter what business you’re in, customer retention is vital and challenging. This is particularly the case when it comes to car dealerships. After all, purchasing a car is not a weekly necessity like buying groceries. However, providing excellent service can lead to loyal customers returning to you for servicing, repairs, and future car purchases. They may even recommend you to friends and family. 

If you feel like you’re constantly attracting one-time customers, you’re not alone. In a sea of competition, how can you stand out, develop long-lasting relationships, and boost customer retention?

This article will explore how to turn one-time car buyers into lifetime customers.

Dealership Customer Service: Why It’s So Important

Any business owner will tell you that customer service is crucial, but it takes on a new level of importance when you’re in a customer-facing industry like car sales. Your dealership needs to provide an outstanding customer experience if you want to stand out from the crowd and build loyalty among your clientele.

Why should prospective customers buy from you instead of another local dealership? Showcasing fantastic service to everyone who steps onto your premises will improve: 

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Online reviews 

Online reviews are more important than ever in today's digital age. 

According to a poll of 2,046 vehicle purchase customers and 2,784 service customers ages 25 to 54, 67% (a record number up from 46% the previous year) claim they select a dealer for service based solely on online searches and reviews. 87% percent of service customers said online review sites helped in their dealer selection.

Treating every customer with respect and providing top-notch service can encourage positive reviews and reduce negative ones.

Word of mouth

Online reviews are indeed important to earning new business across industries. However, the automotive industry has a factor much more substantial than online reviews: word of mouth. 52% of car shoppers say recommendations from family and friends most significantly impacted their final choices. 

So while online reviews still play a role, over half of car shoppers put more weight on what their friends and family think and say about their own experiences.

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Customer loyalty

Satisfied customers are more likely to become repeat buyers, so providing the best service is essential.

Securing a new customer costs roughly five times more than selling to an existing one. Rather than focus extensively on earning new business, dealerships must prioritize customer retention and loyalty. Satisfied customers are more likely to leave a positive review, refer your dealership to friends and family, and bring their car back for servicing and repairs. 

Increased sales 

Ultimately, everything we just covered is about one thing: increasing sales and revenue. You can improve your customer retention rate and boost revenue by providing a positive customer experience and encouraging positive online reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations.

How to Delight Dealership Customers: 5 Tips

How do you give your customers the best car dealership customer service and experience possible?

Tip #1. Empower customers with knowledge

Consumers want to do their own research and due diligence when making large purchase decisions. 

Car shoppers spend an average of seven hours and 14 minutes researching online before heading into a dealership. And though, according to the most recent Cox Automotive Car Buyer Financing Journey Study, only 29% of car buyers applied for financing online for their most recent vehicle purchase, 96% of those surveyed are willing to do so.

Dealerships that leverage these insights to provide shoppers with the information they’re looking for online will help attract new customers to the store. 

Creating valuable educational content that answers common questions customers may have during the research phase and using Fuse's dealership marketing and pricing software to dynamically update website specials and digital ads based on current and incoming inventory — so buyers always have access to your dealership’s hottest deals online — can help establish trust early on. 

This is one automotive marketing trend that boosts traffic and improves the customer experience. 

Related Read: Automotive Marketing Trends: 5 Strategies for Success

automotive marketing trends

Tip #2. Allow customers to give feedback

Reviews can impact dealerships both positively and negatively. However, the feedback provided within reviews is invaluable. It will help you learn where your sales process strengths and weaknesses are. You can then harness this knowledge to make necessary changes and maintain a successful sales process.

To benefit further, try asking directly for customer feedback. Online reviews tend to reflect the extreme ends of the customer satisfaction spectrum — but what about everyone else? It’s vital to discover what all customers have to say so you have a clearer picture of your overall service. 

You might want to consider offering incentives to encourage customer participation, such as discounts or free merchandise. 

Tip #3. Offer superior amenities

To truly stand out from the crowd, you need to offer an inviting, interactive experience. From online service appointment scheduling to VR car showrooms and beyond, car dealerships today are finding innovative ways to engage customers at every stage of the journey. 

Superior amenities are not simply about creating an enjoyable experience, however. As well as giving visitors a taste of what they can expect if they choose to do business with you, cutting-edge technologies can build goodwill, reinforce an esteemable brand identity associated with the highest quality and excellence, and help you provide a smoother sales and service process.

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Tip #4. Make it easy for customers to contact your dealership

Have you ever gone into a store and been ignored by a sales team member? If so, chances are you were disappointed by the experience and unlikely to return. The same goes for dealerships – and this applies to your customers’ online experience as well as in-person.

A responsive customer support team can make a great first impression, setting the tone for the rest of the consumer journey. For example, are your contact details easy to find online? And does a team member monitor emails or phones? If a customer is greeted by a prompt message response or a friendly voice on the phone, they’re more likely to visit you in person.

In addition, Cox Automotive’s 11th annual Car Buyer Journey Study revealed that third-party websites are still the number-one destination for vehicle shoppers as they enter the car-buying process — with Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book among the most popular.

Therefore, ensuring your dealership’s inventory appears on third-party websites not only makes it easy for customers to contact you, but also helps ensure you aren’t losing out on leads to other dealers in your area.

Tip #5. Create a customer-first company culture

Educating customers online, listening to their feedback, offering them great amenities, and ensuring convenience in dealership communications are all essential aspects of promoting customer loyalty — but it’s also crucial to adopt a customer-first culture within your company. Here are some ways you can encourage your team to embrace a customer-first mentality: 

Deliver a concierge-like experience

Software like Fuse Transact allows you to create a concierge-like single point of contact (SPOC) for customers. 

When customers interact with a single team member, they’re more likely to feel valued. In addition, with this sales method you can provide more personalized service and build up trust and rapport. A single car-buying concierge also simplifies the sales process — you can coordinate all of the different moving parts, from test drives to financing. It reduces the risk of miscommunication or conflicting information. Ultimately, this leads to higher customer satisfaction, increased sales, and client loyalty.

Eliminate haggling

In addition to a single point of contact, offering a single price for your cars and services can be incredibly beneficial. 

Traditionally, car sales involved customers haggling to get the best price. However, this method means that tough negotiators may get a better deal than more reserved customers. Haggling can also increase the time it takes to make a sale and cause frustration on both sides. 

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The non-negotiable one-price business model, on the other hand, allows the dealer to set the price, not the customer. It creates much-desired transparency that can give your business a competitive edge. According to a survey, 70% of customers want to see service price ranges online. With a one-price model, you can present your costs on your website and speed up the decision-making process. 

As a result, the one-price model saves both customers and salespeople time and money, and clients are more likely to walk away happy with their purchase. In turn, this leads to a higher chance of customer loyalty and repeat business.

Related Read: Dealership Pricing Strategy: Understanding the One-Price Model

Insights: Dealership Pricing Strategy: Understanding the One-Price Model

Promote a can-do attitude

Any business that deals with the public will have to navigate customer complaints and questions. How you deal with those complaints and questions can make the difference between a satisfied customer who returns in the future and one who takes their business elsewhere. 

As we’ve already explored, equipping staff with industry knowledge is important, but the way team members handle issues is also worth considering. Customers want solutions – but sometimes we just can’t offer the customer the answer they want. 

However, simply saying “no” or “we can’t help” does not provide a positive customer experience. “No” elicits a negative response – in some cases, it can lead to anger or upset. Instead, try to come up with an alternative option. The key is showcasing what you can do, even if this isn’t exactly what the customer is angling for.

A can-do approach explores what is possible, uses innovation and flexibility, and provides the customer with information on why the exact solution they want might not be possible. Then, show what you’ll do to work around the problem to get the job done. Even if the problem can’t be completely solved, the customer should feel like their concerns are being heard and that the dealership is doing everything possible to help them.

Value your customers’ time (as much as they do)

Too much time spent at a dealership is the top consumer frustration when buying a car. So how can you minimize delays and show customers that you value their time? 

As previously mentioned, offering upfront information can help customers know where they stand from the get-go. So providing an online booking system and presenting price ranges online will reduce the risk of wasted time. 

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SaaS solutions can help make this possible. Fuse Digital Retail, for example, allows you to integrate your inventory and provide website visitors with all the financing and lease details they need to make a decision. Real-time data enables buyers to view taxes and fees, make the most of special offers, and save quotes ahead of completing a credit application – all in one place for fuss-free, straightforward decision-making. 

As we all know, one of the biggest pain points when buying a car is the paperwork. By streamlining this part of the process and using software to automate where possible, you can significantly cut the amount of time it takes to fill out financing documents and organizing lender approval. Not only does this improve the customer experience but it also allows dealerships to operate more efficiently. 

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With FuseTransact, you can accurately calculate financing figures, approve customers quickly with integrated online credit applications, and reduce transaction time to an hour.

Provide employee training and development

Offering staff training resources and opportunities can reap a range of rewards. Firstly, your sales team must know what they’re talking about. With constant developments, advancements, and changes within the automotive industry, dealerships must keep their fingers on the pulse. After all, would you want to buy a car from somebody with outdated knowledge? 

Well-informed staff can offer better quality service, answer questions confidently, and build customer trust. By having an in-depth knowledge of the vehicles and services on offer, they can also upsell or encourage additional purchases without employing pushy sales techniques or suggesting unnecessary costs. 

As well as improving the customer experience, training can improve employee satisfaction. Those who feel well-trained and confident in their abilities are more likely to enjoy their jobs and stay with the company for longer.

Therefore, employee training is a wise investment for any car dealership that wants to improve its bottom line. 

Improve Your Customer Relationships with Fuse

Customer retention can be challenging for car dealerships. However, by taking steps to provide exceptional customer service and streamline the purchasing process, you can encourage return buyers – and integrating SaaS solutions can support your team in doing this.

Get in touch with Fuse to learn how we’re helping dealers like you create industry-leading customer experiences that lead to more sales.

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