Your dealership has probably been using an owner retention program (ORPs) for years, but when was the last time you evaluated the effectiveness of each communication?

One thing is certain. Sending out the same communications with the same messages via the same channels, again and again, isn’t a winning strategy. The goal of an ORP is to increase customer loyalty and improve marketing ROI. To accomplish this goal, you may have to modernize your ORP touchpoints to reach and engage more customers.


Start with the five most essential ORP communications.


New Car Thank You, Sales to Service Handoff

This communication is the first one that your customers receive after purchasing a vehicle. This should be an elevated piece that hits the customer when they are most excited about their new purchase. The primary goal is to set the tone for your relationship going forward.


Everyone loves driving their new car, and sending a message that warrants the amount of time and money they spent on their vehicle is a great way to keep customers’ excitement levels high. This communication also presents an opportunity to sell accessories.


Many dealers send either an email or a letter. Some do both. Using only one channel for this communication limits your reach to just a small percentage of your new customers. How can you establish a relationship if the customer never hears from you again?


A direct mail piece is a good strategy here since the customer just purchased a vehicle, so they might think the letter is something important related to that purchase. Better yet, use social media to reach that customer with the same message. The more channels you use to send this message, the greater your reach and the more relationships you will build.


Declined Service

Multiple channels may be required to ensure that the customer sees and hears this message. A highly effective strategy is to have a Service BDC conduct outbound declined service call campaigns. These will be most effective if scheduled shortly after the customer receives an email and/or sees the reminder in their Facebook or Instagram feed.


The most important strategy with this communication is to make the message relevant and personalized. Let’s say your customer declined a wheel alignment and tire rotation. When your customer clicks on the email or social media link, they should be taken to a specific landing page that plays a video on the importance of doing a wheel alignment and rotation.


Interim or Education Pieces, Newsletter

Many dealers believe that if a communication isn’t designed to immediately generate a repair order (RO), then it’s a waste of money. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Remember the goal of marketing is to build customer loyalty and retention, which increases long-term revenue. Not every campaign needs to have immediate ROI. The purpose of these communications is NOT to sell, but to inform, educate and entertain.


One dealership I know of invites their customers to bring gifts to the showroom every holiday season. The customers place the gifts in a new vehicle. When the vehicle is full of gifts, the dealer drives it to the nearest children’s hospital and distributes the gifts. Stories like these generate a lot of goodwill and help to cement your dealership brand in your customers’ minds.


A quarterly newsletter is a great way to share educational information about your customers’ specific models, such as how to use the infotainment center, how to operate the sunroof or how to check tire pressure. You can also invite them to upcoming events and share the latest news about the manufacturer or your dealership.


Inactive/Reactivation/Lost Customers

How do you reach customers who haven’t been into your dealership in the last 18 months? Generic marketing messages and offers won’t cut it. If they haven’t worked in 18 months, what makes you think they’ll work now?


The key to re-activating lost customers is personalization. First, get to know these customers by analyzing your customer data. Then, create campaigns designed to drive action. Many dealers make the mistake of creating campaigns targeted towards the vehicle, and not towards the vehicle owner.


The more data you have on a customer, the more likely you can find the reason why they defected in the first place. Was it a bad experience? Did they move? Did their warranty expire? Purchasing third-party data about these customers can give you insights into how to win them back.


Did a customer just have a new baby? Buy a new house? Recently married? Life-changing events are powerful indicators that a customer may be in the market for a new vehicle soon, if they aren’t already. Focus messaging on your customers’ needs, not on the vehicle needs.


Service Thank You

Again, many dealers might believe this communication isn’t important since it doesn’t generate ROI. That’s short-term thinking.


The primary goal of this thank you message is to solicit feedback from customers. The Customer Service Index (CSI) score is essential to track what went well and what didn’t go well with your service experience.


The most valuable information is collected within a week of your customers’ visit, when the experience is still fresh in their mind. During this short window customers want to share feedback whether their experience was good or bad.


Of course, feedback is only useful if you actually use it to improve your service processes.


Before sending out these communications, make sure that the purpose of each communication is clearly defined. To drive customer action, keep your messaging clear, complete and concise. Most of all, make sure each communication is relevant for every customer. Follow these steps to improve both your customer retention metrics and ORP ROI.

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