Today’s consumers are fickle beings. It’s much harder to keep their loyalty than ever before. And, while it may take years to earn loyalty from a single customer, it could take only minutes to lose it. Your dealership can do everything in its power to earn and keep a customer – from loyalty programs, to amazing customer service and luxury amenities. But, there is one basic concept that, should you adopt it, is the easiest and fastest way to nurture, earn and retain customer loyalty. And that is by setting realistic expectations for your customers, then consistently delivering on those expectations.
Think about it this way. If you were to go to a dealership which promotes a 30-minute oil change through their quick lube service, you would expect that, at the very minimum, your oil change is completed within 30-minutes. And rightfully so, because the business set the expectation for you. If the dealership fails to deliver on that promise, it’s much harder for a consumer to believe any future promises or expectations.
Another example is service upsells. Let’s say that same customer comes in for an oil change and, after the multi-point inspection is completed, the service advisor presents the recommendations to the customer. One of the first things just about every customer asks – whether they are waiting in the service department or dropped their vehicle off – is, “How long will it take to complete those recommendations?” A service advisor has two options here: they can give the customer a realistic timeframe, or they can downplay the time it will take in order to (supposedly) get the business.
My advice? Always be real with your customers. If you don’t know the answer to that question, tell them. If you do know the answer, be honest. There are multiple variables when it comes to answering these questions such as, how busy is service today, whether technicians are out sick, causing a backload and extending service times, or perhaps there are simply a lot of big repairs being completed. On a regular day, these services may only take an additional 2 hours. But on a busier day, that can be extended.
Service advisors usually have a good idea on any given day what is – or isn’t – going to affect that timeline. If they give the cookie cutter response – such as 2 hours -- anytime a customer asks, they could be setting an expectation they simply cannot fulfill. And that’s bad news when it comes to earning customer loyalty.
Sure, customers are in a hurry. But, if you want their trust, the truth is that customers simply want a “real” answer. Being honest with them and telling them the truth starts the transaction and relationship off on the right foot. I believe a customer would rather be told something to the effect of, “Mr. Jones, Normally these types of services would only take a couple of hours to complete. Today, however, the shop is quite busy, and we are short-staffed. So, it may take a bit longer even up to four hours or so. We will do our best to complete them faster. I just wanted you to know up-front.”
Will you lose some service recommendations because of an extended timeline? Probably. That being said, I can guarantee you one thing. You won’t lose a customer. Or create an unhappy one. In fact, what you will accomplish is trust. By setting realistic expectations, then delivering on them, customers will appreciate you and continue to use you for service.
In addition, with each successful visit, it becomes easier to upsell service. And, in the end, a loyal customer will bring more revenue to your service department over their lifetime than a customer who has a poor experience because unrealistic expectations due to unreal expectations and failing to deliver on them.
Be real. Set realistic expectations. Communicate honestly. That’s how you earn a customer’s loyalty without spending a dime.