By Allan Janssen
The concept of customer loyalty – creating it, sustaining it, nurturing it – has been a hot topic in business circles since the dawn of capitalism.
And even in the digital age, it has not lost its relevance.
An oft-quoted paper, originally published in the Harvard Business Review, on “The Economics of E-Loyalty” discusses the digital component of winning and keeping customers. Authors Frederick F. Reichheld and Phil Schefter came to the conclusion that increasing customer retention rates by 5% can increase profits anywhere from 25% to 95%.
How would you like those kind returns?
Happily, the auto service industry has some natural loyalty generators: oil changes, brake jobs, and tire switch-overs, to name just three. Shops that aren’t capitalizing on the public’s need for these basic services on a predictable schedule are missing out on the loyalty dividend.
1) Communicate effectively
This does not just mean frequently but strategically, purposefully, and using the method that best reaches its target (and, yes, increasingly that means texting).
This starts with booking appointments ahead of time, and follows through the process of confirming the booking, keeping customers informed of the repair process, thanking them for their visit, and seeking feedback on their experience.
The Canadian Automobile Association has learned this lesson, pointing to how “touchpoints” create trust.
CAA clubs across the country have a goal of increasing opportunities to interact with their members, believing that the number of touchpoints they achieve per year has a material effect on the way consumers look on them. At three or four touchpoints per year, trust skyrockets and loyalty is cemented.
Life gets busy and sometimes well-meaning customers minds simply forget about car maintenance. Don’t assume you’ve lost the customer. Reach out.
2) Document proof of need
Transparency is everything these days. Don’t give any reason for suspicion or furrowed brows. Show your customer the report, the failed part, the discolouration, the corrosion, or the broken pieces.
Evidence speaks volumes in the court of consumer opinion.
3) Solve their problem
This might sound like an obvious point, but comebacks will absolutely destroy your loyalty rates. Not only are they inconvenient for your customer, but they suggest reasons for distrust.
Data crunchers and consultants at J.D. Powers have proven time and again that repeated customer frustrations quickly erode trust and lead to lost business. It is quantifiable.
The importance of thorough work, provided in a single visit, is behind the recent aftermarket trend to “slow the process down” and inspect every vehicle thoroughly.
According to The Brake Report (the purported “voice of the brake industry”) one of the greatest benefits of performing complete brake jobs is ensuring customer satisfaction. By taking the time to do the process right the first time, technicians can ensure the client will return for future work. Not only are they creating loyal customers, they’re saving the shops time and money by eliminating costly comebacks.
The independent aftermarket engenders higher trust scores than we tend to think. And long-term relationships are built on that trust.