AutoPoint Blog

How Customer Training Leads To Retention

Posted by Manuel Soto Thursday, February 26, 2015

With almost everything consumers purchase, there’s an owner’s manual or set of instructions for them to use. For decades, car manufacturers have included an owner’s manual with new vehicles. Sadly, it is no secret that this tidy three hundred-page booklet is one of the least read publications produced in mass quantity.

Some car dealerships require that their sales people give each vehicle purchaser a thorough presentation of their vehicle at time of delivery. This slower-paced and personalized walk-around is perhaps more common in days past, than in today’s busier climate. However, it acquaints the car buyer with their vehicle’s key features, inside their vehicle as well as critical components under the hood. In short, it offers a much-abbreviated version of what is found in the owner’s manual.

Customer training is not a new concept, but in an ever-changing industry, automotive manufacturers and dealerships adapt to the wants and needs of the consumer. Some prefer a grab the keys and go approach, while others still take time to educate the buyer about their investment and give the all-important introduction to team members in the service department.   It’s worth thinking about; apparently offering “hands-on” training to your customers can create higher retention rates and higher rates of customer satisfaction, according to a recent blog article on Capterra.com. And we all know that retention and CSI can be major pain points.

In this vein of customer training, some dealerships offer “new owner’s clinics.” Every few weeks new vehicle owners are invited to the dealership and teams of service employees offer service-related demonstrations that cover such things as how to change a tire, where to check vital fluids and the importance of maintenance. During these one to two hour presentations, customers are encouraged to ask questions relating to servicing their vehicle, and any queries they may have about the facility itself. Some dealerships offer complimentary snacks or catered food, to make it more of a fun, party atmosphere.

These type of service clinics, when done well, serve as a wonderful educational opportunity for the customer, especially for those that may have hurried through their purchase and delivery. Many are still learning about their vehicle, and these clinics are very useful to them. They can also help break the ice when it comes to meeting the service department employees that will help them when it comes time to servicing their vehicle.   Some dealerships even do a similar clinic about a year after the customer’s purchase. This serves as a refresher course, but also opens the door to have a more in depth conversation about ongoing maintenance. And to discuss any problems that may have surfaced during the first year of ownership. Not all owners will attend these events. But for those that do, it is another step towards making a long time loyal customer. And better educated customers can produce another benefit – less calls to the service department to ask service-related questions, which then frees staff up to spend more time with the customer in front of them.

Perhaps your dealership hasn’t been open long. Or maybe you have a high turnover rate. With fresh places and fresh faces, having your employees take a few minutes to introduce your facility to each customer is important. Enough studies have been done through the years that show that customers and prospective customers are a lot “stickier” when they feel at home and are welcomed by all departments.

It’s important that each customer knows where to go when they visit for service. This includes everything from the process and convenience options offered for setting appointments, (online scheduling, etc.) to what, if any, shuttle services or rental car options are available. A visit to the parts department, customer lounge and other areas do not need to take long, but surely can help make the customer at ease with the dealership and its employees.

Customer training isn’t just about opening the owner’s manual, a walk-around after a vehicle purchase or attending an owner’s clinic. It works better if it’s all-encompassing for all customer touch points. In a sense, it can begin with a phone call to your dealership when a vehicle breaks down, or when routine service is needed. The staff at that point have been invited to help educate the customer and assist them with their needs. No owner’s manual is needed here. Your staff will know what to do: listen, educate, learn and satisfy.


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