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Stay out of the Trash by Training Your Customers

By Alexia Henson

When I consult with dealers about service mailers, I often find that their approach contradicts what they’re looking to achieve.

On one hand, dealers know how incredibly competitive the market is, so they send out service coupons to ensure customers don’t defect due to a competitor’s offer. But on the other hand, they don’t want to send service offers too often. The biggest concern I hear is: “I don’t want to train my good, loyal customers to delay service until they get a discount.”

This never makes any sense to me. Why wouldn’t you want to train your customers to anticipate an offer? Don’t you want them to open every communication you send and believe that you will give them the best price and reward them for being an AWESOME, outstanding customer? Isn’t that the whole idea: sell your customers on your service facilities, build loyalty and prevent them from defecting in the first place?

In my last blog, I talked about how to create more impact with your sales mailers by making sales events truly special. Well, the same concept applies to your service mailers: train your staff to make a big deal about any service coupons and offers. In turn, this will train your customers to open all your mailers and use the coupons you have spent good money to send (that IS what you want them to do, right?).

I’ve never walked into a dealership’s service department and been asked if I had a coupon. And that is seven vehicles later: after a Camry, a Volkswagen, four BMWs and an Acura.

However, whenever I walk into a large chain store, they always ask me if I have a coupon. Some even go as far as printing out coupons for me to use on my next visit! I will be the first to tell you that I go back to the same store to use that coupon. I will also be the first to admit that I spend way more than I should every time I go back. So if that is considered training your customers to wait for an offer, then I say let the training begin.

It’s a simple process to implement at your dealership: have your advisors ask each and every customer if they have a coupon for their service. Just mentioning a coupon will train your regular customers to open your mailers in search of offers, rather than tossing them blindly into the trash. This will increase your service mailer open rates AND your marketing ROI. In addition, you’ll show your loyal customers that you truly appreciate their business.

So what happens if a good, loyal customer doesn’t have a coupon? They’ll probably say, “Can I get a discount anyway? I’m here all the time.” This is another good opportunity to go above and beyond for your customer and make them feel special. Give them a $5 or $10 discount on the spot, or perhaps $25 off if they have an additional service done on that day. Be creative and encourage them to watch their mail for future offers.

Frequency is another key to keeping your service customers engaged. In my opinion, a new offer should go out every 60 to 90 days at the very least, and it shouldn’t expire for another 60 to 90 days.

In the end, you’ll find that rewarding loyal customers is much better for business than constantly chasing down the ones in danger of defecting. Don’t get me wrong: marketing to both is equally important. If you’re not in front of any customer at the right time, they can defect in a matter of seconds—that’s why it’s so important to reward loyalty. Training your loyal customers to watch for discounts gives them a reason to open your mailers. And sending service coupons gives them the incentive to keep coming back.