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May 22, 2012updated 12 Apr 2017 11:46am

Eyes on the road

Kirk Franks gives his advice to dealers looking to stay alert to best practice in customer retention A recent survey by Alphera found that 96% of dealers saw customer retention as their biggest opportunity in 2012, with 81% citing it as their biggest challenge With the UK falling into a second recession and customers querying whether they can afford that new vehicle, retention is vital to a dealers bottom line

By Kirk Franks

Kirk Franks gives his advice to dealers looking to stay alert to best practice in customer retention

Photo of Kirk Franks, UK sales manager, Alphera Financial ServicesA recent survey by Alphera found that 96% of dealers saw customer retention as their biggest opportunity in 2012, with 81% citing it as their biggest challenge. With the UK falling into a second recession and customers querying whether they can afford that new vehicle, retention is vital to a dealer’s bottom line. Here are my thoughts on getting it right:

1. Make sure your CRM database is up-to-date

For strong customer relationships, you need the correct contact details. Storing the wrong details can have a huge impact on the customer’s image of your business. If they’re moving, or names are changing, be sure to follow up with them to make sure you have the right details on file.

2. Make time for your customers

Ensure you have regular contact with your customers, and that you’re not just contacting them out of the blue, or because their agreement is coming to an end; this will give them the impression that you’re only looking after yourselves. An initial after-sale check to make sure there are no teething problems is recommended, and then targeted, regular contact, delivering the right message at the right time according to what the customer needs.

3. Customer retention must be a three-line whip

If the showroom floor staff are the only staff prioritising customer retention and adhering to the strategy of that dealership, it won’t work. In order to have a successful customer retention policy in place, everybody from the management team down to sales staff should be encouraged to follow it.

4. Train your staff

Having a strategy in place is all well and good, but your staff must be trained in how to keep to it and also why it is a fundamental part of your business success. Showing them how return customers improve the bottom line will no doubt shift perceptions of its importance. Find a way to implement tools – such as a lead management tool – to measure customer retention, and adopt your sales process to include this in the model.

5. Viable offers

Make sure there is plenty of choice and flexibility available for customers. Offer them the personal touch – take into consideration their needs if they change, tailor your finance packages to suit changes, and assure them you’re available to provide financial counsel when needed. Ensure you’re making use of seasonal offers, e.g. lower finance rates on convertibles throughout the summer months.

Retaining customers as lifelong partners can offer your business so many opportunities. Getting it right will benefit you, from your reputation right through to sales and retention figures that your competitors can be envious of. There really is nothing to it, other than clever people management and keeping a check on internal processes.

Kirk Franks is sales manager of Alphera Financial Services

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