Declining aftersales revenue
During the last few weeks there has been a good deal of comment about declining aftersales. Some of this discussion has been fuelled by recent aftersales-focused conference entitled ‘Future proofing your business’ which is run by the Auto Retail Network. ARN also ran an extensive market study http://www.auto-retail.co.uk/report/future-auto-retailing-2013-2023 which uncovered the fact that 80% of auto retailers are now worried about sustaining aftersales revenues as 61.5% recorded falling absorption rates - multi-franchises being hardest hit. More details can be read in the October issue of Auto Retail Bulletin this month.
One way customer comms
One of the keys to increasing aftersales is getting closer to existing customers and using phone, email or TXT-based services to remind them of service milestones and offers. But is one way ‘push’ communications enough today for customer communications?
All the evidence points in the direction of more interactive, visual and social media-geared communications being the new best practice for building customer relationships and inspiring their loyalty – especially when it comes to reaching out to the next two generations of car buyers - Generation Y and the generation after them, aptly named the ‘Connected Generation’: http://www.newworldofwork.co.uk/2011/02/25/how-to-prepare-for-the-connected-generation%E2%80%99s-transformation-of-the-consumer-and-business-landscape/
These groups have grown up online. They were early adopters of smart phones and tablets and they are starting to use these devices to make larger buying decisions – including buying their first used or new car from your dealership…or not.
With this in mind, we looked around in the trade media to see what advice is already out there for dealers looking to tap into Generation Y &C market and those a little older (‘Gen Xers’) who have grown used to researching and buying most things online. We picked on a few that caught our eye below...
The September issue of Auto Retail Bulletin has an article on the importance of using pictures in Google adverts as these generate substantially higher click through rates (CTR) than text only ads, according to a new report by online advertising expert Marin Software.
Making a story highly visual is definitely an emerging theme in marketing circles now. In one piece in this month’s US-based Dealer Marketing Magazine http://www.dealermarketing.com/internet-marketing/online-marketing/3197-video-in-the-modern-dealership for example, there is very good guidance on using videos to entice a new generation of car buyers through the show room doors. The author of this piece, a US-based video production specialist, tells us that car buyers are 55 times more likely to interact with a video message on a website than with conventional text and images.
He advises embedding videos into email blasts and social media marketing pushes. He also advises dealers to shoot video inexpensively ourselves. He even provides a shopping list of equipment to buy. Our own research into this area has uncovered many UK video production companies offering top rate videos for as little as £500 each. It is possible to shoot up to 4x 5-minute professional quality videos in a day using a professional team, thereby reducing the per video costs further.
It would make sense to offer video walkthroughs of the ‘offer of the month’, ‘car of the quarter’, ‘latest launch’, even the’ used car deal of the month’. Videos of your aftersales team at work with professional voiceovers which reinforce your focus on quality aftercare or proactive maintenance can also be a great addition to a showroom digital display and your website. And the great thing is that this sort of video production really should no longer be beyond the pockets of most franchise dealers.
And the consequences of not becoming digital marketing savvy look likely to extend well beyond sales losses and into reputation damage if we don’t react quickly enough should customers have something to complain about. We have seen several examples of where big businesses have been damaged by customers that have been unhappy with service that they received.
Power of Social Media Comms
Many of us will have seen the ‘United Breaks Guitars' YouTube videos which were inspired by United Airlines baggage handlers’ poor treatment of a little known Canadian-musician’s guitar while in transit across the States. Dave Carroll took his complaint onto YouTube, following rejection of his requests for compensation and an apology from the airline, after one of his guitars was broken. Today that first song (of three he has created) has had over 13.5 million views and the airline’s reputation has been severely damaged – all because of one poor experience by one customer which were spread through Social Media to millions around the world, watch it and weep: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo
Another article, written up by the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23943480 and the Daily Mirror amongst others in the last month, shows the potentially negative power of social media communications if used against a company.
This time it was BA which was ‘in the dock’ for losing a bag and then failing to react quickly enough to find it. The resulting paid-for tweet complaint was picked up by Twitter news feed Mashable and thence made it into the mainstream media and digital marketing ‘blogosphere’: http://simpliflying.com/2013/promoted-tweet-against-british-airways-airline-customer-service/ and even into our very own Auto Retail Bulletin.
24-hour customer service age
ARB suggested that 24-hour customer service is fast becoming a necessity for dealership groups in the internet age where a single Tweet can become a big problem overnight. Take the nightmare scenario where there is video evidence of poor employee behaviour then the chances of an indiscretion like this one going viral via YouTube are dangerously high: http://cardealermagazine.co.uk/publish/dealers-mercedes-caught-driving-along-dual-carriageway-with-bonnet-up/76611?utm_medium=email&utm_source=Blackball+media&utm_campaign=3162373_Car+Dealer+newsletter+-+October+8&dm_i=1NHP,1VS3P,94RSQS,6R1GC,1 .
The is story caught the eye of the BBC, Car Dealer magazine, MotorTrader.com and many more and was potentially very bad news for the dealer employing the errant Mercedes driver who failed to close his bonnet while speeding along an A road. Of course if the Mercedes dealership in question had not reacted quickly to suspend the employee concerned it could have been a good deal worse. If that story touched a raw nerve and you are worried about your Group’s exposure to the risk of poor driving of vehicles pre-sale or during servicing, you might want to look at an eTag key management solution http://www.etagsolutions.com/secure-and-audit-keys.aspx which will provide you with a verifiable audit trail of key users if misuse of vehicles is uncovered.
It is fair to say that social media communications and other digital marketing tools and techniques have a growing role to play in stimulating new sales as well as maintaining closer links with customers and reacting faster to complaints which can ‘go nuclear’ quickly with the aid of social media comms today. The time to embrace all this has arrived. Failure to communicate at ‘internet speed’ is probably already damaging your bottom-line today but it could also undermine your hard won relationships with your regular customers tomorrow.
Do you feel as though you are taking advantage of all these new marketing and customer service tools today? Or do you still think that you have more pressing things to do to boost sales? Do let us know.