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Key Factors of a Successful Automotive Rewards Program

As we sit and ponder the most important topic in our industry today, it begs the question for all dealers to ask themselves, “What is the magic formula to keep our customers loyal?” Today, our customers expect more value, better service and to be treated like never before. This is not just the case in automotive showrooms and service drives, customers’ expectations throughout the country are at an all-time high in all businesses.

With that said, we know how critical it is to our survival to ensure our customers stay loyal, but what can we do to ensure they return for service and repeat vehicle sales? The answer for more and more cutting edge dealerships is to launch highly creative “points based” rewards programs, designed to retain the customers they already have.

A successful dealer loyalty program will keep your customers talking about you, spending money with you and becoming fiercely loyal to your dealership. When considering a loyalty program for your dealership ask yourself these simple questions:

Does it build value?

The most successful automotive rewards programs around the country are the ones that allow your salespeople to clearly build value during the sales process. A good rewards program should give your salespeople an exclusive tool that will help them build value in themselves and the dealership, instead of quickly dropping prices to close a deal. If your salespeople can’t leverage the benefits of your program to powerfully demonstrate why your customers should buy from you, it is not built correctly. Let’s face it, if it does not help you sell the car, you have no customer to retain anyway.

Does it reward your customers for staying loyal to you?

A successful rewards program contains a points system that has the ability to identify, track and reward your best customers when they remain loyal (and spend money). These point structures should be easy for your customers to understand, allow you to measure the worth of each customer and reward them for hitting spending benchmarks set by you.

Does it integrate into your customer’s daily lifestyle?

Since your service customers only visit three or four times per year, a good automotive rewards program is one that seamlessly integrates into your customers’ daily lifestyles and offers them value, in between service visits. Consider offering additional incentives at local restaurants, retail stores, golf courses and other local merchants. Don’t just “wow” them at your dealership, make sure they remember you in between visits as well.

Does it effectively communicate with your customers?

A successful dealer loyalty program offers an automated system that gathers information and sends customized contacts with the right message, at the right time. Additionally, the contact system should have the ability to offer time-sensitive promotions, free gifts, contests, direct mail, as well as customized loyalty certificates.

Does it help you build long term loyalty?

Successful rewards programs should ensure the customer is earning towards valuable future rewards at all times. Some points programs allow customers to earn and redeem relatively small rewards at their very next service visit. Rather than offering a few bucks off their next service, offer them the ability to earn something much more valuable if they hold off. If your program is allowing your customers to earn and redeem small amounts immediately, in effect, you have deployed an electronic version of couponing, not a long term loyalty solution.

Does it allow you to stand out from your competitors?

Don’t be fooled with the “one rewards program fits all” pitch. Most OEM programs are designed to level the playing field and instill “sameness” in their dealer base, but is that what you want for your business? Sameness is one of the worst possible traits for a dealership and always leads to reduced profits. Your rewards program should always have the ability to be customized based on your specific goals, so have the courage to break the mold and think creatively. Your customers will appreciate the effort. Think about it, if your program is the same as the guy down the street, what is the point?

Always remember, a truly successful loyalty program should contain a valuable mix of hard benefits (points, rewards, discounts at the dealership) as well as soft, lifestyle benefits (outside of the dealership) that promote long term goals, as well as offer short term rewards. Today’s customers are expecting more than ever and if we can have the courage to be different and offer our customers a program over flowing with value (even outside of the dealership), they will talk about us, spend money with us and remain fiercely loyal to us.

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