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It seems that CSI at Automobile Dealerships is starting to be treated as a passing fad or just another thing to do.
This not only affects the individual Dealers but the Manufactures and the Industry as a whole.

This is always a result of lack of leadership as I have talked about in many postings. It all flows from the top down – plain and simple.
William Cosgrove

Have you heard the news? CSI is cancelled! No, I’m not talking about the popular forensic crime scene TV show. I’m referring to the customer satisfaction index!

Dealership CSI used to be the talk of the auto industry. It is what the dealership, its sales associates and the OEMs used to hang their hats on. It was the standard measurement for how well dealerships handled their customers. Sure, keeping customers happy and satisfied is still important, but as a barometer of how well the dealership is retaining business, nothing is more accurate than retention. Consider why this is so:

  • General Motors says an improvement of one percentage point in customer loyalty means about 25,000 additional vehicle sales and 700 million dollars in revenue annually.
  • The cost of customer acquisition is six to ten times more than the cost of customer retention, and retention is more profitable to the bottom line.
  • Retained customers talk favorably about your dealership, are less sensitive to price than new customers, and pay less attention to your competitors. They are also easier to communicate with and find.
  • Eighty-percent of sales still come from 20 percent of customers, making it imperative the dealership maintain and retain these relationships.

If a dealership doesn’t proactively work to retain its customers, those customers are sure to drift off (before or after expiration of the warranty period) or be lured by the promises of a more retention-astute dealer across town or the aggressive aftermarket provider down the street.

I know it’s natural to think “we do it right here,” but perhaps you might want to try a test first. Have you recently:

  • Taken a family vehicle into a dealership other than yours for routine maintenance, observed their check-in processes, and noticed how you are treated?
  • Called another dealership to make an inquiry and observed how your call is handled?
  • Checked service prices at a dealership and then called back again a day or two later and gotten two different estimates?

If these kinds of misfortunes are happening to customers at your dealership, customer retention is being wrecked. Improving the meet and greet, process efficiencies and other bottlenecks will not only please customers but save money too.

Finally, be intentional about retention. One way is to become heroes to customers.

Software that identify ripe sales and service opportunities in the database through data or equity mining can help staff solve problems for existing customers who are:

  • Struggling with monthly payments, as job or family situation has changed since they originally bought.
  • At risk of incurring mileage penalties before their lease expires and may not be aware that these additional penalty costs await them at lease end.
  • Inactive service customers who need encouragement to bring scheduled maintenance services current.

Retention-building car sales strategies like these can help a dealership add from five to one-hundred or more additional unit sales a month from existing customers—customers retained by the dealership due to proactive, retention-based selling.


Stay tuned: three other retention elements will have to wait until next time.
Written by Boyd Warner