The Challenge of Retaining Orphan Owners

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By Howard Leavitt

Orphan own­ers tend to fall off the radar for most deal­er­ships and man­u­fac­tur­ers. GM just started a pro­gram to try to recap­ture cus­tomers who own brands that are no longer pro­duced. Deal­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers should seek to reap the rewards of not just the sale of the first car but of owner reten­tion, the sale of the sec­ond car, the gain­ing of refer­rals. Retain­ing own­ers as loyal cus­tomers is a dealer’s best invest­ment in their busi­ness, yet many deal­ers seem to think the invest­ment in time and effort isn’t worth it. Those deal­ers are wrong in that assumption.

What is the prob­lem that is stand­ing in the way at the deal­er­ship, and what can be done to solve it?

One major issue fac­ing today’s deal­er­ships is sales per­son turnover rate. When you lose a sales per­son you effec­tively lose the con­nec­tion to the owner. That is, unless you engage your staff and imple­ment a process that can help you over­come this problem.

Do you have a process in place for reas­sign­ing orphan own­ers to a new sales per­son? Do you have man­age­ment involved in the process to make sure that per­sonal rela­tion­ships between your ser­vice and sales per­son­nel are estab­lished with the newly assign own­ers? If you don’t then your chance of retain­ing your client base will dis­ap­pear over time.

Many deal­er­ships send out email blasts, newslet­ters, or direct mail, assum­ing that is the most effec­tive way of main­tain­ing a rela­tion­ship with orphaned own­ers that and will lead to reten­tion. Do you mea­sure the results of those efforts? If you do, you will find the return to be very low. These mar­ket­ing efforts are only one part of the process of main­tain­ing and build­ing rela­tion­ships with your exist­ing cus­tomers. Some deal­er­ships have events and invite their cus­tomer base to attend. Per­haps it is an off road event, ser­vice clinic or just a get together. Those events will likely enhance loy­alty, but that strat­egy is only part of a sys­tem­atic process to boost owner retention.

All ideas are wel­come but in the end the most impor­tant aspect of main­tain­ing your cus­tomer base through owner reten­tion is enhanc­ing the rela­tion­ship between an indi­vid­ual on your sales staff and the cus­tomer. That is the hard­est part, get­ting your staff to be engaged with your client base. How can we make it eas­ier? Make it part of your culture.

You must cre­ate the atmos­phere for your employ­ees to be proac­tive. Ensure that your sales staff are on the same page in your com­mit­ment to tak­ing care of all your clients so that if some­one on your staff leaves, those rela­tion­ships are not sev­ered. Once you have the process in place and have effec­tively cre­ated a cul­ture that nur­tures cus­tomer rela­tion­ships, it can be sim­ple to fol­low. You will find that main­tain­ing and enhanc­ing your rela­tion­ship with exist­ing cus­tomers is an easy way to boost prof­its. It’s another way for deal­ers to get the most out of your dealership’s great­est asset—your customers.

Howard Leav­itt is Pres­i­dent of AutoRap­tor CRM and can be reached at howard@autoraptor.com.

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