Breeding Customer Advocates
Within the motor trade, the responsibility of your car sales falls upon your dealership. However, the most important person that actually sells your dealership and your brand are your customers. Customer advocacy is a vital aspect for the growth and development of any successful business, the motor trade is no different.
This whitepaper discusses customer advocacy within a dealership and aims to identify the best factors that contribute to real customer loyalty and how to better breed customer advocates. Customer Advocacy can be defined as a specific form of customer service where a concentrated effort is placed upon what is in your customer’s best interest. Customer advocacy is a customer-centric approach that focuses on all phases of contact a dealership has with its customers. It encompasses everything from product experiences, services, sales, support and most importantly, complaints. It involves a process of demonstrated customer empathy and business competence during all customer interactions and advising and resolving customer issues over the short, medium and long term. Every customer interaction should be viewed as an opportunity to discover more about a customers’ needs and how you can best fulfill them.
In today’s modern world, customer advocacy is more important than ever before, customer behaviour has been significantly altered by shifting market forces, such as the decline of trust of large businesses and social networking. Advocacy provides a method to leverage your loyal customers as brand ambassadors for your dealership. Your loyal customers can be your best advocates and your most valuable asset. Recent research has shown that customer advocates are 50% more likely to influence purchase decisions than regular customers. Nurture these customers appropriately and they can become an extension of your business and expand upon all your marketing efforts. Utilising your best customers this way, in turn, will build brand awareness, drive car sales and increase your dealership revenue.
So what is the secret to earning their long-term trust, purchases and loyalty? How do you build a foundation of not only happy and satisfied customers but true customer advocates? Let’s take a look at several simple but effective strategies you can apply to develop customer advocacy in your dealership.
The Powers of Social
Customers today increasingly expect to find out about products and services through word of mouth and from within their social circles. With the rise of social media, word-of-mouth has gained a considerable amount of value amongst customers. It is known that over 90% of customers identify word-of-mouth as one of the best, dependable and relevant sources of product information. The internet has allowed customers to acquire all the information they need regarding brands, cars and dealerships, to enable them to make smarter and more personalised decisions on their terms. Now customers are seeking out individual and local dealership social media pages and evaluating past posts from real customers and noting their experiences and opinions. Customers trust information that they find and collect for themselves or have received it through informal, voluntary communication via their friends.
Word of mouth can be powerful, however, customer advocacy goes further than simple word of mouth, it is about creating an emotional connection to your dealership for a customer. A connection that evokes passionate support. Passion creates advocacy and advocacy drives growth.
Advocate For Life, Not Just For Christmas
Nurturing your customer relationships is a vital part of business success. It is now known that a customer spends an average of 8 hours researching online before they even contemplate visiting a dealership. Can you say you do the same for your customers? Invest in a little time to get to know your customers, discover who they are and what drives them. Your customers have the ability to grow your businesses to a remarkable extent. Liven up your customer strategy and get personal with your customers. Inject a little bit of light-hearted, old fashion fun to your dealership. Focus on your customers’ successes, get them involved with your activities, social or otherwise. Creating a positive relationship between your customers and your dealership will help drive the impact of positive word of mouth that is invaluable. Nurture them and gain their trust in your ability to deliver their needs.
Take Them The Market
Shout all about your customers and their achievements. Customers don’t want to hear about how well you are doing as a dealership. They want to read about the customers you have delighted and made feel special. Publish real positive customer experience. Giving your customers a voice is an excellent way to demonstrate to them that you value their support, respect them and acknowledge their opinion. Creating a customer focused ethos within your dealership is a business opportunity that should not be ignored. Many dealerships are inadequate when it comes to their customer experience. Take this opportunity to charm those same customers with your own dealership flare and great customer experience. It is known that 3 out of 4 customers state they have invested more with a business because they have had a previous positive experience with them. Create an experience that is memorable, an experience that satisfies your customer so much so that they tell everyone they know about it.
What’s The Message?
Review your current literature – email, marketing, advertising, content etc. Countless dealerships are guilty of being represented by toneless and lifeless copy, producing material and calls that resonate with no one. Customers want to be spoken to in a way that reflects that their time is being respected and that you understand them.
Fantastic emotional connections can be created through your communication. Commit some proper attention into your communication. Make it clear, human and most of all authentic.
The motor industry is becoming more original at ways to showcase their happy customers in front of potential prospects. Aim to create an authentic customer relationship, seek to support your customer to make an individual and informed purchase decision. Examine what you are publishing and posting on social media. Is it relevant to your customers? Does it involve them? Be innovative and engaging. Respond to your customers directly if they need a helping hand with something.
Demonstrating that you are thoughtful on social media is the foundation of all advocacy efforts. If you receive a positive review, comment or tweet. Don’t just retweet it, comment back. Replying with a praise to their generous words will demonstrate your sincere appreciation. Even go one step further, send them a gift of thanks. This kind gesture will live on in a customer’s memory and is what makes an advocate. It is through these small gestures that express your appreciation for your advocates, and thus, makes them more inclined to continue with their advocacy work on your behalf.
Haters Gonna Hate
As a dealer, you are the face of your brand. You may provide the finest of cars, but if your customer service is poor, you will throw away any opportunity you have with your customers to retain them. Unhappy customers can be detrimental to your business. Brand advocates drive word of mouth, recommendations and referrals. Your customer advocates have the highest level of loyalty to your business, however, customers on your lowest level of advocacy can equally affect your business. It is equally important to pay attention to these customers and look after their needs also. Even the most infallible of businesses can get something wrong, one time or another. When this happens, more often than not, it is not the problem that causes customer disgruntlement but how their problem has been handled. When finding yourself in this situation with a dissatisfied customer, just admit your shortcomings. Apologise, thank them for their feedback and do what you can to rectify any discontent. This demonstrates to your customers that you are doing all in you can for them and that you care about their experience. This small gesture can benefit your dealership greatly when creating advocacy and preventing brand disassociation.
It Was Me
In the age of social media, customer complaints and bad service are visible for everyone to see. Increasingly customers are moving from private communications to more public forums. Customers can now share their thoughts online via many outlets, such as ratings, reviews, testimonials, forums, comments, and shares.
Customer opinions, the good, the bad and the ugly are now more immediate and more accessible to see than ever before. Failing to answer any feedback, be it positive or negative, reflects on your business. Remember, NO response is A response. Embrace your feedback, see it as an opportunity to win a prospect who may have otherwise taken their business elsewhere. Answering just one complaint can increase advocacy by 25%. By acknowledging, embracing and addressing any online animosity, you have the ability to turn around opinion and win lifelong custom.
You can learn greatly from negative feedback and by engaging with your customers you have the potential opportunity to increase or gain their following and loyalty.
Gaining customer advocacy can be a simple process. Customers today want dealerships they can feel connected to. A connection that is built on a foundation of mutual trust, commitment to them as a customer and most of all your honesty. The online world has changed how people shop for cars. Customers are not just looking for competitive prices and car specifications anymore. They are now armed with so much more about your individual dealership and the service and experience you can offer them. If you take a step back from an everyday transactional perspective and consider a long-term vision of dealership growth, the benefits of customer advocacy is clear. A successfully converted customer advocate will be returning to your dealership for service business, they will tell their friends and family about you, they will come back to you to buy another car, and you will sell their used car for them too.