The automotive industry faces ever-growing financial challenges: decreasing profit margins, a digital overhaul in marketing, and changes in ownership models to name just a few. If you’re like most dealerships, you’re probably looking for a way to get ahead and boost your profits.
Here’s one idea that uses resources you already have and can really set you apart: customer education.
You can make your dealership into a place where shoppers can not only purchase their new vehicles, and not only receive service, but actually learn how to buy a car and do their own service and maintenance. And you’re in a great position to do this because your staff has the necessary expertise, knowledge, and experience. Why not make your dealership a resource center?
It’s a great way to make money, build loyalty, and boost repeat business.
Wait– this is a terrible idea
I know what you’re thinking: this is going to cost more money than it makes. For one thing, teaching customers to be more knowledgeable and self-sufficient will result in lost business. They’ll need the service center less, they’ll learn what things really cost, they’ll become too savvy when making a purchase.
It turns out that the opposite is true. Take the case of Johnny’s Selected Seeds, a Maine-based seed company that has invested major resources in customer education, hiring experts to have in-depth phone conversations with customers to help them succeed without trying to sell anything. Johnny’s sees major loyalty from these efforts– and has been growing 8% for the past few years. When customers know you are there for them– that you have expertise, a quality product, and their best interests in mind, they stick around.
I recently needed to replace a lock, so I called a locksmith. He could have sold me his most expensive product– I needed a lock, and I needed it fast. Instead, he walked me through the options, explaining that one of the more affordable options was a better fit for me for a variety of reasons. Did I pay less for my lock? Yes. Will I go back to him for any future business? Definitely. And I have already recommended him to a number of neighbors and friends– because he was honest, he demonstrated expertise, and he prioritized my needs.
Think about it: would you rather pay someone who shares information, or who withholds it?
Here’s why you really don’t need to worry about sharing dealership expertise
There’s another reason that educating customers will help, not hurt: people will always need talented techs to do the heavy lifting. They’ll need someone to explain the features they can’t figure out on their own, to do the repairs they don’t feel comfortable tackling themselves, to use advanced tools they don’t have, and don’t want to buy. Even when you educate customers, you are still the expert.
Here’s another thing to consider: you likely already offer discounts or free service for oil or fluid changes, tire rotations, and other basic maintenance. Offering courses instead of freebies saves you time in the long run, while encouraging customers to come back for their more substantial maintenance and purchases.
What can your dealership teach customers?
Okay, so you’re on board with building loyalty through education. What does that actually look like? Here are some ideas:
Understanding maintenance basics is empowering. Hold sessions on checking and inflating tires, tire rotation, changing oil, and replacing air filters. Run a course on preparing a vehicle for winter. Teach customers how to change a tire. You’d be surprised how many people do not know how to do these things and would love to learn from an expert.
And if you share knowledge, customers will likely turn to you if they ultimately decide they’d rather not spend the time doing it themselves.
Car Shopping 101
So many car shoppers need guidance when purchasing a vehicle but don’t know where to find it. Be the resource that eases their process. Open courses to the community where you walk through the entire process and explain how pricing models work, and don’t be afraid to be open, because that kind of honestly counters the angst most people have when beginning the car buying journey. Tell them what they need to know about MSRP, sticker price, invoice and other common terms in new-car shopping.
Driving Lessons/ Stick Shift Refresher
Every 16 year old in America can surely attest to the excitement and anxiety around getting their driver’s license. Your dealership can insert itself into this lifecycle event where it naturally fits. Position your dealership as a safety and driving expertise resource for your community; offer courses on city driving, parking, or even a stick shift course!
Don’t forget to put it all online
If your dealership becomes an education resource you can use that to generate online buzz as well. Advertise on social media in advance of sessions, and then record them and post the videos online with very clear titles. Your social media manager will thank you, your social channels will now include engaging content that garners more than an occasional like, and when someone searches “how to change a tire,” google will point local searches to your dealership.
Your brand can be about more than the car – your community should think of your dealership as an invaluable resource. Your store can be a hub where education, service, and retail converge to create experiences that benefit your bottom line and the community you serve. Be a resource and you will earn the business of loyal community members.