5 Ways the Automotive Services Industry Drives Customers to Its Competitors

Elizabeth Mertz  |  Director of Client Services

June 24, 2016

Automotive service providers have only a few opportunities each year to interact with their customers face to face. That is if they’re lucky. Customers often see little distinction between providers, so it’s critical that every customer engagement — from the time they’re in your bay to the time they receive a service reminder — reinforces the message that you know them and their car.

As a marketer and a customer, I continue to see too much evidence that major quick-lube and other automotive service companies have no idea who their customers are, what services they’ve received and when additional services are needed. Here are five examples that say, “I have no idea who you are, so feel free to take your business to my competitor.” These are based on actual examples of communications that I’ve received.


1. Service providers act like they don’t know where I live

They make service recommendations for my vehicle that “might be good in a cold weather city.” Their email references where I live and their postcards get delivered to that same mailing address … but they don’t seem to know whether Rochester, NY, is a “cold weather city” or not. The official average temperature in Rochester this past February was 12.2 degrees. I’m pretty certain that Rochester would be considered a “cold weather city” and the company’s recommendations should reflect that.


2. They make the same service recommendations for every customer

In my household, there are three vehicles, each with different mileage and service history. The reminders we receive are identical: same discount and same service recommendation. Recommendations and offers should be specific to the vehicle and reflect that vehicle’s service history and manufacturer’s recommendations. If you don’t give your customers a relevant offer, they’ll find somebody else who will.


3. They offer me discounts on services I’ve already had

Vehicle maintenance is expensive. Customers usually need to budget for higher-priced services like brake replacement, transmission maintenance, etc. Getting a communication that acts like I haven’t had that service — AND offers me a discount after I just paid full price — is infuriating. If I choose your service center to have repairs done, the next communication from you should thank me for my business, reinforce the benefit of receiving that service and recommend appropriate services for my next visit. It should also include a corresponding offer.

4. They act like all customers are equal 

They offer the same discount to me, a new customer, that all of their existing customers receive. In an industry notorious for “one and done” customers, businesses need to work harder to urge new customers to return for a second or third visit. Make the offer worth their while. Remember, they’ve probably already darkened your doorstep with a highly discounted oil change coupon. If they were price-sensitive on their first visit, they’ll need an incentive to come back before they start searching for another $14.99 oil change from your competitor.

5. They make me choose which postcard to bring in

They send me two separate communications, which usually arrive in the mail on the same day. One reminds me that I’m due to have my oil changed and the other says I’m due for a State Inspection, both include an offer for an oil change. From a customer perspective, there’s no reason why you can’t combine all of your recommendations on one communication. From a cost perspective, paying for print and postage for a redundant message is wasteful. When possible, combine offers and recommendations for customers and households. You’ll save thousands of dollars a year that can be reallocated for traffic-driving communications.

Do these companies really believe that customers are going to trust one of their most significant investments to a business that acts as though all customers and vehicles are the same? Now more than ever, customers have access to unlimited information. They are well-versed on their manufacturer’s recommendations, their service history and often know how to perform basic automotive services. They’re looking to do business with a service center that respects them and their vehicles. Stop sending communications that make them think otherwise.

Elizabeth Mertz |  Director of Client Services
Liz’s areas of expertise include strategic planning, account development, campaign analysis, campaign management, and franchise marketing. In addition to leading high-volume accounts at Catalyst, she’s held management positions at Vertis and Draft Worldwide.

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