Many automotive services providers recommend that their customers change their oil every three months or every 3,000 miles. Most car owner manuals say you should service your vehicle every 5,000 miles, 7,500 miles, or more. So, who is right? From a marketing perspective, it doesn’t matter. An effective CRM program will solve both scenarios as well as customer driving patterns and service history.
Obviously, the objective of any CRM program is to drive customers in more frequently, and the sooner, the better. The automotive services industry is no different; however, many providers have not modified the cadence of their oil change reminders and continue to communicate based on the age-old rule: every 3,000 miles or every three months. The problem is that this rule ignores a significant number of customers and leaves them susceptible to being stolen by the competition:
- Frequent/high-mileage drivers. Whether it’s a salesperson who is on the road every day, all day, or someone with a long commute, many customers will drive 3,000 miles much sooner than three months. If you send your oil change reminders every three months, chances are that they’ve looked and gone elsewhere.
- Customers who pay attention to their owner’s manual. According to research by Edmunds, most carmakers now recommend oil changes between 7,500 and 10,000 miles, although some specify 5,000-mile intervals. If your service reminders are sent based on when customers reach 3,000, 6,000, or 9,000 miles, you’ll never deliver a message on time … you’ll always be too late or too early.
- Customers who have not returned in 10 or more months. Just because they haven’t serviced their vehicle with you in the last 10+ months, that doesn’t mean you should stop communicating with them. Instead, revisit your discount strategy or introduce a Most Likely to Return model to identify the best people to receive your communications.
Some automotive services marketers will tell you that the reason they only remind customers to change their oil every three months is because they need to “manage production costs.” I challenge them to consider the incremental visits and gross margin that they’re giving up EVERY MONTH by limiting the number of times they’re talking to customers. Based on my experience, it will more than pay for the additional cost required to communicate with customers more frequently, whether it’s via mail, email or text messages.
There’s no crystal ball that can tell us with certainty when and how often you should be communicating with customers. Regardless, marketers need be sure that they’re in contact with their customers frequently enough so that they’re always top of mind. By doing so, they’ll have the best chance of catching their customers when they’re seeking a provider to service their vehicle.
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.