Location, location, location. A great location is the key to many successful businesses, second only to providing a great product or service. Talk to your customers, and they’ll often tell you that the reason they decided to do business with you was based on your location. So it’s important to make it easy for them to find you.
Referring customers back to their preferred service center or to the last dealership they visited is an important component of good automotive service communications, especially given the number of available choices they have. It’s an opportunity to remind them where they went and why it’s important to return to your location vs. a competitor’s. And although subtle, it’s another way to show them that you know them, understand their behavior and are using that information to improve their experience with you.
When you think about everything that is unique to a service center location, such as offers, hours, services available, etc., being able to direct a customer to the right place is a critical part of creating a good customer experience. Ever taken a discount coupon to a store, only to discover that it wasn’t honored there? If so, you’ll understand why establishing a methodology for assigning the right location to the right customer at the right time is so important … and it isn’t always as simple as it sounds.
From a business perspective, assigning the right service center adds another level of complexity. For automotive services companies that have franchisees or multiple brands under one company, errantly assigning the wrong location to a customer could create an immediate firestorm. For example, how would franchisees in mixed markets react if they knew their customers were being directed to someone else? Or, consider the service center that incents its employees on customer retention rates. Send a customer to a different location and you might have taken a paycheck away from a loyal employee.
If you’re referencing a store location in your communications, keep these important things in mind before you give them the thumbs-up:
Customers are often creatures of habit
I know there is an automotive service provider very close to my home. However, I rarely go there. Why? Because I get my car serviced near my job during my lunch hour. It’s easier for me. I assume the company knows this because that’s the only service center I’ve visited in the last five years. Thus, any communication that I get from them should thank me for my business at that location and suggest that I come back there.
Customers take road trips
And sometimes on those road trips, they need automotive services (or parts). But it’s not likely they’ll visit there again. Know your customers’ behavior and whether it is an indicator that they’ve established a new store preference … or it’s just an anomaly.
Are there times when customers might change their store preference? Sure. So you should have a plan in place to look for those behavioral clues. If, for example, I take a new job across town and find a closer service center, your database should figure this out after I’ve visited there a few times. There should be a trigger that shows I’ve changed my preferred location and adjusts it accordingly.
Customers might actually want to know about a different location
Yes, I know this sounds contradictory, but it’s a matter of convenience. For example, consider prospective customers or customers who haven’t visited you in a long time. Suggesting a location that is closest to their homes is appropriate. Maybe there’s a new location that’s more convenient now, which could give lapsed customers a reason to return. When it comes to prospective customers, you don’t know their behavior well enough yet to warrant exclusions.
Just like real estate, “location” is key in automotive services marketing. It can be the difference that demonstrates to your customers that you know them and will use the data you have about them to provide a better customer experience.
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.