Friday, Aug. 03, 2012, 01:57 AM UPDATED 5:32 PMBy Women-Drivers.com president Anne Fleming
president & car buying advocate, Women-Drivers.com
Women are the fastest growing segment of car buyers at car dealerships, spending billions of dollars annually on new and used cars, as well as car service and maintenance.
They’re more confident, educated and prepared to make smart car decisions than ever before, and thanks to dealer rating websites like Women-Drivers.com, Facebook, Twitter and other online outlets, women are also voicing their opinions on those decisions in greater numbers.
Car dealerships have to treat women respectfully or they risk sending customers to their nearest competitor: another dealership, or an independent specialty or “big box” auto repair store.
The car dealer review site is a marketplace connecting women to dealerships that already promote trust and transparency, as demonstrated through their Women Satisfaction Index scores.
Our service reviews underscore the bottom line for women — when they are treated respectfully and have a good experience, they return to that dealership again and again.
This is no surprise to dealerships, as customer retention is critical to their business. Vehicle owners visit a dealership’s service lane two to three times a year. The more a customer comes back, the higher the likelihood they will not only return for service in the future, but will also purchase their next car there.
Five variables are utilized, in part or in whole, by forward‐thinking dealerships with extraordinarily high loyalty and retention rates with women consumers. They are:
1. More Women in the Workplace
More than 18 percent of the employees at car dealerships are women. Many are in the position of service adviser, the first line of contact with the dealership’s customers. These dealerships realize that seeing a knowledgeable woman behind the service counter makes female customers more comfortable to ask questions concerning repairs.
2. Using Technology to Communicate Repair Needs
Most dealers continue to focus on “verbal selling” instead of "visual selling." Women, many of whom are skeptical of “up sells at the dealership” decline the additional or unforeseen recommendation over 40 percent of the time. Why? Customers want proof to ensure that the repair is warranted — and, when they cannot see the problem many opt out, and may even feel suspicious about it.
Companies like ClearMechanic.com develop technology for automotive dealerships including mobile apps, expert illustration content and web‐based tools to “visually explain” repairs with real‐time photos and videos.
Customers and dealerships alike see this as win‐win. Dealerships that use this “proof‐based” technology have a 20 to 40 percent increase in success on additional service recommendations while their customer retention rates and CSI scores improve.
3. Go Beyond TV
Make the service waiting area into places where women are comfortable spending time, especially mothers with children. A relaxed and friendly atmosphere with comfortable seating, WiFi connectivity and flat‐screen TVs are a start.
The warmth of the waiting area, the types of magazines provided and the wall colors also enhance the space. Provide hot and cool beverages and a children’s designated play center.
Allow for free transportation services so women can run errands while waiting for their car to be finished. When possible, allow for courtesy overnight vehicles – this concierge service is employed by luxury brands and can have a real impact on women using a dealership, so trickle‐down brands and dealerships take note.
4. Expand Hours
According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, the average service department is open 56 hours a week compared to an 80 hour average for a specialty car repair chain store. With 40 percent of children today being born to unwed mothers and 29.5 percent of households run by single parents, dealerships that expand their hours are expanding their customer base.*
5. The Golden Rule
Put a highly trained listener into the position of Service Adviser – the professional who can hear not only what women are actually saying, but also be interested in what they aren’t saying. Abandon the role as the know‐it‐all automotive expert and strive to support and educate women throughout the entire sales process. Treat women with respect and treat them as the savvy consumers they are.
Without question, customer service and customer satisfaction are being re‐defined by women car buyers and dealerships alike. Women value relationships and trust car dealers who focus on building a long‐term relationship, not just making a sale.
Every dealership should strive to be identified as a dealership that women trust, since providing superior service to its women customers means that same level of service to all of customers.
Anne Fleming is president & car buying advocate at Women-Drivers.com.