You have no doubt heard the phrase, “The customer is always right.” In the F&I world, you try to help the customer understand what they need to secure their new- or used-car purchase. When the customer knows the conversation is about them and what they want, they should be more willing to buy what you’re selling.
With 18 years of experience in the automotive industry, Ryan Williams, executive vice president of sales for Fidelis Systems, says he knows what it takes to make customers happy: Dealers and agents working together to develop a superior experience throughout the ownership cycle.
To that end, Williams and the Fidelis team have come up with the Fidelis Customer Loyalty Maintenance Program (CLMP), a strategy that supplies customer retention and loyalty for car dealers through a prepaid maintenance (PPM) program.Bringing Them Back
First and foremost, every package is customized specifically for each dealer. Any products the dealer wants to offer can be put combined to create a unique program. The title of this program also can be customized for the dealership, but a majority of dealers call it the “Advantage Program.”
When a customer purchases a car, they are automatically signed up for the complimentary one-year Advantage Program and receive a dealer-branded membership card in the mail shortly after they purchase their vehicle.
Fidelis has a turnkey, multichannel marketing platform to stay in touch with customers. Each car buyer is contacted up to eight times in the first year via automatic emails and direct mail. These messages serve as service reminders and notification that their contract is about to expire — with an opportunity to renew.
Williams says that Fidelis’ track record proves that, the more customers come back to the dealership, the better the retention rate. “Leading sources state that there is a greater than 70 percent likelihood that a customer will buy their next car at the place where they service their current car.”
Fidelis’ software was designed to integrate with each dealer’s DMS and extract information for reports that track service income. “We know that 35 percent of customers will leave some of that contract unused and we give 100 percent of those forfeiture, or “spoilage,” dollars to the dealer,” Williams explains. In other words, the dealer can maximize income whether or not the customer comes back.Benefits for Agents
Williams says the system was designed to serve as a retention tool for agencies as well., “We’ve been doing this for five and a half years and 94 percent of our dealerships are still with the same agency,” he says.
He adds that positive feedback has told him that CLMP opens agents up to more business because it reaches beyond the F&I office. Every department needs to be on board, he adds, because the program affects each staffer.
Additional tools for agents include online and in-person training. After Williams’ team does an initial, onsite training session, he says, “The best training is going into an account the agents have and doing a presentation with them.”
This program also has a wide range of eligibility. Any new- or used-car operation that has a service department is eligible for the program. According to Williams, dealers who use the program are running a 65 percent retention rate, a huge improvement over the 11 to 18 percent average reported by leading market researchers.
“For dealers, the most important and most appealing part of doing something on your own, is that you can build it yourself, price it yourself, control all the money and brand the dealership,” Williams says. “With this program, you get all four things in a turnkey system that delivers amazing results.”