How to Turn Satisfied Customers into Loyal Brand Advocates

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The secrets to getting customers to sing your dealership’s praises, both online and around town.

When it comes to customer service scores, Gary Nudelman makes one thing clear:

“I don’t pay for any reviews,” says Nudelman, the general manager for Pugi of Chicagoland. “I don’t pay DealerRater, or Yelp, or anybody.

“If we get a bad review, we answer it. Not only do we try to fix it, but we answer it, as well.”

These days, Nudelman notes, consumers don’t just want a good buying experience, they expect it. At dealerships like Pugi Hyundai in Downers Grove, Nudelman’s staff typically delivers, judging by the dealership group’s solid online reviews.

In fact, a fair amount of loyal customers have become brand advocates for the Pugi group of dealerships, with many clients singing Pugi’s praises online. And that kind of “positive word-of-mouth” offers dealerships the cheapest—yet effective, and far reaching—form of marketing there is.

While it’s not easy to get customers to become brand advocates for your dealership, it can be

accomplished. Some dealerships pull off that feat by posting positive online comments, in an effort to motivate their employees. Other facilities ask for positive reviews on specific websites like Yelp, Yahoo, or Google.

In Nudelman’s experience, though, turning satisfied customers into brand advocates simply includes measures that virtually any dealership can make. In fact, the 31-year industry veteran listed them during a recent interview with Fixed.

 

As told to Kelly Beaton

Remember, customers expect to be treated well. So, what we do is go a step above that—we treat our customers like family. Dealerships that have good ownership, it translates all the way down. So we go the extra mile for our customers, and treat them with kindness and respect; if you give somebody great customer service, and you do it consistently and you’re transparent in the way you treat them, it helps. It’s only the times that customers feel that they’ve had an exponentially better experience that they go ahead and write a positive online review.

We brand customers immediately when they walk in. “Welcome to Pugi; how can I help you?” When you do that, people feel a sense that they’re part of it. And when they feel like that, they have a good experience. The first, initial comment that an employee leaves a customer sets the whole process up. Meaning, if you’re a service advisor and a customer comes in, and you look at them and just say, “Hi, how can I help you?” you’re setting yourself up for a very mediocre experience. However, if you look up and go, “Welcome to Pugi” to start with, you’re setting up the whole atmosphere for a nice experience.

Nowadays, smartphones are the biggest way to spread the word about your dealership. We text the customer. We’ll text them a "thank you" at the end of their visit. Another thing we do to spread the word is, if a customer wants to use our Wi-Fi they have to log in, and when they do, it actually marks their location—so, if they’re on Facebook, it’ll actually mark where they’re at. And that lets people know that they’re here at Pugi.

If a customer’s very happy with us, we ask them to spread the word. Our employees say something like, “Frankly, if you’re happy with us, please leave us a review.” And our really loyal customers do that for us. And the reason I think that’s so important is because, when somebody goes to buy a car, one of the things they’re looking at is the reviews about it. Certainly, people want to purchase a vehicle, and service a vehicle, at a place with positive reviews. When we have a customer who’s really pleased, and who says, “Wow, this service was awesome,” we reply, “You know what, the best way you can compliment us is by going ahead and writing that in a review.” And we’ve found that, when we do that, our customers respond.

In the end, you have to deliver. And what I mean by that is, if a customer’s car is going to take two hours, then you check with your customer and you let them know an hour into the visit, “Hey, we’re making other repairs we talked about, and we’re about an hour away from being done. Can we get you a car to use in the meantime? Can we get you a shuttle some place? What can we do for you?” What we do is, we communicate with our customers during all phases while they’re here in fixed ops. You’re going to have those customers who become very loyal. And then, when you ask them to spread the good word, it’s not like a chore; they want to. 

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