The Lost Loyalty Factor: Making Your Customers Feel

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

That says it all. Doesn’t it? In all actually I could stop there, let you absorb the above quote and be done with it. But I have more to say. Don’t I always? The fact of the matter is that loyalty, as far as consumers frequenting a certain business, has been on a downward trend for a long time. There are a lot of reasons for this and while I’d love to get into them here, that’s for another post.

Businesses focus way too much on their bottom line. What, is that a strange thing to say? Well, it’s true. Now, I know that you’re in business to make money and as a car dealership the bottom line is well… the bottom line, but there are other things that are more important. Don’t worry too much about that last sentence; they all lead to a bigger bottom line!

We’re Emotional Creatures

triune-brainFeelings register with us. They could be good feelings, they could be bad. But the fact still remains, feelings stick with us. We always remember how a person, how a business, even how an idea makes us feel. We don’t always remember how those feelings came to be, but they are there and we remember them. Why? Because we’re emotional creatures.

We have 3 layers to our brain; the first is the bottom layer, referred to as our old brain (reptilian complex). The old brain is all about the preservation of self, it houses our fight or flight reflex and all it thinks about is me, me, me. The middle layer is our mid brain (limbic system), it’s our emotional store house and it’s always seeking to feel. The outer layer is our new brain (neo-cortex), it’s our logical selves. Here’s the kicker, our brains work from the bottom up, starting with the old brain. What that means is logic comes last; it’s me, then emotion and then higher thought.

The old brain doesn’t understand logical thought, but is fed by emotion. What that means is that the mid brain has more sway over the true decision maker, the old brain, than does logical thought. You know this is true. Just think about all the things you’ve bought, not because you needed them but because you wanted them. Remember; sell the sizzle, not the steak!

I’ll drive the point home with one more thought and then we’ll get to the actionable part of this post. Think about your favorite brand. It could be Apple, Subaru, Oreo or even Redbull. Each one of them is a memory in your mind, an associative memory to be exact. A memory that is backed by emotion, a memory that makes you feel a certain way. Now, think about why you’re loyal to those brands. What do your favorite brands make you feel?

What’s missing from You Dealership?

You’re not making people feel enough! You’re not giving them something to latch on to. No, don’t say that you have the best prices and that’s why people keep coming. While it may be true, people are fickle, they are buying what you are selling because you have reduced your wares to a commodity. All that really means is that if there is a better price somewhere else, that’s where they are going to go.

If you missed it, this post is about loyalty. It’s been lost but now it’s time to get it back, you do that by making people feel. If you make somebody feel good about buying a car from your dealership, and no I don’t mean good about the price they paid. I’m talking about feeling good about the experience as a whole. Do they feel good about doing business with you because you’re an important part of the community? Do they feel good about doing business with you because you went so far and beyond what they expected that they feel enchanted by your customer service? Do they feel that they are your only customer? Do you give them the impression that they matter more than their money? If so, then loyalty hasn’t eluded you and it’s still alive and well in your dealership. If not, then keep reading because I have a few ideas that I’d love to share with you.

Loyalty Driver #1: Good Customer Service Comes Second

What!!! Good customer service comes second? Really, David? Before you exit out of this post, let me explain. As a leader at your dealership it’s your own people that you should be focused on, above all else. Yes, customer service is important but your people have to know that they come first. They have to know that when a complaint about them comes in that you won’t jump to conclusions. They have to know that you have their back. Take care of your people and your people will take care of your customers. Employee loyalty directly contributes to customer loyalty.

Loyalty Driver #2: Be Part of the Community

People want to know that you care as much about societal issues as you do about your bottom line. If you really want to make your customers feel good about your dealership show them that you care about what they care about. Be a good steward of your local community, and no I’m not talking about stroking a check, rather being part of the solution.

Loyalty Driver #3: Over Deliver

This one sounds like a duh moment but let me finish. When people come to your dealership, or any business for that matter, they expect a certain level of customer service. If you fail to meet those expectations or even just meet them, they won’t be coming back; you can forget about creating loyalty. Instead, look at all your touch points, from the way the phone is answered to the smile received when somebody walks in the front door, are they exceptional? What about your bathroom, is it what they expect when they walk in? I mentioned the bathroom because it’s easily overlooked yet it’s important, have you walked into a smelly messy bathroom at a business and thought yuk!? What did that make you feel about that business?

Loyalty Driver #4: Communicate with your Customers

Ask them how you can serve them better. Get them involved in making your dealership better. Your most loyal customers are customers that will collaborate with you; they will share with you what you need to know to create even more loyalty. I wrote a post on social collaboration, you can read it HERE.

Loyalty Driver #5: Know thy Product

That sounds like a commandment, and it should be. Your salespeople should be a virtual storehouse of information as it relates to the vehicles you sell, and not just the new cars you sell, but also their competitors. They should be able to answer any questions that a customer throws at them. Yes, that takes commitment from both the sales force and management, but it can be done.

Loyalty Driver #6: Be Reliable

You must be consistent. People have to know what they receive from you will remain constant. If you give them good customer service just once they may come a second time, but not a third. Therefore, be reliable. If a repeat customer comes to you they have to get the same level of treatment that they got before, don’t slip! This happens through process and a powerful culture of customer enchantment. Again, takes commitment, but worth it both short term and long.

Loyalty Driver #7: Don’t Hide Behind Your CRM

Technology is great but it doesn’t make people feel. Sure, it may be convenient, and that is a feeling but it will never replace the feeling one human being can give another. If you want true loyalty, talk with your customers; meet them out in the community. Be one.

Loyalty Driver #8: Use Their Names

People like to hear their names so use them. Too many people forget how powerful that is, don’t overdo it, but while talking with your customers use their name. Friends use each other’s name and if you’re looking to create the type of interpersonal relationship that is required to create customer loyalty you should be doing the same.

Loyalty Driver #9: Time is Money

Speed up your service. Don’t make your customers wait an hour just to get into finance. Put policies in place and time how long it takes to deliver a car. Have you ever noticed the timer at drive through windows? Why don’t you have the same thing at your dealership?

Loyalty Driver #10: Write Hand written Notes

It doesn’t happen enough but I feel really good when I get a hand written card in the mail from a vendor. I just got one the other day complete with a smiley face drawn on the inside. Corny as that sounds, it really made me feel good about doing business with them. There are so many opportunities to do this at a dealership:

  • After you sell a car
  • After you don’t sell a car
  • After routine maintenance
  • After major repairs
  • After a car is details, and much more

I’m going to end it right there at 10, there are a few others I could have added but I’d really love to get your input. What should be Loyalty Driver #11?

Post author

David has been in the auto industry for 11 years, starting off as a salesperson, then internet sales and then finally BDC manager before he started consulting full time. Now he is considered the forefront of automotive social media and is both the VP and partner of

There are 4 Comments

  1. Posted by Tom Gorham Reply

    I’m a big fan of David Johnson due to his wit, common sense, humor and charm. And did I mention integrity? This article is indicative of all those qualities and should be on the desk of every dealer concerned about the “disappearance of customer loyalty”.

    • Posted by David Johnson Reply

      Wow Tom, not sure what to say… thank you? You’re way too kind.

      • Posted by Tom Gorham Reply

        All true and well-deserved David. Very impressive!

Leave a Reply