Hyundai stores use tech to lure new buyers back

Assurance Connected Care prompts more customers to return for service

Gillian Cruz, North Country Hyundai of Carlsbad (Calif.): "The largest benefit out of the Connected Care is getting the customer in here for the first time."

LOS ANGELES -- In the quest to lure more new-car buyers back to dealership service drives, Hyundai dealers are getting some high-tech help.

Gillian Cruz, fixed operations director at North County Hyundai of Carlsbad (Calif.), says Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system has helped more of the dealership's new-car customers keep their first and second vehicle service appointments.

Cruz says about 70 percent of North County Hyundai's new-car customers are returning to the dealership for their first scheduled service, compared with about 60 percent last spring. Customers return for their second service appointments 45 percent of the time today, as well, she says -- an improvement over the 25 percent rate three years ago. And while the early services are just simple jobs such as oil changes, she says early appointments are key early steps in generating re- peat service business down the road.

"We feel here that if we're able to impress upon the customer that exceptional level of customer service during the first and second visit, that will cement us as their go-to repair and maintenance facility for the remainder of their car's life," Cruz says.

Three years ago, fewer than half of the store's customers returned for their vehicle's first service. Instituting regular reminders via e-mail and phone led to gradual increases, but the big 10 percentage point jump over just a few months this past summer came from Blue Link, she says.

Automatic reminders

In May, Hyundai made standard for three years a package of service-related telematics features on vehicles equipped with Blue Link. It calls the package Assurance Connected Care.

One feature automatically sends service appointment reminders to customers via e-mail, text message or to their personal Web site when an appointment nears.

Also, the system gathers data from the car's onboard computer and sends alerts to the customer or dealership or both. For example, if the check engine light comes on, the system notifies the dealer.

Also, Hyundai made scheduling a buyer's first service appointment via Blue Link a standard part of its new-car delivery procedures.

"The largest benefit out of the Connected Care is getting the customer in here for the first time so the dealer can do their part from a customer satisfaction standpoint to retain that customer long term," Cruz says.

Making a change

Hyundai launched Blue Link in 2011, offering a complimentary three months of service before requiring a subscription. After making the system's service-related features free for three years in May, dealers are beginning to see measurable improvements in service appointments.

"Before Assurance Connected Care, a significant number of people stopped using service after the free trial," says Barry Ratzlaff, executive director of customer connect and service business development at Hyundai Motor America. "In many cases, the free trial ran out before the customer even needed their first oil change, so we were sort of providing a pitcher with no water in it."

Ratzlaff says Hyundai also began what it calls its Welcome Call, in which salespeople push the Blue Link button during new-car deliveries to introduce customers to the service and schedule their first appointments. About 30 percent of first appointments are being made this way, he says.

Ratzlaff says customers with the Assurance Connected Care package who also go through the Welcome Call show up to their first service appointments 25 percent more often than customers without the service.

"It's kind of like a safety net for the dealer," Ratzlaff says. "If a dealer doesn't have a sales process where a salesperson is not making the first service appointment, the Blue Link call center is helping the dealer do that."

You can reach Ryan Beene at



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