Why dealers should have more senior moments in their stores

Many dealers might be missing a golden opportunity to help drivers in their golden years.

The number of Americans aged 65 and over is expected to double by 2050, said a report in the Detroit Free Press. As a result, many senior citizen advocates, car companies and government agencies are looking for ways to keep the elderly safe behind the wheel for as long as possible.

Car dealers can help by offering senior transportation safety clinics for either elderly drivers or their loved ones.

In the competitive landscape where many dealers continually look for ways to offer the best service to customers, here is an area where they can take an active role in helping families assure elders are safe while driving and help coach them on the proper way to take away the keys when those drivers are no longer safe.

It might sound like it is outside the lines of a dealership’s role, but is it?

Many dealers and their sales staff have close relationships with most of their longtime loyal customers. That’s especially true in small, rural markets. I can’t count the times a dealer told me a story about how his great-grandfather sold a car to a current customer’s great-grandfather.

In larger metro markets, some dealerships are doing personal favors for customers such as helping set up the customer’s personal iPad or program their new mobile phone. Also, there are some dealerships that host monthly service clinics to teach customers the car-care basics. It’s all done in the spirit of customer service and community involvement.

So why not tackle one of the toughest issues: senior driving safety?

There are few things more difficult than confronting that uncomfortable moment of asking an elderly driver to hand over the car keys. I’ve had to do it, and it is hell. People have pride, and no one wants to relinquish the freedom that a car and the open road offer.

But if true customer loyalty grows from relationships that are real, I can’t think of a truer and more real relationship a dealer can offer a customer than by helping to keep the customer’s elderly loved one safe while driving and offer a gentle way to segue the senior from behind the wheel when the time is right.

You can reach Jamie LaReau at jlareau@crain.com -- Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jlareauan



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