If you build it, they will come.
That motto might work for a movie about baseball fields, but it doesn't hold true for new-car dealers. Despite higher-quality vehicles and brand-strengthening efforts by automakers, customers are remarkably fickle.
Better vehicles have sparked more cross-shopping of brands. Customer pleasers such as loaner cars are the price of entry and not the draw they once were.
Competition and advertising costs are rising, and new technologies keep popping up. A pleasant sales experience three or four years ago may not be enough to draw a prospect back to the same dealership. Dealers must work harder and keep up with the Joneses for repeat business.
Experts agree that to gain customer loyalty, dealers must provide good customer service. The basics of customer service remain the same, but many dealers are writing new chapters.
At some of those dealers' stores, customers can fax their bosses a report from the service department waiting room or sip a cafe mocha in the snack bar. Or they can save time by surfing the Net before they shop or having their vehicles serviced at convenient satellite service centers.
On Aug. 31, Automotive News will profile 10 dealerships that have made major innovations in customer service - front shop, back shop or after sale.
We want to hear from our readers. What have you done to improve customer service at your dealerships? What helpful tools or services have you procured to make your job easier? How are the changes you have made paying off? Please e-mail your responses to Executive Editor Edward Lapham at [email protected], or fax them to (313) 446-0383.