Maintenance Appointments Jump After Auto Dealer's CRM Tune-Up

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A Colorado car dealership has seen an increase in maintenance and service visits after installing a customer relationship management program last October.


"We use the program for customer retention," said Scott Welch, service manager at Tynan's, a dealer of Kia, Nissan and Saab automobiles in Fort Collins, CO. "It allows us to keep track of our service customers and also to keep them [by introducing] them to services we offer and provide them a value when they purchase a new vehicle."


The program, called Retention Performance Marketing from Autobytel Inc., combines digitally printed mail, phone calls and e-mail to help dealers target customers with service reminders based on each recipient's ownership profile and driving habits.


"We look at every single consumer's habits, their frequency, what they spend and what they've had done on their car, and we create a unique piece of communication based on that," said Andrew Donchak, executive vice president, chief marketing officer, Autobytel.


The mail and e-mail messages, which are sent by Autobytel, advise customers of upcoming maintenance based on mileage intervals and include coupons for products or services at the dealership. Individual dealers decide the combination and frequency of contact with customers.


For example, if Tynan's has a customer's e-mail address in its database, then RPM will e-mail the message rather than send a letter. Welch said this helps reduce expenses because using RPM costs 67 cents to send a letter and 17 cents to send an e-mail. Welch said there are no other set-up fees for the program.


Tynan's has almost 4,000 active customers in its database.


Donchak said that RPM, which is used by hundreds of dealers, draws an average 21-to-1 return on investment and a 29 percent response rate.


Welch did not offer specifics but said sales have increased since implementing the program.


"On my Kia side, the number of 30,000-mile maintenances increased by 150 percent over the best month I had last year," Welch said. "In addition, my customers are actually coming in with my letters. The reason they are coming in with the letters? Because they have coupons on them, and they look good, and the customer is seeing a value."


With RPM, dealers also can offer branded Web pages where customers can manage their individual service records and check for upcoming scheduled services.


"New customers are given a free Web page where they can track their service history, check for recalls, set appointments with us online and check for the latest coupons," Welch said.


Welch said he was attracted to the program in part because it lets Tynan's run rich media pop-up ads on these Web sites. Shortly, one of Tynan's rental car vendors will run ads on these sites as well. Tynan's will use the money to help offset its advertising costs.


"It's a whole additional revenue generator for us," Welch said.


RPM takes information already in a dealer's customer database and analyzes it based on weighted proprietary factors such as how often oil should be changed and how many miles a customer has put on his car since his last visit to the dealership.


RPM also lets dealers target specific clusters of customers.


"I can go after every 4x4 truck owner that I have in my database from 1994 to 1998 and put out a 4x4 special," Welch said. "If 30 percent of my active customers own 4x4's, I'll be able to zero in on only those customers to advertise the specials I want to get out there."


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