Service marketing: to reach younger drivers, go beyond recommendations

Blog | June 11, 2019

Author: Jeff Giere

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Though every vehicle today comes with a recommended maintenance schedule from the manufacturer, many consumers don’t follow them. What’s worse, some may not even know they exist! We recently surveyed 1,000 auto dealer customers and found that younger generations are less likely to follow manufacturer recommendations than their older counterparts. While 61% of Baby Boomers claim to have fulfilled all recommended maintenance in the last year, only 37% of Millennials and 18% of Gen Z followed all the manufacturer’s recommendations.

A 12-month study of purchase-to-service rates across a national sample of 300 auto dealers tells a similar story: younger generations are less loyal to the dealer after purchase than older generations. Only 49% of Millennials return for service within a year after buying a car, and that decreases further with Gen Z. Driving this trend is a mistrust of manufacturer recommendations and an inability to afford the cost of recommended services. To combat this, dealers should find ways to earn the trust of younger clientele and remain competitive with their service incentives.

What’s at stake if dealers rely solely on the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule (and by the same token, marketing cadence)? Significant service business––potentially thousands of dollars per customer––lost. To give today’s customers the experience they’re looking for, dealers should use an engagement-focused marketing approach with multiple touchpoints for every service opportunity throughout the customer lifecycle.

An omni-channel service marketing strategy allows dealers to begin the conversation with their customers well before the first recommended service in order to build rapport and trust. Additionally, multiple reminder touchpoints leading up to their recommended service due date give dealers an opportunity to generate appointments early, without advertised discounts. They can then offer incentives to more cost-concerned customers who are unlikely to come back for service otherwise.

The numbers are clear: manufacturer recommendations alone won’t keep Millennials and Gen Z coming back. Instead, dealers should focus on earning their loyalty by first earning their trust. And building meaningful relationships through consistent, high-engagement marketing is a great place to start.

Jeff Giere
Strategy Analyst

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