Autobytel's Key to Automotive Success

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Key Hyundai, a full-service auto dealer in Jacksonville, FL, depends on its auto service department to bring in revenue for services performed, plus for future auto sales. "We say that the sales department sells a customer his first car and the service department sells all of the other cars to him," says Jim Partridge, Key Hyundai's service manager. "I've been here for 19 years, and have seen a lot of people come back year after year to buy their next cars." To do that, however, the service department needs to continue to bring customers back for regular maintenance like oil changes, tune-ups, tire rotations, and brake jobs, as well as more involved mechanical repairs. That's become more difficult in the last several years with the proliferation of national quick oil change and brake repair shops with national budgets for advertising and low-price offers. "Some of the quick oil change places offer to do the job for $9.99. My cost is higher than $9.99," Partridge says. The difference comes from the use of higher quality filters by his service department, plus the national chains often offer these deals to upsell customers more expensive services that they don't necessarily need. Partridge had attempted to counter national chain marketing efforts for years by using a variety of CRM marketing solutions. But they all suffered from a single drawback: There was no differentiation between Key Hyundai and the countless other dealerships that these vendors serviced. Any print ads were developed on an inflexible, regular schedule, so if a national chain specializing in brakes offered a two-week deal, there was no way that Partridge could counter with an offer of his own until the next ad cycle. Partridge then noticed Autobytel's Retention Performance Marketing (RPM) solution. With RPM, customers receive direct mail solicitations and email offers that coincide with the mileage and date specifications that come with the maintenance book customers receive with a Key Hyundai auto purchase. Partridge also uses the RPM solution to target inactive customers with special offers. More than just providing customizable mailing pieces, RPM also gives Key Hyundai its own customizable Web page. By registering (the first time) and then accessing the Web page, a customer can schedule a maintenance appointment. This enables customers to plan maintenance on their own schedule rather than coming to the dealership and waiting in line. It also enables Partridge to better plan the staffing needs and workflow for the service department. The site lets customers track Key Hyundai maintenance history. The maintenance book is the size of a checkbook and includes a list of mileage and dates for recommended maintenance, as well as a box for a validation stamp by the Key Hyundai service department. It's a good, low-cost, low-tech CRM tool, but the maintenance book isn't enough, according to Partridge. Some older customers favor the maintenance book, but an increasing amount of younger customers prefer not come in for maintenance because the odometer says they should. They choose to use the scheduling feature on the Web site; 15 percent of customers schedule appointments online, a figure that's been growing monthly. In a little more than a year since deploying RPM, Key Hyundai's service response rate (those coming to the dealership for service rather than going to a competitor) has increased to 51 percent. The previous program was averaging a 16 percent to 18 percent response rate, and it "was starting to drop off," Partridge says. He is looking forward to new features that Autobytel is implementing this year: a rewards card and point system with which the customer can qualify for special promotions, and a segmented marketing program that will enable service managers to tailor offers by customer history. This way they can tailor offers to customers who respond to specials, while not offering discounts to those who will come in for service anyway (though they could still get discounts via the rewards program). The Payoff By using Autobytel's Retention Performance Marketing (RPM) solution, Key Hyundai has been able to:
  • increase the customer response rate from 16 to 18 percent to 51 percent;
  • grow its email address base by nearly 300 percent; and
  • reduce direct mailing costs by 73 percent (many customers opt for email promotions/notifications).
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