Down East Toyota drives repeat business with LoyaltyTracApr 25, 2007 – Ed Darling, owner of Down East Toyota in Brewer, Maine, discusses how his dealership is using LoyaltyTrac to grow service revenues and vehicle sales:
What's the history of your dealership?
The Darling family has been in the automobile business since the early 1900's. Originally the business started with bicycles, and gradually migrated to motorized vehicles. My grandfather was the REO car (before the truck) distributor for part of the State of Maine. He told me stories about outrunning the police in his one cylinder REO. But times were tough during the Great Depression and my grandfather left the business.
Having the business in his blood, my dad, Owen, opened a DeSoto Plymouth store in the 1940's. After the demise of the DeSoto franchise, Dad was left with the Plymouth line along with a strong business with used vehicles. In 1956 quality issues with the Chrysler line of vehicles caused him to abandon the new vehicle business for a year or two concentrating solely on used vehicles. In 1957 he took on the Edsel franchise and that went by the wayside in less than two years, but customers were looking for fuel-efficient vehicles and Ford was giving them V8 power. Quality was terrible and Ford decided to do away with the Edsel franchise.
In the early 1960s, Dad took on American Motors, which sold well for a few years. Then, in 1966 he had the foresight to take on the Toyota franchise a line of vehicles that not many people in Maine had ever heard of probably one of the best decisions he had ever made.
I became involved with the business while in grammar school, answering the phone and doing miscellaneous tasks after school. I continued to work in the business through high school and college eventually taking over the management of the American Motors and Toyota franchises. In 1971, I took the Toyota franchise, went out on my own, and have been involved ever since.
How does your dealership benefit from Performance Loyalty Group products?
Toyota has always had excellent quality, and it has always been a challenge to keep the service department profitable. We had attempted to entice our customers to return for service by offering discounted oil changes and discounts on parts and service but were ill-equipped to administrate the programs. Consequently we were having overlapping programs that were confusing and irritating our customers.
After much research, we adopted the Performance Loyalty Group Customer Loyalty Program. We initiated the program in mid-December, 2006 and it has been going strong ever since. While we have had some resistance from customer who liked our previous reward programs, those customers who do the recommended factory maintenance service love the program. They can check their balances on-line and know exactly how many "Downeast Dollars" they have accrued toward future service and/or for the purchase of new or used vehicles. The other benefit that we have received is about a 70% e-mail capture rate that enables us to keep in touch with our customers for minimal cost.
Any advice for dealers who need to market themselves efficiently?
As vehicle quality for all makes continue to improve, it is of the utmost importance that dealerships give their customers a reason to return for service especially after the factory warranty expires. The Performance Loyalty Group program gives them a reason to return as the customer has dollars to spend and they won't let them go without redemption. As they come in to use the dealership dollars, they continue to earn more, so they keep returning.
This program also encourages loyalty to the dealership. Loyal customers are the best as they trust the dealership and will return to purchase new and used vehicles at a higher gross profit. That is what a loyalty program is all about.
Headquartered in San Ramon, California, Performance Loyalty Group is a leading marketing technology company providing customized loyalty rewards, customer retention, prepaid maintenance and media tracking programs for the automotive industry.
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