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The Dos and Don'ts of Customer Emails

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A postcard service reminder might cost 50 cents to send to a customer. An email costs pennies, depending on the service. That’s why lots of operators have made email communication a bigger part of their customer relationship management strategy.

Kevin Davis, owner of Fast Change Lube and Oil, has a four-phase system for his email outreach. 

“These campaigns are to existing customers,” he says. “These are customers who come into the shop, they give us their email address. And based on their driving habits, we will project when they are due for an oil change.”

That first reminder is the first “touch,” or point of contact. The entire cycle through the fourth touch point can stretch more than a year from that first service visit.

Davis says the system has had a good return on investment, but it requires operators to pay attention and adapt the strategy if necessary. The emails are automated, but the strategy isn’t always “set it and forget it.”

“They want to just hit a switch and think it’s going to work,” he says. “You’ve got to get the data correct. You’ve got to monitor those touch points.”

For this story, Davis shares his expert tips from the shop level. And Jeff Tremper, vice president at Throttle CRM, shares his experience from working with operators on similar campaigns.

 

Do: Place importance on email capture.

Operators need to stress the importance of getting customer emails. That’s their entryway into the system, and most of the time it’s done during a service visit.

Train staff members to always ask for emails. It can also be helpful to establish a system for tracking the amount of emails captured.

“Being able to track that email capture rate, that’s ideal,” Tremper says. “Our baseline should be a 50 percent capture rate throughout the day. Mabe set up competitions among team members.”

It takes a bit of practice to become comfortable with getting this information from customers. Often, they will have questions. Techs should be ready to explain the system to customers who ask.

 “Sometimes it also makes sense to let the customer know why,” Tremper says. “Why you're asking for this information and why this is a benefit to the customer. Explain to them that their customer privacy is paramount.”

 

Dont: Just have one standard touch point.

Davis’ first touch point is an email at around the normal service interval—three months or so. It reminds the customer that they should have a service due soon based on their vehicle information.

If that customer doesn’t show up, a second goes out.

“Touch one and two, they can still be your customer,” Davis says. “If they haven't responded between touch one and two, they may have gone somewhere else for an oil change.”

The final touch point goes out to a customer who has not been in for service in a long time, often more than a year. That’s where operators will want to present their most enticing deal.

The bottom line is that multiple touch points give your shop the best chance at getting the customer’s attention. One email at 3,000 miles might not be enough to do that, and email outreach is a cost-effective way to reach out multiple times.

“You’re staying in front of your customer, so it’s an awareness situation,” Davis says.

 

Do: Keep a sharp eye on coupon logging.

This is very important in order to track ROI on email campaigns. While some coupons and POS have scannable bar codes, many coupons will have a specific code that techs need to enter into the system during a visit. 

A specific code relates to a specific coupon, whether it’s from a certain touch point or relates to a certain deal. 

Make sure that staff members aren’t swapping out coupon codes, even if the discount is the same. Make it clear to staff that the codes help track email campaigns, not a specific coupon deal.

Each week, Davis and his managers review coupon reports generated by his POS.

“I know by my coupon analysis report which touch is working the most,” he says. “Then I can also measure if I spend $500 on a lost customer campaign, I can see how many customers I got back.”

Those codes should also differentiate between other campaigns that you might be running, Tremper says. A coupon for 10 percent off an oil change in an email campaign should have a different code from the same deal in a print campaign.

“Having coupons that are specific to different marketing channels is a good idea,” he says. “So if they have email coupons versus postcard coupons versus newspaper coupons, being able to track that return.”

 

Don't: Abandon the campaign during a lull.

Davis says that it’s important for operators to pay attention to the details in those coupon reports, and don’t abandon the entire campaign if the numbers are low.

“If you’re not getting the results that you want, you need to review your touch points, your message, your offers, and make sure that you data is getting to the person,” he says.

The timing, coupon offer, content, and number of touch points can all be augmented to find the best formula for your customers. If the system is showing a lot of bad email addresses, Davis flags those customers for their next visit. Techs will know that they need to update contact information. Consistency is key.

“If you do that every time, you’re going to catch one,” Davis says.

If operators stress the importance of capturing email addresses and logging coupon codes, they will get more accurate reports. Better reports will allow you to make stronger decisions about email campaigns that will show a real ROI.

“People can get as much out of something as they’re willing to put into it,” Davis says.

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