Getting a handshake and a smile from a satisfied customer is a win for any auto business.

Getting that customer to return time and again? That's the real victory.

Customer loyalty is the bedrock of any successful business. But it's especially important in the auto industry, where customers have many options for servicing their car or buying their next one. Innovative business owners can transform one-and-done customers into loyal brand evangelists, Automotive News notes.

Connecting with customers is the first step in building long-term relationships. And there are tools that can make it easy — and cost-effective — to turn casual clients into friendly regulars.

Give them a reason to come back

High-quality work and friendly service are important to winning repeat business. But if you really want to keep them coming back, offering a customer loyalty program can help your auto business stand out.

If you're a mechanic, for example, your customer loyalty program can mesh perfectly with regular vehicle maintenance schedules. Why would a client go somewhere else for their next oil change when they know that sticking with your shop guarantees them a discount on their annual vehicle inspection or winter tire mounting? Retaining even a small percentage of new customers every year translates into a big boost in profit over time. It's an investment in both your business and in earning client trust.

Make it easy for them to come back

The next step toward building repeat business is making it easier for customers to snag an appointment at your shop. An online appointment system lets customers easily pencil their appointment on an interactive calendar via their laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Link your appointment system to your customer loyalty program, and clients can quickly check their reward points and the perk they'll receive during their next visit.

An online appointment system doesn't just benefit the customer, either. It can help with employee scheduling by giving you a snapshot of who you'll need for what jobs in the coming months. It also integrates smoothly into your existing checkout and payment setup, too, and it makes customer outreach simpler and faster by autogenerating text and email reminders to clients.

Remind them that you're there for them

Automated messages can do more than remind customers about upcoming appointments. They can help you keep in touch with customers — and stay top of mind — between each service or appointment.

Gone are the days when marketing meant printing out fliers or taking out a listing in the Yellow Pages. Today's modern marketing campaigns put you front and center with the customers who are actively looking for your service, and give you the chance to highlight what makes your auto business special.

You could go simple — say, a monthly email newsletter that provides clients with tips about keeping their vehicles in good shape. Or you could go in-depth and maintain regular outreach specific to each customer's vehicle that includes notes about recalls, repairs, and upcoming time and mileage service points — all that good stuff that keeps drivers safe and happy on the road.

Best of all, the right marketing tools can automate these messages using the detailed personal information in each client's service and loyalty profile, making it a set-it-and-forget-it arrangement.

These days, it takes more than great service to build customer loyalty in the auto business. The good news is that technology makes it easy so you have more time to focus on your business.

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