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Maintenance Plans Drive Loyalty, Study Highlights

August 14, 2012

DAYTONA, Fla. — DMEautomotive (DMEa), an automotive marketing firm, today released findings from its new national consumer survey on the effects of prepaid maintenance (PPM) plans, including complimentary offerings, on loyalty and service retention. Results show these plans do drive loyalty, but they also reveal that car owners are still not using them for all maintenance.

According to the survey, 21 percent of car owners currently have a maintenance plan (beyond a standard OEM warranty), while 15 percent have a complimentary plan (e.g. ToyotaCare, Experience Buick, or BMW Ultimate Service). Another 7 percent of respondents purchased a dealer PPM plan.

"Our survey provides fresh evidence that both prepaid and OEM-provided maintenance plans have a powerful impact on dealer service retention," said Doug Van Sach, vice president of strategy and analytics at DMEautomotive. "With nearly three in five consumers reporting they are likely to continue servicing at the dealership after their plan expires — compared to average dealer post-warranty retention rates of 22 percent to 40 percent (depending on vehicle make and age) — these programs can more than double service business that typically bleeds to the aftermarket, while also having a profound impact on retaining the young, traditionally dealer-averse, service shopper's business."

Maintenance Plan Ownership  

 

Currently do not have

77%

 

Complimentary maintenance plan   

15%

 

Purchased a prepaid maintenance plan  

7%

 

I don't know  

1%

 

While the majority (65 percent) of respondents report using their plan for "all" scheduled maintenance, a surprising 25 percent have only used it for "some" of their covered services. So, even though a free or paid-for plan is in place, plan-holders are still choosing to spend service dollars outside the dealership — a possible reflection of the lack of convenience traditionally associated with dealership service centers. Also, a significant percentage of plan-holders either are not being consistently engaged by their dealership, or are not finding value in their plans, with 9 percent reporting they have not used it at all.

The report also showed that 69 percent of those with free or PPM plans are either "extremely satisfied" (22 percent) or "satisfied" (47 percent) with the plan. Those using their plans for "all" scheduled service at the dealership report the highest satisfaction: 75 percent are either "extremely satisfied" (30 percent) or "satisfied" (45 percent). While 66 percent of those using their plans for just "some" maintenance report being satisfied, only 7 percent fall into that that passionate "extremely" satisfied category.

Overall, 56 percent of those with a maintenance plan report they're likely to keep servicing at the dealership when the plan expires (with only 1 in 5 claiming they're unlikely to). Dealerships clearly need to work hard to keep those in-plan loyalist intenders, and move the 25 percent that report they're on the fence about sticking with the dealership to the loyalty column.

How much consumers use their plans, and whether they exclusively service with that dealer, correlates with a significantly higher likelihood to continue service with that dealership post-plan. For instance, 62 percent of those that use plans for "all" service are likely to stick with the dealer. And nearly two times more consumers in that group report they're "very likely" (30 percent) to return to the dealership, compared with those that only have "some" maintenance performed under the plan (17 percent).

While young, under-35 servicers present the most profound loyalty challenges for dealerships (data confirmed by previous DMEa white papers2), this new survey reveals that maintenance plans represent a major opportunity to connect with — and retain — them. Not only were those under 35 more likely to have a maintenance plan (31 percent) than those 35+ (18 percent), they were significantly more likely to use their plans for "all" maintenance (72 percent) than older customers (61 percent).

I Have Used the Maintenance Plan for All My Scheduled Maintenance

Age 18-24  

71%

Age 25-34  

72%

Age 35-49  

60%

Age 50-64  

64%

Age 65+  

56%

Notably, those aged 25-34 (who used plan for "all" maintenance) reported the very highest plan satisfaction (84 percent) compared with any age group — and 62 percent of that segment reported they're likely to service at the dealership post-plan. With prior DMEa data revealing that the largest group of dealer-disloyalists are aged 25 to 34 (representing over one-third of total disloyalists), it's clear that maintenance plans are a uniquely powerful way to drive more loyalty among that critical 'next wave' of traditionally dealer-resistant servicers.

"It's imperative that dealers and OEMs offer free and prepaid programs, because more than half of all consumers currently under one indicate they will stay with the dealership post-plan," noted Van Sach. "Our data did contain some surprises: one in four customers still stray from the dealership while under a plan; and consumers who do not have all service performed under the plan are significantly less likely to continue servicing at that dealership. So, if dealers or OEMs imagine that under-plan service taken elsewhere just means more profits — or that they don't need to worry about keeping these customers very 'close' and satisfied until plan expiration – this data clearly shows that those beliefs need some revising."

This maintenance plan "market snapshot" represents first findings from DMEa's newest survey on current service consumer behavior and trends. Reports on diverse topics, from QR Code, mobile app and social media usage, to how servicers research specific service purchases, will be released over the next three months.

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