Have you ever enjoyed a meal so thoroughly that you couldn’t wait to recommend the restaurant to your friends and family?  What was it about that experience that made it so exceptional?

It probably went beyond the taste of the food. The service and the atmosphere were probably noteworthy too.

Finally, did the restaurant ask you to refer them to your friends and family?

When it comes to operating the dealership, whether sales or service, are you creating advocates or asking for referrals to those whose experience doesn’t warrant one?

When Facebook friends ask for recommendations on where to purchase their next car or to go for service, your name may come up: “ABC Dealership is good,” they might say. But a dozen other friends might recommend their go-to place for car sales or service as well.

Asking Isn’t Enough

Referrals are arguably one of the cheapest forms of advertising. They come from a trusted source and the people like knowing they are going to where their friends have been before. But if your salespeople or service advisors don’t seem to care about the level of service they provide or don’t seem interested in doing more than is necessary, why should you expect the customer to proactively refer you?

Asking doesn’t hurt but most would probably shrug it off. “Yeah, sure. I’ll tell my friends about you.” But the likelihood is small unless their friend asks, “Hey, where did you buy your car?” or “Where do you take your car for service.”

Even then, it’s not a referral, it’s answering a question.

The follow up could go as followed:

Customer’s Friend: “Do you like them?”

Customer: “Yeah.”

It’s not necessarily a ringing endorsement of your dealership.

Aside from advocates who will refer you on their own, there are ideal moments when a dealership can maximize their referral request:

1. They show excitement toward the product or service you provided.

When you tell the customer the vehicle looks great after their oil change and there were no problems, they will probably show a little excitement – most are afraid of a major problem discovered when bringing their car in; even wondering if they are being scammed.

Ask for the referral then. “I hope we provided you with great service. A referral is the best compliment we can receive.”


2. When they compliment you, that would be another ideal time to ask for the referral.

If they say, “You’re always so good here. You really know how to take care of my car and your coffee is delicious.”

You can respond, “Thank you. If you know anyone looking to service their vehicle, please send them our way and we’ll treat them just as good too.”

But it still comes down to the customer service and how the customer feels — make it so they want to refer you.


Find Areas of Improvement

While many take to Google to give their two cents on a business, it can be hard to gauge exactly where improvements are needed based on reading and responding to reviews. Surveys can provide insight into a dealership’s areas of improvements.

Soon after delivery or service, it’s advisable to send a short survey to the customer to gain valuable feedback on their experience. When it comes to designing a survey that customers fill out, shorter is better – over half of the survey participants often will not spend more than three minutes filling out a survey.

Do You Deserve a Referral?

The actions a salesperson or service advisor takes will ultimately determine if your dealership deserves the referral. As the automotive industry continues its shift from product-centric to customer-centric, customers will expect more from the companies they do business with.

They can buy a car anywhere and take their vehicle in for service at any number of places all offering a similar price-point. Why should they choose you?

It will ultimately be what you can offer the customer versus your competitors. Low prices won’t cut it. As James Brinkley, Dealer Marketing Magazine, says, “…offer your customers more (value)…not less (price).”

Next time someone inquires, “Where should I buy my car?” Your customer can respond, “I know the perfect place. They’re great. Ask for John.”