Are you ready to sell subscriptions?

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Along with achy knees and more candles on the cake, one way to tell you’re getting older is if you remember when vehicles came with all their services included. Turn on the radio and you heard music, hit the navigation button and you saw a map, and it was included in the price. But today, automakers are increasingly turning to paid subscriptions, and everyone in your dealership needs to be familiar with them. Even if you don’t directly make money on the subscription, it’s still an opportunity to improve customer satisfaction with your store.

There are varied customer reactions to subscription services, and you need to know how to generate interest in them, as well as clear up any misconceptions. For example, many people automatically default to the automaker that planned to charge extra for its seats to heat up, and so they want no part of anything with “subscription” in its name. That was a real thing, but it was promptly rescinded – and that’s the part many people don’t remember. It’s up to you and your salespeople to introduce them to what’s available and what it can do for them.

While most of these services benefit the customer, vehicle health and service reminders can work in your favour. These let customers know when maintenance is due or if something in the vehicle needs attention, and some can connect the owner directly to your dealership to make an appointment.

Ask about their other subscriptions. It may be the customer’s first experience with a car that offers paid subscriptions, and they’re not sure about this “new concept.” But it’s very likely they already have subscriptions on their devices for music, television shows or movies. Making the auto version as familiar to them as their other subscriptions is the first step towards acceptance.

Be prepared when demonstrating the features. Know exactly what each subscription-based feature can do. Some are capable of performing functions such as changing the cabin temperature by voice control, so be sure to show that. Just as importantly, know what the feature can’t do, so you’re not fumbling in front of your customers.

Some subscription companies offer online sales training on their products. If so, take advantage of it.

Walk the customer through the process when the vehicle is delivered, including activating the subscriptions so everything is working from that first drive off the lot. It’s important to consider that part of the delivery process for customer satisfaction, especially since it can be confusing to set up some of the programs if customers aren’t familiar with them.

Outline the benefits. Most vehicles today come with smartphone connectivity, such as Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and customers may be content to use that. But that could chew into their data plan, depending on how they use it, while a subscription would use its own connection.

Paid subscriptions are continually updated, such as with new map information. This can be important for people who live in freshly-developed areas, where embedded navigation may not recognize brand-new subdivision streets. If the vehicle is equipped with a hands-free highway driving system, its subscription will also update as more roads are mapped with the information required for that operation.

Remote connection is also very popular with customers, providing the ability to operate some of the vehicle’s information from a phone, such as locking or unlocking it, finding it in a parking lot, setting limits for teen drivers, or checking the fuel level or an electric vehicle’s battery charge.

Keep any demonstrators up to date. If you offer overnight test-drives or loaners, make sure their subscriptions are activated, and demonstrate what they can do before the customer drives away. Many people don’t know they want subscription services until they’ve tried them.

Not all subscriptions are automatically included. Some vehicles, especially in lower trims, don’t have subscription trial periods but can be retrofitted with the service. If that’s the case, the after-sale follow-up should include a reminder that they can be added. Subscriptions may also be available to add to used vehicles, which can make them more enticing.

Know the sticking points. What makes people shy away from connectivity subscriptions? According to research, the reasons include the price; that the smartphone offers similar services; or that the service isn’t useful to that person. Another primary reason is that the customer didn’t know the services were available, and the salesperson didn’t offer them.

On the other hand, research also shows that once customers have used subscription services in their vehicles, a huge number of them – often close to 90 per cent – renew them once they expire. That’s a lot of people who are obviously happy with that aspect of their vehicle, and satisfied customers are what it’s all about.