The vehicle parts and service center is an auto dealership's cash cow that doesn't get all of the glitz and glamour of the showroom. Without this critical business element, many vehicle dealerships would have a difficult time maintaining a respectable bottom line. This importance is so great that many auto dealerships have actually shrunk the size of their showrooms in order to better accommodate a more marketable, more sizeable parts and service area.

However, many car dealerships are finding out the hard way that the visual prominence of the parts and services center is not good enough - especially since customers won't come back for parts or service until weeks, months and even years after the initial sale.

To boost parts and service sales, a strong marketing campaign is crucial. This is in no small part due to the fact that customers have many other more cost-effective options for getting car parts and service, and generally tend to only visit dealerships for warranty and recall repairs. These voices do not - and could not - say that dealership technicians are incompetent (they are manufacturer certified), but rather that the prices are unreasonably high. No amount of marketing has been able to overcome this pervasive image.

One of the things dealerships can do to change this perception is create more value for auto customers. To this end, prepaid Visa cards are outstanding solutions for encouraging repeat customers and sowing greater loyalty.

Here are a few ways automotive companies and dealerships are using prepaid Visa cards to boost parts and service sales:

Avoid Price Discounting

Price discounting and cash incentives tend to trade an increase in revenue for a substantial reduction in profit. Dealerships therefore use prepaid Visa cards for promotional or loyalty purposes, and are able to recoup the marketing cost of the card program when customers use their prepaid Visa card for parts, service, or products.

Reinforce the Brand

Prepaid Visa cards can be completely customized by adding the dealership's name, manufacturer logo and even contact information on the card. This way, every time a customer uses their prepaid card (whether it's at the dealership or down the street at the coffee shop) they are reminded of where the funds are coming from.

Save Money by Dropping Rebates

When a dealership gives customers a rebate, both parties have to jump through hoops to fulfill the rebate, even with mobile and online options. In the case of non-instant rebates, for example, the dealer has to ensure that the customer qualifies for the rebate, wait for the customer to send in the additional information to get the rebate and then send the customer a rebate cheque. Plus customers have to physically deposit the cheque and wait for it to clear before the funds are accessible in their account.

In this case, the cost of administering the rebate program and mailing the rebate cheque are greater than issuing a single reloadable prepaid Visa card which can be loaded multiple times based on customer actions, creating greater customer stickiness. Plus, a prepaid Visa card can be used immediately to buy almost anything, at anytime, anywhere in the world or online, and is a highly visible and prestigious reward.

Upsell Better

A good salesperson works with the parts and service team to sell customers on repeat visits to their parts and service center. A prepaid Visa card can be used to strongly reinforce this message by serving as money towards an oil change, tire rotation or other essential service.

Plus cards can either be non-reloadable (one-time use) or reloadable (funds can be added continuously over time, based on customer purchases or actions), giving salespeople more flexibility on how and when to use them.

People Love Prepaid

"Prepaid Visa card" has become a buzzword that resonates strongly with customers in many industries. A number of surveys, including the 2015 Reward and Incentive Trends Study show that consumers widely prefer receiving prepaid Visa cards over free merchandise, vacations, gift cards, events, and other types rewards and incentives.

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