At GM, OnStar = retention

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OnStar is a lot like a Swiss army knife. It’s an emergency service. It’s a security device. It’s a hands-free calling and nav service. It’s a vehicle diagnostic tool.

“There are so many parts of it,” says Mark Alger, manager, GM Canada’s OnStar and XM. “We try to simplify it by telling dealers it’s a retention tool.”

Alger explains that GM vehicle owners who use OnStar soon get hooked on it.  

“We know that customers who subscribe are more likely to repurchase another GM vehicle and have their service done at a GM dealership. It’s common sense: the more people use a product, the more they are likely to repurchase that product.”

That explains why GM Canada is offering free subscriptions to the service with all used and new GM vehicles.

And he says it’s crucial sales staff teaches customers the value of the service and encourages them to push the blue button on their rearview mirror to get the benefit of the trial offer. He’d like to see the customer activate the service and get their welcome call there when they get their vehicle delivered.

Once the button’s been pushed, the customer gets another speech about the benefits of the service and is asked for their email address.         

OnStar, he says, has something valuable in it for the service department: OnStar vehicle diagnostics. Every 30 days, the owner gets a report via email as to the health of their car, what the service needs are – oil life, tire pressure, tire rotation and recall notices.

“All these event trigger an email and we share that with the dealer via a dealer maintenance notification,” Alger says. “It’s the highest quality service lead a dealer’s going to get. The customer trusts it because it’s coming from their car.”

The dealer then gets the opportunity to contact the customer if the customer doesn’t contact the dealer first.

But that means sales people have to play their part.

OnStar uses the GPS and wireless technology in the car to locate the vehicle and communicate verbally with the driver to supply directions, emergency assistance and vehicle diagnostics.

GM wants to make sure the public appreciates that OnStar is more than just an emergency service. So it will be doing more to get the word out while the trial offer will include the premium service, Directions and Connections, which includes navigation, roadside assistance, etc.

Like many OEMs, GM is looking at OnStar smart phone services.

Canadian GM product owners will be able to download the Onstar My Link app to their smart phones in January, at least if they are Apple and Android smart phone owners. The app lets owners do things like remotely open their vehicle’s doors, start it, check oil levels, tire pressure, contact their preferred dealer and OnStar.

“It’s like having a call centre in your pocket,” Alger says.     

He sees GM doing more here because it keeps customers closer to their dealers.

“We are trying to bring customers back to the dealership with features that are contemporary.”

GM is also looking at voice activation so drivers can talk to their cars, leaving their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.

Alger insists the heart of the GM’s approach to telematics is the OnStar advisor.

“Our killer app is the advisor. No other service has live contact that is there for the driver,” and, ultimately, the dealer.