Good news: your sales numbers are up. Bad news: only about a third of these customers are likely to have their car serviced at your shop. That means you’re leaving a lot of money on the table and potentially losing your connection to lifelong customers.
Since fixed operations typically make up 49% of a dealership’s profit, a few more upgrades and conversations in your service bays can easily boost your bottom line.
Integrate Service Drive with Sales
Customers should view your dealership as one business and not as a mixture of stand-alone entities. When closing a transaction, it’s a good idea to have your salesperson introduce each new customer to a service advisor. If your service department integrates with your CRM, service agents will be fully aware of each customer’s vehicle and why it is in the service bay. In other words, ensure that interactions between all departments become transparent to the customer.
Train your service managers in sales techniques, such as relationship selling. They should be expected to cross-sell services during any customer visit (e.g. maintenance, repair, recall, warranty). Many dealerships focused on long-term value offer lifetime powertrain warranty programs as well as other loyalty programs to keep customers coming back for service.
Remember that communication skills are just as important as technical skills in creating a positive customer experience.
Treat the service business like a local business
Half of vehicle buyers will travel more than 18 km (11 miles) to complete their purchase, but less than a third are willing to drive the same distance for service. In other words, consumers are willing to travel further to purchase a vehicle than they are to have the same vehicle serviced, according to the 2018 Service Industry Study by Cox Automotive.
The issue of proximity to a dealership is one of the reasons cited for lower retention rates. Not a “convenient location” was the fifth most common reason for not having a vehicle serviced by the purchasing dealer in 2015; in 2018, it was the second reason.
But service is not just an oil change. It’s about creating a lifelong relationship with every customer, as evidenced by extended warranties and service contracts. From loaner vehicles to shuttles to mobile mechanics, fixed operations can easily overcome the challenges of distance.
Dedicate a reader to the most urgent services
Nobody likes to wait. Consumers find wait times for service more frustrating than dealer prices or the inability to get a loaner car. Studies also show that there is a limit to how long a customer will patiently wait: 2.5 hours or less. Any longer and you risk losing those customers to their next service appointment with another provider.
Dealership capacity does of course impact customer wait times, and most dealerships these days are operating close to capacity. Consider a triage approach, where a separate service reader handles the most urgent work orders. Also consider outsourcing basic details and reconditioning needs to free up your service bays for paid work orders.
Offer online appointment booking to meet customer expectations for speed, convenience and simplicity, and constantly promote this benefit to them.
The industry is currently facing a shortage of microchips, which is slowing the production of new vehicles. This shortage reminds me how technologically complicated today’s new vehicles are. In my opinion, this gives a dealership’s service center a distinct advantage over independent stores. Your OEM-trained service technicians are better prepared for any issues under the hood, even as technology changes.
Likewise, you must adhere to today’s mobile expectations. Offer remote scheduling and check-in via a service advisor’s tablet. Communicate with your customers in real time through SMS or email alerts.
Your after-sales service must be prepared to literally go the extra mile; create a mobile service team to meet your customers’ parts and service needs in their home or office. You couldn’t ask for a better brand building opportunity when your service team is in the neighborhoods around your dealership serving customers.
Make people your priority
Dealerships are made up of people who sell to other people, and the goal of a dealership’s fixed operating team is to protect each customer’s investment. When dealerships are successful, they are in the business of making people happy.
I’d like to conclude with this advice from award-winning speaker and sales trainer Patricia Fripp: “It’s not your customer’s job to remember you. It is your duty and your responsibility to make sure they don’t have the chance to forget you.
Your mission ? Make your service experience unforgettable.
troy scherer (photo above, left) is the Marketing Director of Binary Automotive Solutions, a provider of custom lifetime warranty programs designed to help dealers sell more vehicles.