By Jim Roche, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Managed Services at Xtime.
If you’re searching for ways to drive revenue in your dealership, look no further than the service department. It’s no secret that repair orders boost your bottom line, of course. But beyond that, the service department is a great place to nurture customer relationships after the sale, increasing your odds of customer retention and future purchases. Getting enough business in your service department to reap these benefits won’t happen by itself, though. For that to happen, you need to market your service department effectively.
You and I both know that’s not always easy. They say marketing is 50 percent art and 50 percent science, but when you’re trying to put all the pieces together on your own, it can feel 100 percent mysterious. What messages should you send? When should you send them? How can you convince customers you’re their best option? Where can you get answers to all these questions?
Don’t let marketing overwhelm you. These four surefire tactics will help you create messaging that brings in more customers — and more revenue.
1. Send Customers Service Reminders.
The most important reason to market your service department is simple: Service isn’t top-of-mind for most of your customers. Over one-third of vehicle owners don’t keep track of their vehicles’ service schedules or available recalls.1 They rely on external sources to tell them when to bring in their vehicles. And more than 50 percent of drivers rely on dealerships or manufacturers to keep them informed.2
Without reminders, it’s too easy for a customer not to know that their vehicle needs service. Or, if they do know, it’s even easier not to take action. Approximately 10 percent of Americans drive with their “check engine” light on, often for three months or longer.3 How many of those drivers could you could bring in with a relevant and contextual reminder?
Repair and recall notifications provide value and prove your commitment to your customers after the sale — both critical ways to increase customer retention. And if you have lapsed customers in your dealership’s database, highly relevant service reminders could be the nudge they need to come back.
2. Target Your Messaging Carefully.
Knowing what your marketing should say is only half the battle. You also have to know when to say it. Your customers receive hundreds of advertising messages every day — they don’t have time for messaging that isn’t relevant to them. For example, if you send a coupon for 15 percent off an oil change to a customer who got an oil change last week, you’re just adding noise, not value.
Mistargeting this way can be deadly for your service department. About 54 percent of customers who receive a mistargeted email will unsubscribe,4 costing you the opportunity to fix your mistake the next time around. On the flip side, customers are 51 percent more likely to engage with a dealership that sends targeted, personalized messages rather than generic ones.5
This makes keeping careful service records essential. The more you segment your data based on this information, the better you can target and time your messaging. Ideally, you’ll catch customers when they need service — not after they’ve taken care of it.
3. Increase Convenience Through Online Scheduling.
Once you’ve caught customers’ attention, you need to make it as convenient as possible for them to respond. There are plenty of ways to do this, but a big first step is meeting customers where they are. Research shows that most customers prefer to receive service reminders and recall information via email.6 Communicating through customers’ preferred channels is a good way to improve your marketing effectiveness — but it’s not enough on its own.
Today’s consumers live in a digital, connected world. They expect convenient online experiences in all transactions, and scheduling service visits is no exception. However, only 14 percent of service visits are scheduled online — either because dealers don’t offer online scheduling, or because customers don’t know it’s an option.7
Consider using an online scheduling platform that lets customers set their appointment by deep linking right from your marketing emails. Offering a mobile app allows customers to schedule appointments on the go. Or, for customers with connected cars, integrate a service-scheduling platform directly into their vehicles through in-dash, multi-line radio or in-vehicle voice. The more convenient it is to respond to your messages, the more people will!
4. Provide Pricing Upfront.
Convenience is important for your customers, but they also have another major factor on their minds: price. In fact, most customers who don’t service their vehicles at a dealership say it’s because they believe they’ll be overcharged.8 However, dealership service prices are actually highly competitive with third-party providers.9 It’s your job to counteract that perception and prove your prices are fair.
The most effective way to achieve this is to be transparent about your pricing before customers even enter the service department. In a recent study, 70 percent of customers said that viewing cost estimates when scheduling service visits was “extremely” or “very” important.10 This made it the highest ranked of any factor surveyed.
To give customers what they’re asking for, your online scheduling platform should clearly indicate how much they’ll pay for their specific service. Transparency will not only build customers’ trust, but also prove that you price fairly — and possibly win you a loyal customer for life.
Marketing your service department might seem like a puzzle at first, but it’s a puzzle your dealership can solve. By following these four simple steps, you’ll be on your way to more compelling messaging and more revenue. Happy marketing!