Did your dad tell you never to take your vehicle to the dealership for service? For so long, the belief has been that doing maintenance at a quick oil change place, or even in your own garage, was just as good as the dealership, and could be done at a fraction of the cost. However, in an age when drivers are keeping their vehicles longer, it’s vital that drivers depend on service centers that know the nuances of their specific car make and can recommend the right services and parts to keep their vehicle running like new for the years ahead.
Dad probably also instilled in you a hearty dose of skepticism when it comes to the service center. Some drivers have simply been raised with a distrust of mechanics and service writers. There may be some bad eggs out there, but in general, people are honest and want to provide their expertise to help customers.
Mike Weldon of Hansel Auto Group in Sonoma County, CA, says that reputation is vital to his dealer group’s continued success.
“It’s not about the business,” Weldon said. “It’s about what we offer back to the community that draws people to us.”
Hansel Auto Group works with the Boys & Girls Club in Santa Rosa, CA, where they’re based. They have also been active in Sonoma Strong, a program that is working to help the region recover from wildfires that ravaged it in 2017.
While having your dealership’s name in the community is a great way to build recognition, it’s equally important to deliver when a customer gives you the chance in your dealership and service center. With online reviews and influencers driving more business today, bad service — or even the perception of bad service — can find its way to an online review page. One way dealership service departments are driving great customer satisfaction and convenience is by helping customers pay for maintenance and repairs with promotional financing.
Many of the dealerships under the Hansel Auto Group banner offer a specialty car care credit card to their customers. With the program, customers are able to open a revolving credit line at the dealership service counter and spread their payments out over six months on qualifying purchases of $199 or more. If the customer makes their minimum monthly payments on time and pays off the balance before the end of the promotional period, they can avoid paying interest and fees, helping them budget their auto maintenance needs.
“A lot of purchases are a spur-of-the-moment need based on a crisis,” Weldon said. “With our car care credit card, we can help customers manage that cost and they feel a lot more confident in their purchase.”
Especially in areas like Sonoma County that have been hit with wildfires in the past year, or in towns where a high concentration of customers don’t have money budgeted for surprise vehicle repairs, promotional financing like a car care credit card can help drivers get repairs they need without the need to pay out of pocket or add to costs on their other bankcards.
Additionally, some programs allow customers to use their cards to pay for other expenses related to their vehicles, like parts, gas and car washes.
“The biggest problem we have in our industry is that we pull in our horns when things get tight,” Weldon said. “We all struggle from time to time, so look for options that you can offer to help the customer.” Steve Roe