Leverage the Retail Sales Offseason into a Winning Service Lane
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Leverage Retail Sales Offseason into a Winning Service Lane

Start thinking about how to use technology for greater connectivity between your service department and your customers.

By Dave Crawford, Vice President of Sales, DealerBuilt

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Competitive auto retail sales are arguably in the offseason. Yes, consumers are lining up to buy vehicles, but your salespeople are mostly taking orders not hustling to get people in the door. 

NFL players use the offseason to switch focus from winning games to skills development. Your team can take a page from their playbook and use this time when sales are on autopilot to shift focus from winning at sales to winning at service using digital customer experience tools.  

Even though your bays may be busy, it’s estimated that only one-third of all vehicle services are performed at automotive dealerships. This is despite the fact that dealership warranties and service contracts are superior, and you have trained technicians offering much better support. What can you do to earn and retain more customers, so they sail right past that Jiffy Lube down the street? 

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The answer is offering a simple and convenient customer experience through the implementation of technology and complementary internal processes. There’s a digital transformation occurring everywhere and it’s here long-term. 

You can’t hope to win over customers if you’re still scratching notes on paper during walkarounds and using phone calls for updates. Digitization will also improve your department’s efficiency so you can complete more ROs every day for greater profitability. Focus your offseason efforts on the following. 

Accelerate Digitalization

Today’s tech-enabled consumers want a modern, easy workflow. What does that mean? It starts with your website. Can consumers enter the car they want serviced, access service records, recommended services, declined services and schedule an appointment through an online scheduler? 

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Once they enter your shop, can they self-check-in with a kiosk or tablet? Can the service advisor complete the walk-around using a tablet loaded with all the customer information? Can they text the customer updates and videos to visually prove what needs to be done? Can the customer approve services electronically and pay with a mobile device from anywhere? Can you automate service reminders? 

Start thinking about how to use technology for greater connectivity between your service department and your customers. Your customers will love the ease and time savings. Your service advisors and techs will appreciate the increased commissions that come with more upsells due to one-click access to details regarding recommended maintenance and previously declined recommendations. 

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Encourage New-School Thinking

It’s human nature to balk at change and cling to the familiar. However, if you don’t get your employees on board with new ways of thinking, technology is simply a tool. It can’t improve the customer experience, efficiency or number of ROs on its own. 

Focus on the benefits to employees of your new processes to help get them on board. For example, customer-pay labor and employee commissions increase with video and photo-enabled MPIs and electronic approvals. Intelligent dispatching makes the best use of each tech’s time to minimize downtime so they can work more efficiently and earn more. When employees see the benefits in their paychecks and in customer satisfaction, they will be much more likely to adopt and use new technology. 

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Secure Top-Down Support

Management buy-in is even more critical than employee buy-in when you’re trying to change processes. These are top-down decisions that must be non-negotiable. Management should learn as much as possible about new technologies and understand how they work and benefit customers, employees and the dealership. Management can spearhead a kick-off meeting, help reinforce training, highlight successes in weekly meetings and arrange for extra training or mentoring for those who need it. 

Market Your New Approach

Customers won’t know about your new digital experience if you don’t tell them. Start with new buyers and secure that first service appointment. Consider language like, “Remember your first service appointment is very important. This is your car’s breaking in period, and we want to make sure everything is working as it should. I think you’ll also really appreciate our new contact-free service experience.” Set the appointment three months out at vehicle delivery and then schedule automatic reminders as well as a personal call from the salesperson a week prior. 

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Evaluate your website. Are you giving real estate on the home page to service? Don’t bury what you offer behind multiple clicks. A simple home page banner stating, “Come to XYZ Ford where we offer a contact-free service experience,” will generate interest and clicks. 

Schedule outbound informative and revenue-generating campaigns. A benefit of automating appointment scheduling is it frees up time for service advisors and/or BDC agents to engage in activities they don’t have time for when phones are constantly ringing. Segment customers by recalls, recommended services, declined services, etc. At every touchpoint, make sure to tout your new simple and convenient customer experience. 

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It’s the offseason for competitive retail auto sales. Yes, the landscape could change quickly once lots fill again, but no one can say with certainty when that will be. We do know with certainty the digital transformation is here to stay. Leverage a slower sales season by evaluating your service department for where you can integrate technology and new processes to create a winning service lane no matter what the market throws at you.  

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