Anyone who has been in our business for some time can tell you the auto industry has changed dramatically — and so have our client’s habits and expectations.
For today’s client, convenience is everything.
Just ask the top online retailers: Amazon, Walmart.com, Apple and Staples. Fortune.com reports that 51 percent of all purchases in America are made online, and that number increases every year. This is proof that Americans are growing more and more accustomed to shopping in the most convenient way possible. This is a tricky situation for service departments because we still need to have the car physically. However, we can make a few simple changes so scheduling the appointment and bringing in the car is simpler for our guests than ever before.
Scheduling Our Clients
In our training, we teach advisors to schedule the next service right after they give a benefit-based menu presentation as part of the write-up. It’s easy to show clients what will be due and when they should come back based on mileage or time recommendations. We are all comfortable scheduling our next visit while at our doctors or dentist appointments and even for haircuts, so it is a habit that has already been formed. Once we get guests familiar with following a simple maintenance plan, it’s easy to offer to schedule their next service as a “convenience” to them. See how I threw that in? We should use that word often to show that we are providing a service.
From the Comfort of Home
It’s more critical than ever that you have a simple scheduling app on your Website. It should be easy for your guests to see what days and times are available, pick an advisor by seeing their photo, check the services they are interested in having performed, and add notes about concerns. The more information your guests can provide while scheduling, the more prepared your advisors will be when they arrive. It should be simple, right? However, there is one thing I see on many sites that is not simple.
For example, do not ask your clients to enter in their VIN. After all, we are trying to make this convenient. Do we really want to ask your clients to walk out to their car, put on their magnifying glasses and try to make out that long VIN number? I don’t have statistics, but I can guarantee that this is a good way to lose a guest.
On the Go
Scheduling from our phones is also important. Is your Website mobile friendly? Can service be scheduled with a text? A majority of Americans send and receive multiple texts each day. Studies show that 90 percent of text messages are read in less than three minutes. This is a very effective way to get your clients’ attention.
Imagine your guests texting your dealership and receiving a link to scheduling in a matter of seconds. Talk about convenience! Texting should also be used to send reminders for services due or appointments set, giving your customers the opportunity to confirm or change their appointment. These features are essential to the future of your dealership.
The Most Convenient of All
What if we could pick up cars for service and then deliver them back? High-line dealers have the luxury of this service, but in the near future we will all have to get on board. Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be free. Recently, my local grocery store began offering delivery. A customer could get one free trial and then pay a fee per service or a discounted one-year subscription for unlimited service. There is no reason why we couldn’t do this in the automotive industry. This could be offered at the point of sale. I can’t think of a better way to increase customer retention. If they have paid for this amazing convenience, they will come back — or at least their car will.
Someday in the near future, cars will drive themselves into your store and back home again. Until then, keep looking for ways to cater to your guests by keeping the word “convenience” in front of everyone on your team. It is quickly becoming much more important than price.