Most dealerships have experienced a decrease in vehicle sales in 2021 due to industry-wide inventory shortages and production disruptions. This has led dealers to rely more heavily on their service departments to serve existing customers. Shifting the focus onto service and away from sales has taxed service departments with new operational challenges. Sub-par customer service and inefficient operational processes need to be addressed with practical solutions to capitalize on the increased demand on service departments and improve the customer’s experience.
To meet the emerging needs of dealerships, Car Wars gathered phone insights and trends from thousands of dealerships across the country. We then uncovered the top five disruptive inbound and outbound phone trends in service and created strategic solutions to each.
STEADY INCREASE IN INBOUND CALL VOLUME
Despite COVID-19 disrupting most industries, dealerships emphasized the need for regular vehicle maintenance throughout the pandemic and saw a 16.5% increase in average monthly inbound call volume to service departments between 2019 and 2021. The increase in inbound calls has created an incredible opportunity for service departments to bring in more revenue, but dealerships have struggled to effectively manage this sharp increase in demand.
To better manage the increased call traffic, service departments first need to identify when their peak call hours are throughout the week and ensure properly trained team members are ready to field these calls. Service departments tend to experience the greatest number of inbound calls on Mondays, followed by Tuesdays and Saturdays. Regardless of time zone, 11:00 a.m., closely followed by 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., are the most common hours for a customer to contact a dealership for service inquiries.
It is important that dealerships are mindful of their own ups and downs in call volume. While the peak days and times mentioned above are industry-wide trends, each dealership will have its own days and times when increased call traffic comes in. However, varying factors, such as ongoing promotions or targeted marketing campaigns, can affect which days receive the highest volume of calls. Tracking these trends for your unique dealership will give you valuable insights into your service department’s peak days and hours and equip your team to effectively answer and direct calls.
DECLINE IN INBOUND CALL CONNECTION PERFORMANCE
While inbound call volume has increased in recent years, call connection in service departments has dropped 7% from 2019 to 2021. It is critical to ensure all calls are answered and connected to someone who can help the customer (and not just their voicemail!) — especially since we know 52% of customers will not call back if their initial call is not connected.
Service departments need to be properly staffed to ensure someone is always available to answer the phone in a timely manner. Even in well-staffed service departments, a multi-ring system allows you to ring multiple phones at the same time to avoid missing calls due to conflicting schedules. Bridges (also called phone menus or IVRs [interactive voice response menus]) can also be used to help connect customers’ calls more efficiently and provide a seamless experience. If a receptionist is initially answering customer calls, however, make sure he or she implements a warm transfer process to ensure the caller’s intended party is available before blindly transferring a call — often to an unchecked voicemail.
ONGOING IMPROVEMENT IN APPOINTMENT REQUESTS & FIRM APPOINTMENTS BOOKED
One area that service departments have made a noticeable improvement is in requesting the inspection on every opportunity, especially over the phone. Inspection requests rose from 62% to 73% between 2019 and 2020 and remained consistently at 73% throughout 2021.
The vast majority of vehicles serviced are booked over the phone, so when customers call to book an appointment, it is important to sell the appointment and a firm appointment time. Customers typically call around to various dealerships to determine where they can have their vehicle serviced for the lowest price. Service department staff should patiently listen to the customer’s concerns and avoid the pitfall of price quoting or attempting to handle detailed inquiries over the phone. It is important that the staff member assures the customer that the best way to assess their vehicle is by making an appointment and having it assessed by a certified technician at the dealership.
Between 2019 and 2021, the average number of appointments being booked for firm time slots in service departments increased by 8%. Continuing to increase the number of firm appointments benefits both the customer and the dealership. By having customers make an appointment with a firm date and time, your dealership creates accountability for the customer to show up and decreases both their wait time and possible frustration. Furthermore, you’re able to ensure all service bays are fully utilized and reassure the customer that their vehicle will have the technician’s full attention.
DECREASE IN OUTBOUND CALL VOLUME
Proactively picking up the phone and making outbound calls to customers is not only necessary in preventing poor customer service but is also an opportunity for your service department to outshine the competition. Comparing 2019 to 2021, the average number of outbound calls made each month decreased by 3.3%. The line graph above illustrates the steep decrease in outbound calls during the peak of COVID-19 in 2020 and the slow recovery dealerships have made in this area.
To improve the customer experience and fill service bays, it is important to make outbound calls to rebook no-shows and cancellations, confirm upcoming appointments, schedule overdue services, salvage declined service requests and reach out to customers who were not able to connect with a service agent on their initial call. Service departments can also utilize information from the dealership’s sales department to schedule service appointments after a recent purchase.
Another challenge in outbound calls is connecting to the right person after a service advisor initiates the call. Outbound call connection has hovered around 23% between 2019 and 2021. Improving outbound call connection will help capture more opportunities and serve customers more effectively. It’s also crucial to initiate conversation with customers through their preferred communication medium, whether that be a phone call, email or text. Once a representative has discussed a preferred communication method with a customer, be sure he or she notes the preference in the customer’s file or the dealership’s CRM to use in future correspondence.
FEWER OUTBOUND CALLS FOR STATUS UPDATES BEING MADE
By not making as many outbound calls to customers to provide status updates, service departments are missing a huge opportunity to improve customer experience and increase customer retention. The pie chart above illustrates the decrease in outbound calls for status updates made between 2019 and 2021. In this time frame, outbound calls for status updates dropped from 29% to 26%, while outbound calls to schedule service appointments rose from 30% to 35%.
It is important to invite customers in and get appointments on the book, but it is also critical to provide excellent customer service to current customers by providing regular status updates. Service departments need well-defined processes regarding outbound calls to ensure team members are keeping customers informed on the status of their vehicle and providing excellent customer service.
Dealerships have put a strong emphasis on the ability of their service departments to capture more revenue and assist customers who want to keep their vehicles in tip-top shape during the industry’s inventory shortage. Even as new vehicle inventory and sales improve, it’s still important to provide excellent customer service to any customer considering doing business with your service department — and this starts on the phone. Having the right metrics and processes to measure your communication efforts and hold your team accountable is where the game changes.
Car Wars helps service managers gain visibility on their inbound and outbound calls, capture more service opportunities, improve CSI and provide consistently excellent customer service. To learn more about Car Wars, visit www.carwars.com/home or call 844-441-3313.