After years of saving up money, the time finally came to buy my dream car. I did all of my market research, found the right dealership after calling a few in my neighborhood, then finalized the deal. The salesman I worked with provided me with the best experience by showing a strong understanding of the vehicle, answering my questions and — most importantly — being responsive throughout the process.
The dealership did everything right — until I drove off the lot. My salesman mentioned the dealership’s service department would be in touch over the next few days to schedule my first and second routine maintenance appointments. Days then weeks went by, but still no call or email from the service department. I reached out directly, but the multiple attempts either left me on long holds, forcing me to hang up, or sent me to voicemail, where my call was never returned. There seemed to be a disconnect in expectations and communication between sales and service. Frustrated, to say the least, I ended up going to another dealership’s service department to perform the routine maintenance on my vehicle.
If this situation sounds familiar, odds are it’s happening at your dealership too. After buying a car, 72% of customers are opting for third-party mechanics. With the heavy push for service as dealerships await new-vehicle inventory to be replenished, many dealers are overlooking this opportunity to capture additional revenue. So, how can your dealership reverse the trend of losing customers after a sale is made? These three strategies will improve your chances of customer retention post-purchase.
1. Take Advantage of Timing
Timing is a determining factor in whether a customer will return to a dealership or not after purchasing a car. Customers who are introduced to the service department as part of their purchasing experience are 1.5 times more likely to return to that same dealership when the time comes to service their vehicles. Implement a step in the car-buying process where sales facilitates a quick face-to-face introduction with service to establish this relationship and build initial rapport.
2. Inbound Phone Handling
No one enjoys being placed on hold for an extended period of time then ultimately going to voicemail, especially if it’s during business hours. Even if a customer had a great phone experience with sales, if his or her phone experience with service is poor, there is a strong likelihood that customer will move onto the next dealership or third-party mechanic on his or her list. Such methods as phone call bridging, training your team to use warm transfers and using reporting to understand times when phone traffic is the highest are steps to take toward resolving inbound phone handling problems. An efficient phone handling process helps control call volume and reduces wait time, providing a better experience for the customer.
3. Proactive Outbound Outreach
Proactive outbound outreach means picking up the phone and calling customers. For sales, the purpose is to get customers in the dealership to make a sale. For service, the goal is similar: Get customers in the dealership to fill your service bays. Some types of outbound calls your service department should be making are: appointment confirmations, vehicle status updates, stranded call follow-ups, no-shows and cancellations, overdue service appointments or declined service requests. Having your service department take the initiative to pick up the phone sustains customer engagement and raises customer retention.
The path to gaining loyal customers does not end when they purchase their first cars — that’s only the beginning of their journeys with a dealership. Taking the extra step of bridging the gap between sales and service provides a great experience for customers. With the right timing, inbound phone handling and outbound call outreach, dealerships can use these tactics to sustain and grow their businesses.