According to the 2017 JD Power CSI survey, only 13 percent of consumers scheduled their vehicle service online. The progress toward online scheduling has been glacially slow, rising only two percentage points over the past three years.
This is despite the fact that nearly all dealerships now have an online scheduler and most service reminders are digital. Online scheduling usage is particularly poor when compared to travel where 75 percent of airline reservations are booked online and 49 percent of airline check-ins are performed digitally.
The same JD Power survey suggests nearly half of the consumers not scheduling online are “unaware” the option to schedule online exists. So, the natural tendency is to focus on raising awareness by showing the online scheduling application during delivery or sending specific communications about online scheduling.
We should do a better job promoting online scheduling, but I do not believe “awareness” is the root cause of non-usage; inadequate value is. The bigger issue is that online scheduling has too little impact on the service experience, as evidenced by online scheduling users are just two points more satisfied than those scheduling the traditional way, on a thousand-point scale.
After initial launch, the airlines did not have to separately market their websites and apps because those capabilities improved customer service and spread virally. Why is that? The airlines’ solutions made the consumer experience substantially better.
Why is this not happening in automotive? It’s because we are grafting digital capabilities onto an analogue process. What benefit is the customer getting for booking online? Preferred appointment times? Shorter or more informed write-up process? Perhaps bypassing the service write-up all together? Not a chance! In fact, according to the JD Power CSI study, online schedulers are no more satisfied with service initiation than others.
Imagine if you checked in for your Delta flight this morning on your Delta app, but then you still had to wait at the ticket counter before boarding your flight. If this were the case, you would probably not use your Delta app. So why do we make consumers wait for service advisors?
One reason is so the service advisor can capture more information to help diagnose the problem. The second is to “upsell” more service. Other industries have successfully applied technology to address both. Chatbots can ask and respond to a multitude of customer issues. Think Alexa. In addition, Amazon has conditioned consumers to upsell themselves through highly relevant “people like you” suggestions.
Deploying similar technologies, dealers could clear the 7am to 9am bottleneck and accept vehicles when it’s most convenient to the customer. Additionally, they could increase service revenue by allowing consumers to make informed choices without perceived sales pressure.
Another major issue limiting online scheduling is that many dealers, afraid of competitive shopping, do not post prices online. So, they expect customers to schedule for a service when they don’t even know the price. Again, an analogy from elsewhere in the digital world. Would you order your Dominos pizza, if you went to check out and had no idea what your large Hawaiian pizza costs?
You can’t really expect a customer to schedule a 30,000-miile maintenance when they don’t know the price. Do you think a customer would use the Dominos listed pizza price to competitively shop Papa Johns? Of course not! Neither would most consumers on dealer service pages.
When customers click through to your online scheduler, they are trying to do business with your service department. If you make the process more informative and the gateway to a more convenient service experience, customers will respond by scheduling online more frequently. Not only that, but they will inform their friends about how to get better service. Before you know it, online scheduling for dealer services will go viral.
Author: Scot Eisenfelder
Scot Eisenfelder is a 25+ automotive market veteran who has driven innovation across multiple auto sectors. Previously, Scot was Senior Vice President Strategy at AutoNation, responsible for major change initiatives in eCommerce, pricing, IT and creating a blueprint for auto retail transformation and before that served as acting CMO, focused on realigning marketing spending. Before that, Scot led JM Family’s dealer software business and was Senior Vice President Product Management, Strategy and Marketing at Reynolds and Reynolds, leading both companies through value creating sales. Scot is a Board member of Quorum, a public dealer software company. He has an MBA from Wharton School, graduating with distinction and is a Palmer Scholar. He attended Mannheim University in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar and graduated summa cum laude in Economics from Princeton.