According to a CNW research study, 86% of customers who regularly service their vehicles at the selling dealership become repeat vehicle buyers.
However, statistics show the vast majority of dealers are not retaining customers in service: in fact, more than 80% of dealership customers defect to the competition.
In 2013, total USA auto care service and repair revenue was $238.4 billion, according to the “2014 Joint Channel Forecast Model” co-produced by the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) and the Auto Care Association. By contrast, Customer Pay Parts and Service revenue for OEM car dealerships in 2014 was just under $30 billion (NADA Data 2014).
This means that of the approximately $240 billion auto service market, franchised car dealers captured only12.5%.
Every vehicle sold has to be serviced. Customers who are offered service usually return. So what is the key to mastering the Sell, Service, and Repeat cycle? How exactly can dealers prevent over 80% of their customers from going to competitors for service?
It’s all in the customer experience.
To begin with, most customers routinely get hit with a barrage of marketing messages from many sources, including your dealership. In addition, even messages with your branding can often have the look and feel of a dozen different dealerships, since these communications are frequently produced by multiple vendors, each with their own style, design and delivery method.
For example, a dealership might use one vendor for a specific component of its digital marketing, such as the service drive notices. Another vendor, using different software, takes care of emailing equity campaigns. Additional providers handle other digital messaging… and before long, the actual dealership’s identity and branding simply get lost in the shuffle. Even worse, many of these communications are improperly timed or consist of coupons and offers completely irrelevant to the customer’s situation.
When multiple vendors are oblivious to each other, their respective software products tend to follow autonomous schedules, sorting customer databases for differing purposes and sending out their own messages. Inevitably, some of these messages will be at cross-purposes with others… and your customers suffer as a result.
So if your various marketing vendors’ services talk to your customers, but not each other, you can actually alienate the very people you’re spending money to attract. Disconnected communications do not boost customer confidence or goodwill.
Without question, software automation has had an enormous impact on our industry. However, the sheer number of different products and platforms can often adversely affect the customer experience, as well as escalate dealer overhead and lower productivity.
As a result, integration has become the next generation of dealership software development. Particularly in marketing, integrated software packages that “talk tech” with each other to coordinate messages and delivery times are quickly becoming a necessity.
But not all integrated software platforms are created equal. In some cases, vendors promoting “integrated” software packages are actually offering integrated invoicing for a package of software services that may or may not ever share information. So when searching for software, specifically ask how the individual platform solutions communicate with each other, as well as with other products. The more integration among your software vendors, the more benefit to you and your customers.
While fully integrated software and systems help create a positive customer experience, today’s digital technology takes that experience to an even higher level. Service lane digital technology tools that integrate seamlessly with your current DMS and CRM offer virtually unlimited opportunities for customer engagement, especially when combined with industry best practices.
In fact, these tools can ensure an optimal customer experience at every point of the service journey, starting with the communications your customers receive from the dealership.
With the latest digital technology, you can automate and streamline timely deliveries of high-quality, customized email and text messages to your individual customers for various services:
- Reminders for regularly scheduled maintenance
- VIN-specific recall notices
- Timely reminders for state-required annual vehicle inspections
- Missed appointment notices
- Special-order parts arrival notices
- Timely offers with digital coupons for special pricing on oil changes, free tire rotation, free alignment check, detailing, etc.
This digital assist allows your dealership to help customers accurately monitor their car care. It also effectively eliminates the flood of mass emails and direct mail pieces irrelevant to their current needs.
By digitally tracking all your customer communication, you’ll be able to capture every opportunity to upsell services. An efficient texting platform, in particular, tracks service advisor/customer conversations, manages opt-ins and opt-outs and integrates into your dealership’s CRM, consistently giving you the information you need to drive more business.
Once your customers have received your timely and targeted digital messages, you can continue to optimize their service experience with immediate, 24/7 online scheduling. No longer are your customers limited to phoning during business hours and waiting while a service advisor or BDC representative checks the schedule: they can make appointments via laptop, tablet or smartphone at their convenience. And since tech-savvy customers who schedule their own appointments have a better show rate, you’ll see a more efficient use of your service bays and your technician’s time.
In the service lane, every minute counts, both in productivity and in customer satisfaction. Mobile service advisors who already have customer and vehicle data present on their tablet or smartphone check-in tools can quickly complete a walk-around inspection, then immediately make service recommendations with full-service menus on those same tablets or smartphones.They also have instant digital access to pricing for repairs or services and can quickly cite comparable pricing from other sources online. Their promptness and efficiency will help people view them as knowledgeable and well-informed, and the customer is much more likely to value and agree with their service recommendations.
And if additional repairs or services are necessary, advisors can simply text customers for approval, even sending them detailed pictures of the problem area if needed. At every point during service, a fully integrated digital strategy facilitates and expedites the process, increasing your productivity and your customers’ satisfaction.
As soon as serviced vehicles are ready for pick-up, advisors can once again quickly notify their customers through text messaging. Even the final bill is hassle-free; it is conveniently emailed or texted to the customer and payments are processed online.
This is the premium customer experience that attracts today’s consumers, and it is the very essence of the all-important Sell, Service, Repeat cycle. Consistently provide customers with an exceptional experience, both in sales and service, and they’ll demonstrate their loyalty by returning for service again and again. In addition, they’re much more likely to come back to your dealership to purchase their next car—and to refer other friends and family to your dealership to buy and service their vehicles—seamlessly continuing the Sell, Service, and Repeat cycle for years to come.
Author: Graham Annett
Graham Annett is Vice President of Marketing for AutoLoop, a leading provider of auto industry marketing and customer relationship management solutions. One of his main responsibilities at AutoLoop is to provide effective and efficient direct marketing strategies, campaigns and marketing consultation for both OEMs and individual dealerships. He has more than 20 years’ marketing experience with respected companies that include Gannett, Thomson-Reuters, and The New York Times and has been recognized over the years for his innovative marketing, including the “20 under 40” award by Presstime magazine, which recognizes 20 industry leaders under the age of 40 annually. Graham was also awarded the “President’s Award for Marketing Excellence” by Thomson-Reuters, and has been invited to speak at the International Circulation Marketing Association and Newspaper Association of America annual conferences.