I have spent a lot of time in the service department of car dealerships, listened to more service phone calls than any one human should, and have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly – sometimes all at the same time. One thing I have noticed through all of this is when we slice and dice the overall service customer experience and our interactions there is always room for improvement (you can learn more on this during my fixed ops workshop at Digital Dealer).
A client of mine who I respect greatly told me something early in my career which still resonates with me today; “Your sales department sells the first car, your service department sells the second, third and fourth.” Yet if you ask anyone in fixed operations what their department does no one will say ‘Sell Cars.’
Consider this, you have one opportunity when you sell a vehicle to create a relationship and three to four times annually to cement or destroy that relationship in the service drive. If we assume a five-year buying cycle that works out to roughly a 1:20 ratio, essentially for every 1 sales transaction you have 20 service transactions. This number itself proves the need for us to build strong relationships with our service customers.
So why is it we make it so difficult for our customers to service with us? Servicing at a dealership is the inconvenient option; Jiffy Lube down the street is the much easier choice. Your customer service experience is your opportunity to differentiate yourself.
The most logical place to start looking for areas to improve on is during the first customer interaction our customers have with the dealership, the initial phone call. Ask yourself; when a customer calls my dealership, what do they experience? Is it easy for them to get through, how long does it take, would they call back again? Are we making it easy for them to do business with us?
Here is the easiest, hardest advice you will ever get to make that first interaction better. Answer the phone. No brainer, right? Simplest thing in the world, trust me when I say answering the phone is not as simple as it may seem. Most people are unaware of their answer rate, inbound call volumes, or peak times, but they do know that they want 100% of their calls answered 100% of the time.
Unfortunately, I am here to tell you that unless you want to throw copious amounts of money at it a 100% answer rate is impossible and that you should try for a more realistic goal of 80% of your calls answered in 20 seconds. Monitoring your phones and knowing the answers to the questions posed above will help you get to the 80% mark much faster and easier.
Now that you have answered the phone, the next area to consider is what do I do now? My go to answer is a simple one regardless of whether you have a complex phone system or if your system consists of a person behind a desk… qualify your calls. This means basically asking one additional easy question to the customer. By asking “Would you like to make a service appointment or is your vehicle currently with us” that simple question has already saved you and your customer time, and probably a few internal transfers as well. Often it is very small changes that have the largest impact.
When speaking to our customers over the phone it is very important to have clear and defined scripting. If we are being honest with each other most people will want to speak with an advisor (who they know and consider a friend if you will) over someone they have never seen face to face. Asking questions correctly will ensure customers are sent to the person who can best provide the service they require in the most effective and efficient means possible.
The last piece of advice I will give you is this…educate your staff. I truly believe that the majority of people out there enjoy dealing with competent, well educated and trained staff. When a dealership has a well trained and educated staff that know the ins and outs of the dealership we make the conversations with our customers a more productive and enjoyable interaction for everyone.
In today’s competitive automotive marketplace, it is often the small things that we do that set us apart from the competition and making the most of our service customer’s time plays a crucial role. Even though we have just begun to scratch the surface on this topic, I hope you found one or two items you can take back to your dealership and try today.
Don’t miss my session How to Start Making the Most of Your Service Customers’ Time at the 22nd Digital Dealer Conference & Expo this April 11-13th in Tampa, FL. My fixed ops workshop will show you how to make, maintain, and build customer relationships after the sale, by providing the customer with a seamless service interaction.
Register now for the conference, and add this fixed ops workshop to your customized agenda.
Author: Jordan Duguay
Jordan Duguay, Training Manager at DealerMine Inc., has years of experience assisting dealers in establishing BDCs and training dealer agents on processes and best practices. Jordan has also played a key role in training DealerMine BDC agents that provide outsourced BDC services for dealerships. As an Account Manager for DealerMine, Jordan acted as an extension of dealerships management teams to help them achieve their goals using DealerMine by helping managers and staff use the application to its maximum potential. Jordan is currently the Training Manager, a diverse role overseeing the Training Department and is responsible for the performance, coaching, and development of the DealerMine training team. Jordan’s valuable experience in managing a successful BDC will provide key insights on proper implementation, call handling, pre-selling service maintenance, and benchmarking and much more.