My job involves working with hundreds of dealerships on an annual basis. Because of this, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with some of the top service departments on the planet. In so doing, I have been fortunate to learn a tremendous amount about what these successful dealerships are doing to maximize growth potential. I’ve distilled it down into six simple tips.
- Communicate to Customers via Their Preferred Method: Phone tag is a major pain point for most service departments; service staff waste hours attempting to reach customers for approval of recommendations, or to notify them that their vehicle is ready. Each customer has a preference for the most effective way to communicate. Ask them what theirs is – email, phone, text – and then be sure that it works both ways — for incoming and outgoing communications. Make it is easy for your customers to communicate with you. Your staff will spend less time trying to get an approval and more time being productive.
- Improve Communication of Customer Recommendations: Often, the reason a customer declines recommendations is simply because they don’t understand what you’re recommending and/or why it will benefit them. Use language your customers understand. Be careful not to use car business jargon. And think about using pictures to show them what part you are referring to. Informational videos are great too, if you have them. The more informed the customer is, the more comfortable they will feel about making a decision, which will translate into a decrease in service declines. By incorporating images and video into your front line service operations, you’ll be able to sell through education. While a service advisor or technician may be excellent at what they do, they may not be able to verbally illustrate to a customer why something is needed. By doing this, you could increase accepted recommendations on the first visit and make your service calendar more available for another customer.
- Send Only Relevant Information to Your Customers: Businesses today continuously bombard customers with various communications, which the vast majority chose to ignore. Email open rates are fast declining and most print mailers end up in the trash. Shotgun email blasts are no longer effective and can even be damaging. Personalize your communications to the customer. Your dealership has access to a wealth of data in your CRM and DMS about each and every customer. With a complete customer history at your fingertips, you can quickly and effectively communicate with all your prospects and customers with a highly targeted and relevant message. This will then boost such things as sales to service, and service to sales conversions. Make your communications meaningful and offer value to targeted customers. Your customers will respond and start to appreciate your communication.
- Use Technology to Maximize Production: Technology has advanced to the point that no service advisor should still be presenting a customer with a paper inspection form that has greasy fingerprints all over it. Nor should they have to run around locating technicians to find out the status of a customer’s vehicle.
Consider a technology upgrade so your staff has the tools they need to produce more and provide a better experience for the customer.
- Train Your Staff: Make a commitment to provide training and professional development opportunities for your service staff. This training will show your business’s commitment to them as employees, while improving their overall value to you. Today’s colleges no longer offer adequate automotive training.
As a result, newly-minted technicians are entering the job market ill-prepared to handle the advanced technology of today’s vehicles. Experienced technicians have become a hot commodity and are highly in demand. Consider training your techs on site. I’ve heard of one BMW dealership that took a bicycle mechanic and turned him into their top technician; he even won a national competition.
- Differentiation: The Key to Success – Manufacturers increasingly require expensive remodels and conformity to a branded experience. This makes it hard to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Work out how your dealership can offer a unique and memorable customer experience. Be sure to stand out and be top-of-mind the next time the customer need a service. Make them want to do business with you.
I hope these tips prove to be a good and useful read as you look ahead at what can be done to make improvements in the coming year. May 2015 be your best year ever!