Getting the Fundamentals Right in Your Service Drive

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Consider this: 75 percent of aftermarket auto repair is performed by independent auto repair shops, while just a quarter of that business lives in dealerships.

In other words, just a quarter – a quarter! – of all aftermarket auto repair in the industry is being handled by dealership service departments. That represents a huge opportunity for your service drive, and begs the question of what you can do differently to improve upon these numbers and increase market share.

While there are a lot of effective tools and services aimed at helping dealership service departments gain some ground on the competition, I would argue a large part of your focus has to be on the fundamentals: the fundamentals of excellent marketing, and the fundamentals of excellent service.

The Fundamentals of Marketing

Customer expectations and attitudes are evolving. Here are a few customer concerns that have risen to the top in terms of importance:

  • Personalization. Thanks to the efforts of leading retailers like Amazon and Nordstrom who have had a transformational impact beyond their own industries, customers now expect their purchasing experiences to be tailored to their unique needs and desires across the spectrum.
  • Transparency. In the information age, customers believe very little information should be off-limits or difficult to access. They want to be reassured by the data, facts, and figures that they are getting a good deal and not being taken advantage of.
  • Convenience. The rise of mobile technology and the ease with which customers now make their way through the purchasing process demands that every successful retailer make their experience as quick and painless as possible.

Thankfully, in the face of these challenges there is good news: the fundamentals of excellent marketing address these specific concerns.

Marketing, at its core, is about forging meaningful, personal connections between business and customer. Personalization, transparency, convenience – each of these concerns, and more, can be addressed simply by thinking of the interactions of your dealership and your customers in terms of personal connections.

Following up on jobs performed at the dealership, sending friendly reminders when it’s time to get new service done, taking advantage of customized targeted marketing to address specific individuals – these are all ways to market your service drive that go a long way in establishing rapport, trust, and eventually customer loyalty.

The Fundamentals of Customer Service

Once your fundamentally sound marketing helps attract customers to your service department, applying the fundamentals of customer service can help keep them coming back. Review your existing processes, and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it easy to schedule an appointment with your service drive? Can customers make it on the dealership website and select what services they need?
  • Is a customer’s appointment time slot reserved just for them? Do they get personal attention from the advisor addressing their concerns?
  • Do you provide the customer a clear expectation of how long the work will take so they can schedule their time accordingly?
  • Do you offer a courtesy shuttle, a comfortable waiting area, and other “small” conveniences that can add up to have a significant impact on the customer’s perceived experience?
  • Do you have effective communication within the service department, and especially between departments, so you aren’t left looking incompetent or bewildered at any step of the process?
  • Do you make follow-up calls to gauge customer satisfaction and send follow-up emails asking for feedback?
  • Do you consistently go over the safety inspection sheet with customers, or email it, along with recommendations on how to keep an older vehicle running well?
  • Do you provide the option for customers to pay their service invoice online? Are there other ways you can maximize the speed, efficiency, and convenience of your overall service process with the help of technology and vendor tools and services?

Consider that your investment in focusing on these fundamentals will pay off, not only in a satisfied customer base, but in the word-of-mouth reputation boost your service drive will receive. You will never have a more effective surrogate on the street than a happy customer.

The Customer Response

By focusing on executing the fundamentals of marketing and customer service, your service department will not only meet, but far exceed customer expectations.

You will be ready to compete with and win business from independent auto repair shops, and shift the balance of that 75-25 percent ratio. If you want to build customer loyalty, treat every service visit as an opportunity not just to complete a job, but to create a customer for life.

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Chris Walsh
Chris Walsh is vice president of sales at Naked Lime Marketing. His knowledge of market strategy, competitive analysis, and the sales process fueled his success in previous positions with the company, including regional sales director and vice president of business development. Walsh holds a bachelor’s degree in business from Ohio University.