According to the 2016 Maintenance & Repair Study conducted by Cox Automotive, 70% of new car buyers do not get their cars serviced at the dealerships where they bought them.
If you are a new car dealer and only 30% of your customers use your service department, you are letting money slip through your fingers. After all, customers who are buying cars from you are already in your dealership. When buying, they are demonstrating that they have money to spend. They are making a large investment that they would like to care for. And they already have established a relationship with a salesperson who can – and should – use that relationship to turn new buyers into service customers.
Can you really afford to let that much business go away?
Key Training Concepts and Practices to Train
Let’s look at six skills – all very trainable – that can convince your customers that your dealership department is the place to bring their cars for service.
- Train your service department manager and your service writers to give exceptional tours. It is a great idea to have salespeople bring car buyers to your service area. But simply having customers stand on the sidelines to look at your service department will not convince them to return for service. Your service manager should introduce him or herself in a polished and professional way, make introductions to service technicians, and show off specialized, brand-specific diagnostic and other equipment. And your service manager should give customers a business card, which establishes him or her as a contact your customers can call on.
- Train your service department personnel to win loyal customers during the warranty period. Because the cost of the first few service visits for most new cars is usually covered under the warranty, they offer a great opportunity to establish customer relationships that will last for as long as your customer owns the car. After one scheduled service has been performed, your service writers can explain what the next scheduled service will include – fluids will be changed or checked, tires will be rotated, etc. – and what the cost will be, if any. Your manager can then ask whether the customer would like to schedule that visit, or whether he would like to receive a text reminder when it is time.
- Train your service manager to follow up with a phone call post-visit to answer questions. To build a personal relationship, your manager should give his name (“This is Chris Jacobs calling from Paul Roberts Cadillac”), not just say, “This is Paul Roberts Cadillac calling.” Your service manager should ask whether the customer has any questions, whether the customer was pleased, and whether there is anything else the he or she would like or need.
- Talk about key differentiators. The Maintenance & Repair Study found that the most important reason that customers use their dealership’s service department is, “They know my car.” Your service personnel should be trained to reinforce that concept. If your service technicians have completed factory-certified training programs, mention that to customers. If replacement parts are needed, the fact that only original parts from the factory will be used, and that they are guaranteed. Because repairs are guaranteed, explain that too. Taking these steps lets customers know that you deliver better value.
- Train your service personnel to provide superior customer service. They should ask questions, listen attentively to customers, learn and use customers’ names, and then follow up to answer questions and address concerns.
- Let your service managers take a proactive role in scheduling new appointments. The Cox Maintenance & Repair Study determined that more than 60% of new car buyers expect car dealers and car manufacturers to contact them when it is time for service. If you fail to train your service department to contact customers to schedule service, you are again letting business – and dollars – walk away.
Texts Can Make It Happen
As I close this article, I would like to point out just how effective texting can be as a communications tool between your service department and your customers. Your service people can ask for customers’ cellphone numbers and text them when their cars are ready, then go on to text them post-service to ask whether they are satisfied, and then text them when it is time to schedule another service. More dealerships are finding that customers are more likely to respond to texts than they are to phone calls or emails. I suggest you try it – it will work for you.