By: Tim Clay
While dealers spend a lot of money on marketing, often, most of that spend is directed at the sales department. But what about service? The largest revenue source for the dealership should certainly be worthy of a decent percentage of that budget. However, sadly that’s not usually what happens.
How can service directors consistently get their message out to new customers while also staying top of mind with existing customers?
The answer for many service departments has been to include service specials as part of regular sales advertising, on their websites or, at times, through mailers. These offers are often loss leaders, designed to get a customer into the dealership for a chance to upsell them.
When that customer does come in on that $19.99 oil change coupon and is presented with service recommendations that substantially increase the RO, I am sure you find many that decline. Frequently this is not because they don’t believe they need the repairs, but simply because they can’t afford them. What do you do with that customer then? Mostly, that money is simply left off the table and the customer walks out the door, with no way to pay for the service.
Imagine if financing didn’t exist for vehicle purchases. Chances are that very few would ever be able to own one, despite the desire to do so. The same situation applies to service repairs. I bet that a good number of your customers are declining service repairs not because they don’t want them, or think them unnecessary – but for the simple reason that they cannot afford them.
There’s nothing more frustrating than a customer declining service that really is necessary. Consider offering multiple ways for the customer to pay for service repairs. This opens the door for the customer to choose the method that works best for them. Integrate financing options into each process touchpoint: From the moment the customer sets the appointment online, to the moment the customer pulls into your service drive, train your advisors to inform customers that financing options are available to them. The customer is then primed with the knowledge and may not be quite so hasty to decline the recommendations, opting instead to explore financing as a viable option. Copy the successful practices of department stores. Whenever the customer is ready to pay for repairs, train your employees to ask whether they would like to pay with cash, check, credit card or financing. Department stores use this process for a simple reason, it works.
Many dealerships aren’t aware of just how effective multiple financing options are in decreasing service declines. While some OEMs have lines of credit available, these are typically reserved for tier one credit customers and may not be available to the majority. There are alternative financing options that extend credit to customers with less than perfect credit. Investigate and adopt those that work best for your dealership. A customer may not be able to pay a $1,500 repair bill all at once. But can probably afford $75 per month.
In this age of instant information, the single most neglected area for most dealership websites is the service department. Yet, in a 2013 Google study, “The Road to Winning Drivers: What Drivers Want in Automotive Aftermarket Service,” it was found that each month, 70 million searches on Google were for aftermarket services. And that is sure to have increased exponentially over the last couple of years.
Some dealerships have a “schedule an appointment” feature, along with current factory service specials. And, if the consumer is lucky, a few service coupons. However, other than that, most consumers have to turn to sources other than their local dealer’s website for information about their vehicle’s service needs.
This is where your competition is killing you! Look at many independent service facility websites and you will find robust information regarding the services they offer, along with some pricing for more basic maintenance services. Many offer blog articles and/or videos explaining the importance of different services as well.
Consider updating your website so that your service department presents online just as well as it does offline. Find a robust online appointment scheduling software that integrates well with your website, as well as internally in the shop. Have financing options highlighted. Feature some service specials.
And what about when you present the recommendations to the customer? This is a perfect time to include information about financing so the customer has an easy way to figure out how to pay for those repairs.
In sales advertising, low payments, low interest and low prices dominate most dealerships messaging, while service messaging is traditionally limited to low price loss-leader deals. Imagine reaching that customer that has just visited a competitor, received news that they need an $800 repair and simply can’t afford it. Then they see your dealership’s ad offering financing for repairs. Do you think that consumer might be interested?
Regardless of whether you offer financing for service, simply ensuring that service-related messaging hits your customers at every possible touchpoint can help keep your service department top-of-mind.
Bio: Tim Clay has more than twenty years experience in the automotive retail space and is a graduate of NADA Dealer Candidate Academy. Previously, he was COO and Co-Founder of ClickMotive, an automotive technology company. He has instrumented one successful automotive startup exit and one successful medical company exit.