Customer satisfaction and retention are paramount to dealership profitability, and service departments are poised to engage customers and earn their loyalty. But how do service departments earn customers’ loyalty? Let’s look at a customer’s service department experience from start to finish and identify initiatives that work.
1. Appointment setting: You may think the first touchpoint in customer service occurs when car owners pull into the service drive, but it’s actually much earlier than that. The first encounter occurs the moment a customer lands on your website or calls the dealership to schedule an appointment. The experience has to be simple.
You’ll always have some calls coming into your department, so make sure you have dedicated staff to answer phones. If you have an automated phone tree, make sure it’s easy to get to the right person or department within a minute or two and ensure you have a friendly out-of-office message set for times when you can’t answer the phone.
We also recommend offering an online appointment scheduler to make it even easier for customers to get their vehicles in for service. The interface should be simple and backed by detailed data about your capacity and staff availability, so customers can quickly access a menu of options and choose the best time slot for them. Also, include an opportunity for customers to describe their repair or recall issue.
You can take the experience a step further by adding the ability for customers to select the option for pickups, drop-offs, shuttles, and loaner vehicles. Again, the system needs to integrate with your availability so customers can choose from a simple menu.
Once the customer makes an appointment, he or she should receive an email or text confirming it. This step affirms your shop’s commitment to efficient communication. Any good appointment scheduler should have this feature built in.
2. Check-in process: Whether or not the customer is present to drop off the vehicle, it’s essential to follow a consistent, efficient process for checking in the car, inspecting it for potential repairs, and knowing if a service or maintenance contract covers it. A digital multipoint vehicle inspection process ensures that service advisors leave no stone unturned and offer all the options to the customer. It’s even better if advisors can take photos and videos at this stage to communicate repair needs.
3. Live estimates and approvals: Once advisors identify repair and service contract options, they should easily send live estimates to customers via text or email based on preference. These live estimates are extremely valuable because they eliminate hard-sell tactics and put customers in control of repair orders. What’s more, studies show letting customers approve estimates electronically increases repair order sales by 30%. So whether the customer is right there in the shop where you can present recommended services in person or you’re sending it remotely, a live estimate with the ability to approve or deny repairs works best.
4. Remote payment and signature. Gone are the days of waiting around in line to pay a bill. Once the vehicle is ready to go, send a remote invoice and request an electronic signature to make payments quick and easy. It’s a win-win for you and your customers. There’s less labor required at the service desk, and customers get back on the road sooner.