Connecting car buyers back to the selling dealership via the service department is critical to overall dealership profitability. Yet, getting an owner to return to the dealership after the factory warranty expires is a particular challenge.
As a dealer, you can hope the customer returns to your service bay. Or you can prioritize a long-term customer retention strategy that depends on collaboration among sales, the F&I office and the service department.
Silos in the workplace cause far too many dealerships to put up barriers that prevent cooperation and communication across different departments. The silo mentality is where employees do not collaborate well across departments. This reduces the overall efficiency of operations. It also ultimately affects your customer experience, which as we re-enter a competitive retail auto market, becomes all-important again.
Dealers who can drive collaboration between departments to take care of drivers in their own “backyards” will yield more long-term customer retention with fewer resources than by acquiring new service customers.
Providing customers with the opportunity to protect their investments doesn’t happen just in the F&I office. Studies have shown that product penetration increases the earlier products are introduced into the sales process – including transparent and complete online information.
Studies also have shown customers who regularly receive service at a dealership buy their next vehicles from that dealership. This suggests that product education is critical for sales staff to plant the idea of appropriate service products before the customer enters F&I.
Talking to sales about the benefits to the entire dealership of selling protection and cosmetic products is helpful. It’s not just about profit per vehicle sold. It’s about connecting drivers back to the dealership for long-term gains.
Solving the disconnect between sales, F&I and service takes creativity and involves staff training in all departments. In addition to having sales pre-sell service contract coverage packages, how about training your service advisors to offer up service contract coverage packages that were not offered at the time of sale? You may need to eventually have an employee dedicated to this alone, but done right, it can be very profitable.
Service advisors are some of the busiest staff in the dealership, so how do you train them to be a successful salesperson? Training should focus on the F&I products and services the dealership sells that best fit the individual customer’s needs. It is not a “one-size-fits-all” deal.
While busy, it would be advantageous for service advisors to spend a few minutes before the end of the day going through the next ’ ’day’s appointments and the customers’ service history. What, if any, service contract does the customer have? Do they frequently get tires replaced? Is there any cosmetic damage recorded that needs handling?
If the service advisor is well prepared for the precise needs of the customer in front of them, they can increase revenue and create new revenue streams for the dealership.
Once customers purchase products to keep their vehicles in top operating and cosmetic condition, the service department must step up to keep drivers coming back after the coverage term ends and/or encourage renewals.
For many customers, the service experience is as important as the service itself. They want it to be easy, seamless, efficient and, most of all, convenient. Some dealers have answered these expectations with a range of customer-centric services such as artificial-intelligence-powered software to schedule appointments, vehicle pick-up and delivery and blending maintenance with reconditioning repairs performed by mobile techs in dealership bays.
The customer experience is more and more the driving force for how and where drivers will spend their money. Tap into how to make your customers’ lives easier and protect their vehicle investments, and they will come back to your dealership.
Dealers who foster and encourage collaboration and brainstorming between departments will optimize the ownership experience and heighten opportunities to sell the customer that next vehicle. Make 2023 the year to break down department walls and work collectively to serve the customer better for dealership-wide gains.
Earl "Sticks “Brown (pictured, above left) is founder and CEO of Sticks Brown Group, Inc, DBA Radiant Ride, which offers auto-restoration services to new-car owners.