In the current climate, consumers are more equipped than ever to shop digitally, especially with COVID-19 moving e-commerce even further online.
Consumers feel increasingly comfortable shopping for vehicles virtually and even completing steps of the car-buying process online.
Yet, uncertainty remains when it comes to online matters relating to the dealership service department. But now, as digital solutions in the auto industry become the new normal, dealerships should focus on expanded transparency in order to reach service shoppers virtually.
In general, vehicle owners are not well-informed when it comes to service maintenance. Many do not understand the full importance of vehicle maintenance, can’t differentiate between required and recommended maintenance, lack comprehension of fair service pricing, and are unsure of who can perform these services.
This uncertainty leads many service shoppers to rely on independent shops to tell them exactly what needs to be done, leading to the age-old perception in the service lane that independent shops are better than dealerships. They are seen as cheaper, more personal and better at explaining what kind of service is needed for each individual patron.
Dealers have a unique opportunity in the evolving digital landscape to change consumer perception of the dealership service department.
By providing virtual solutions that help shoppers understand how to properly maintain their vehicle and what to expect when bringing it in for service, they can become a go-to resource for car owners.
The main way dealers can reach shoppers digitally is through tools that allow them to schedule service appointments online.
However, these tools also come in the form of repair-price calculators, editorial content with information on maintenance procedures and even virtual chat tools that connect consumers with dealers.
Education is the key to eliminating consumer uncertainty and anxiety around service shopping overall, giving car owners a sense of control when it comes to servicing their vehicle.
Much like education, transparency plays a huge role in how dealers can become more trusted providers in the service lane. It is no secret there is a gap between the scheduled maintenance that OEM manuals recommend versus what dealerships recommend.
When dealers embrace candidness and offer insight on why these standards may differ, a deeper sense of trust is created. Additionally, dealers can benefit by referencing third-party opinions on service.
Historically, the perception is that dealers have been focused on velocity and sales, while independent shops put a greater focus on building relationships and retaining customers over a long period of time.
For dealers, making connections with customers should be equally as important as driving sales. Consumer expectations are evolving, putting a greater emphasis on one-on-one interactions and personalization.
Developing personal relationships with customers is the most important way dealerships can compete with independent shops.
The digitalization of the auto industry is not slowing down any time soon, meaning the adjustments and advancements that dealers make will have a lasting impact on how they reach consumers over time. (Juan Flores, left)
When thinking about how to provide better service and eliminate shopper uncertainty, transparency should be top of mind, especially when it comes to pricing and frequency of maintenance. This will translate into trust, helping dealerships provide a similar level of care as independent service providers.
Juan Flores is senior director-product at Kelley Blue Book.