Customers Want Texting, So What’s the Problem?

Only 3% of car dealership service customers indicate they received text-message updates, says J.D. Power.

John Possumato

April 28, 2017

3 Min Read
Customers Want Texting, So What’s the Problem?

This may be a blinding glimpse of the obvious, but the J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Customer Service Index Study confirms a chunk of dealership service department customers prefer text as a channel of communication with the shop. 

Yet, paradoxically the same study indicates only a fraction of dealers to date are rising to the occasion to offer this customer preference that also would for now offer a competitive advantage because of its rarity.

The study says 41% of Gen Y and Gen X customers cite this text preference, as do 25% of Boomers. 

Even 10% of pre-Boomers, a rather seasoned lot, cite text as a preference (not surprising because I bet those folks can’t communicate with their grandkids and great-grandkids any other way). 

The study says proactive communication is a factor directly influencing consumer loyalty. Of customers who were contacted by phone, 55% say they definitely will return to a dealership for paid service work. That jumps up to 67% when text message communication is utilized.

Really, does any of this surprise anyone? To call a smartphone a phone almost is a misnomer. It’s more of a texting device with voice capabilities.

Indeed, because texting from the service department side would seem like a lot easier way to communicate (how many advisers relish endless phone calls ending in voicemail no-man’s land?), one would think for a lot of reasons (CSI, ease of use, low-cost technology) all service departments would be rushing into compliant (that’s a legal necessity) text communication. But that’s the opposite of reality.

Only 3% of service customers indicate they received text message updates, says Chris Sutton, J.D. Power’s vice president-U.S. automotive retail practice. “Correcting that disconnect by adding more text message capability should be a priority with a service operation.”

There it is. Now, in the name of full disclosure, I must say I’m in the tech business serving dealers, and one of our very first innovative products was a comprehensive and compliant service texting platform.

So Sutton’s comments make me want to shout, “Hooray.” It’s something I’ve advocated for years. However, taking a few steps back, one has to ask, if the technology for a compliant platform has been around for a while, is inexpensive, can be administered quickly and easily and makes life easier for both customer and service adviser, why is the dealer adoption rate not even beginning to match customer demand?

Frankly, I don’t know. This one baffles me. I’ll take any comments on this from readers. 

Being in the field, I can only speculate on what may be a combination of reasons.

First, texting without a compliant platform is worse than no texting all, which is why dealers won’t touch the issue. Service personnel texting with their own cellphones and with their own private number could generate a plethora of problems. Not the least of them are violation of the Federal Trade Commission code that requires “express written permission” prior to any commercial texting.

Second, is the lack of knowledge that many compliant 2-way SMS texting platforms are available.

Third, is the general inertia that even after a compliant texting platform is available, the public at large doesn’t expect it can text directly to a service adviser. So people don’t think to ask if they can. On the other side, service advisers get busy and do not offer the information that texting can be done, nor do they send the “opt in” message.

That’s a lost opportunity. Note: this issue can be cured by simple signage and instructions (i.e. “Text SERVICE to 55555 to communicate with your service adviser directly by text.”).

But again, the fact that this simple convenience is rare and unexpected for a dealership service department works against immediate adoption. The availability easily can be overlooked.

In any event, there aren’t many easy and inexpensive ways to please current and prospective service customers. Texting, shown to be in high demand yet seldom offered, seems to be a rare opportunity to satisfy and delight.

It’s a no-brainer.

John Possumato is the founder of Automotive Solutions, and admittedly a texting fan. Text “FAN to 69696” to contact him directly. He also can be reached at [email protected] and 856-577-2763.


About the Author(s)

John Possumato

John F. Possumato is the CEO of DriveItAway Holdings Inc. (OTC: DWAY), an app/platform to facilitate dealer-based consumer vehicle subscription and micro-lease to ownership models.

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