Constantly ringing phones in the service department can mean more customers and more business. But it also means having less face time with customers when they bring in their cars. That leads to them feeling rushed. It also means customers probably are being placed on hold waiting to talk to someone.
All this potentially results in poor customer satisfaction and lost business. The trick is to reduce the number of phone calls to the service department, yet increase business.
Kelly BMW in Columbus, OH, says it is doing just that. When Gordon Rhea, assistant service manager for the dealership, returned from vacation in April, he found his first week back was totally booked with appointments. None of the appointments were made by phone. Customers made the appointments using a real-time, online scheduling tool developed by Timehighway.com, also based in Columbus.
Unlike other service-scheduling tools that send email notifications to customers letting them know if their desired times are available, Timehighway's software allows customers to see in real time which slots are unfilled. As customers select open time slots, those are immediately rendered unavailable. Customers also select the type of service they desire.
The services at Kelly BMW are BMW-specific and assigned lengths of time. An oil change could take a half an hour, an engine inspection two hours. Dealerships can restrict how many appointments can be made for each service.
Rhea says 50% of his customers now schedule their service online. That means he doesn't have to spend time talking to them on the phone. Instead he spends his time talking to them when they drop off their vehicles.
“It helps with the diagnosis because we're taking more time to talk with the customer face to face to figure out what the vehicle needs,” says Bill Fyffe, Kelly's service manager. Business also is increasing. “That's tied directly to our ability to handle increased customers,” he says. As Kelly BMW is able to reduce the time service personnel spend on the phone, the time devoted to repairing vehicles increases.
Customer satisfaction has increased for the service department since it started using the tool about eight months ago.
Rhea says, “Before, our customers rated the ease of obtaining appointment as deplorable. It is much better now. In January, the satisfaction level received a 99 out of a possible 100.”
According to a Friedman-Swift study, 86% of customers surveyed say the ability to schedule service appointments online is an important feature on dealership Web sites.