Improve the Service Experience to Increase Profits

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Every dealer understands the importance of taking care of customers. Traditionally, however, it’s been difficult to prove the value of customer experience because their satisfaction is so subjective—it varies from person to person. Recent research, however, has added objective, measurable metrics to the customer service equation that give your dealership concrete, quantifiable ways to implement and measure customer service.

Within the service department, your dealership can increase profits in two simple ways—by increasing the number of customer repair orders or by increasing the dollar value of individual repair orders. Not surprisingly, high-quality customer service has the power to impact and improve both measures. More than half of consumers surveyed by Cox Automotive said that they would be willing to pay more and travel further for an enhanced customer experience at an auto dealer’s service department.

The benefits of improving the service experience are clear, but what are the specific actions your dealership can take to improve customer satisfaction and start earning more money? Most customer-centric changes your dealership can make will achieve one of three important goals—increasing convenience, enhancing communication, or improving transparency.

Increasing Convenience

Convenience has always been at the heart of good customer experiences, but its importance is increasing in today’s environment. Today’s vehicle owners are busy and overbooked, which means their time is more valuable than ever. In other areas of their lives, mainstream retailers are offering convenience-driven shopping experiences that are further shaping their demand for quick, easy, and painless transactions. All this adds up to increased pressure on dealerships to keep customers happy with more convenient service experiences.

Start creating a superior experience for your customers the second they pull up to the service bay with a personalized check-in. Give them the choice of walking in or checking in from their vehicles using their own phones. Either way, you’ll need to greet them by name and have all of their personal details and maintenance history at the ready. Be sure to document a thorough walk-around with a tablet and make personalized recommendations.

Part of a great check-in process is presenting the customer with accurate information about past declined services. To succeed, you’ll need to have information about their previous visits at your fingertips, on a mobile device during every customer interaction. Not only does this build trust, it makes it easy for customers to say yes to additional service recommendations. Even better, leverage VIN-specific menus and pricing so your service advisors are empowered to turn routine oil changes into recommended maintenance packages that generate additional revenue.

The final step is as important as the first, which means that even the process of making a payment has to be painless. With today’s technologies, it’s easy for your dealership to give customers the option to pay in-lane or online. Your advisors can now accept credit cards from their tablets or desktops, eliminating many of the bottlenecks that have traditionally impacted customer satisfaction. Extend the convenience of payment with email or text requests to pay online and receipts that get customers in and out more quickly.

Of course, convenience isn’t the only consumer pain point when it comes to paying for service.  With 63 percent of consumers unable to pay for a $500 auto repair, total cost is another factor severely impacting customer satisfaction. To improve the service experience, your dealership may want to offer service financing options, allowing consumers to pay for expensive repairs over time. Not only will it improve satisfaction, but it will also earn you more money. Three out of four consumers have said they are more likely to make a purchase if a simple and seamless payment plan is offered.

Enhancing Communication

Poor communication can put a strain on any relationship, and your dealership’s relationship with its customers is no exception. Today’s customers have grown accustomed to having instant, ample information and they expect you to keep them informed about their vehicles’ needs and the associated costs and timelines. Whether they’re in your shop or prefer digital interactions, keep customers updated throughout the service visit so they feel informed about their vehicles’ status.

Your customers also expect you to align with their communication preferences—in most cases that means providing updates via text messages. By leveraging text messaging, service advisors can reach customers quickly with real-time updates from anywhere. Texting improves customer experience, but it’s also good for your dealership’s profitability. When they have integrated communication tools, service employees don’t have to waste time returning to their desks, logging into multiple systems, or playing phone tag with customers.

Of course, some customers prefer a more traditional service experience and will want to wait in your dealership for their service to be complete. That doesn’t mean that your communications have to be delivered by traditional methods. Be sure to place a digital status board in your waiting room and feed it with all the latest information on repair status and timelines.

Improving Transparency

Your dealership’s communications can’t simply be quick and convenient—they also have to be open, honest, and informative. Transparency is an essential part of improving the customer experience because of long-held perceptions about the vehicle maintenance and repair industry. According to AAA, two out of three U.S. drivers do not trust auto repair shops.  Many feel that repair shops take advantage of their lack of expertise by recommending unneeded services or overcharging for their work. Transparent communications can help your dealership overcome these misconceptions and gain the trust of your customers.

Picture- and video-based communications keep customers happy with unparalleled levels of transparency. By allowing your advisors to show a customer a problem and to educate vehicle owners about why a repair is needed, picture- and video-based communications make it easy for otherwise-uninformed customers to approve repair recommendations. Because visual communications improve the likelihood of a service recommendation being approved, they also help dealers maximize the revenue from each service interaction. When customers can visualize and understand the reasons for a recommendation, close rates improve with the use of multimedia from 25% with no picture or video to 31% with photo and 51% with video. And, 54% of consumers are willing to pay more for service when pictures or video are offered.

Enhance Experience, Earn Results

Better customer experiences naturally lead to more upsells and higher retention. Your dealership can grow its fixed operations by exceeding customer experiences. When you enhance communication, improve transparency, and increase convenience, your customers will spend more money and come back more often.

Start making changes at your dealership to benefit from the clear connection between customer experience and dealership profits.

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