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Customer Loyalty Begins in the Service Drive

Starbucks or Tully’s? Starbucks! PC or Mac? Mac! Jiffy Lube or Classic Chevrolet? Hmm?

Dealership loyalty is elusive but exists; and winning the hearts and minds of your customers often begins and ends in your service drive. Exceptional service is difficult to find, so when a consumer finds it, they will likely become a customer for life. I once had a service department stay open late to replace a tail light which busted the night before a vacation. I never forgot that, and I have never gone anywhere else for my service…or sales. I’m not alone in this, and thanks to the rise in reviews, your customers for life can inspire even more customers for life! According to an August 2012 Fast Company article “…89 percent of advocates said their friends buy or consider purchasing the products and services they recommend. And each time a consumer posts something on the social web it reaches a minimum of 150 people.”

Positive service reviews and social posts can create a line in your service drive and keep your bays full. Fix a blown tire the morning of a vacation, or provide a last minute oil change at closing time, and you’ve gained a fan for life. The need to deliver exceptional service isn’t just aspirational, it’s essential to your bottom line. People are keeping their cars longer than ever, so solidifying your customer relationships will keep them driving into your service drive. And when they do need a new car, they are likely to turn to that trusted dealership that was always there to help them when the fan belt went out, again.

A consumer’s automotive service journey ends in your service drive, but begins online. And where one consumer’s journey ends another one begins through reviews, tweets and posts.  The Parts and Service Department’s online reputation is becoming the deciding factor in determining whether consumers want to do business with you.  The same Fast Company article stated…“Advocates are your best marketers and salespeople, and your most loyal, engaged, enthusiastic, and valuable customers. In today’s world, its advocates–not advertising’s “Mad Men”–who have the power.”

So what’s the best way to ensure that you build a loyal customer base filled with advocates that review, tweet and post about their positive experience in you service drives? Start with step one in your social media and reputation management strategy; that’s to simply deliver an exceptional consumer experience!  The best social media and reputation management strategy in the world will fail without this basic foundation and make it impossible for you to build a loyal customer base filled with advocates. Try implementing a few of these processes in your service drive to develop service stars that will translate into review stars.

How to Go the Extra Mile with your Parts and Service

Modernize Your Fixed Ops Messaging. We know social media is powerful, so why not embrace fixed-ops social media callouts as part of your digital strategy? Your consumers are online, so meet them where they are at by enticing them with Facebook and Twitter offers like this one:

In addition to social media, anyone who has a teenage daughter knows that texting has pretty much replaced talking completely. Modernize your fixed-ops experience by incorporating SMS texting for service reminders, service status updates, and general inquiries. For extra credit, incorporate an SMS-specific discount like this one:

–Pricing Transparency. In the age of social media and reputation management, pricing transparency cannot only affect the individual customer experience, it can have a ripple effect on potential future customers. Imagine what this Facebook users friends will think when they see this post:

Clearly communicate pricing and services, the amount of time the service will take and be sure to keep the customer updated on the status of their service with the most convenient contact method for the customer, whether that’s by email, phone, text or an update to their Facebook page. An app that provides service status updates, service schedules, service reminders, appointment scheduling and coupons that you can socially share will help you connect with your customers in a way that they want to connect. Many third-party service providers are already offering these types of apps to their customers. The bottom-line is to under promise, over deliver and over communicate with your customers!

Be Easily Found. Make sure your dealership information is up-to-date on Google+ Local, Yahoo Local, Yelp and other business listing pages and that your website is optimized for parts and service keywords. In a distress situation, drivers will be searching their mobile device to find key information around hours, directions and contact information; so make it easy with a site that is also optimized for mobile. And more and more consumers are using apps to find oil changes and service centers, so be sure that your dealership is registered correctly and listed in these apps. When black smoke billows out from under the hood or the air conditioner quits on the hottest day of the summer, consumers want assistance ASAP; so be sure that you make it easy for customers to find you.

Work those Reviews! Reviews are a critical component of bringing in new business and retaining customers. It’s not only important to get the positive reviews, but to respond to the negative reviews as well. If you have any “review bombs”, reach out to that reviewer and do whatever it takes to resolve the situation so that they update the review with a positive resolution. One bad review can spoil future services appointments you don’t even know you’re losing!

With consumers empowered by social media, it’s more critical than ever to deliver a positive experience in your service drive with every single customer. Make sure that your Fixed Ops department is focused on delivering this experience to build advocates and a loyal customer base.

Steve HansonSteve Hanson is Cobalt’s Sr. Manager of Performance Improvement Consulting, bringing over 22 years of dealership operations and consulting experience to ADP Digital Marketing clients.  Steve’s dealership experience spans from Sales Consultant to Vice-President and Partner. As a digital pioneer, Steve established his first Internet Department in 1995.  Steve’s retail background provides an insight to “how it really works” and helps him deliver real-world digital marketing strategies and processes to many of the top-performing dealers across the country. Steve has presented his digital marketing and retail process insights to Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, GMC, Lexus, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, VW, and BMW dealers and wholesale organizations.  You may reach Steve at or at 404.668.5115

Original article posted here.

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