2020 has been the year of adapting and adjusting. Every business has been affected by COVID-19 in one way or another, and while dealership service departments are basically back to pre-pandemic levels of volume and revenue, it’s hardly business as usual.
Adjustments to the way we approach service have expedited the popularity of pickup and delivery initiatives, enhanced flexibility, and put a focus on used car service retention. Not surprisingly, it’s all anchored by augmented safety procedures.
All signs point to these changing service department value props and strategies being more than just temporary. They will certainly be a big part of service department success for the remainder of 2020, and likely stick around for years to come….
“Curbside” service is in vogue these days, and dealership service departments have jumped on board in a big way.
Vehicle pickup and delivery is perhaps the most notable and significant shift in the way service departments are doing business during the pandemic. And while it’s not a new concept, COVID-19 has certainly accelerated its adoption at dealerships across the country.
Pickup and delivery is essentially just as it sounds. Instead of customers bringing their vehicle to the service department, the service department comes to the customers. Appointment-based over the phone or through an app at most dealerships, customers simply schedule a day and time, and the dealership valet program does the rest.
Coming to the customer’s home or workplace to get the vehicle, taking it in for service, and returning when finished—these types of programs are now extremely popular.
A win-win in every sense, pickup and delivery has allowed fixed ops directors to keep their bays busy while mitigating potential health risks to their employees. From the customer perspective, they’re avoiding the risk altogether by sitting in their home or office instead of a crowded waiting room (dealership service departments have very strict sanitation policies for pickup and delivery vehicles).
Dealer valet service was already a valued customer amenity.
Pandemic or not, pickup and delivery is likely here to stay. In DriveSure’s Dealership Service and Retention Report released earlier this year, “vehicle pickup/delivery” was already ranked the fourth most valuable dealership service department amenity by customers.
The survey was conducted just prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. and even then nearly 40% of respondents found value in pickup and delivery. Today, it’s likely to be an amenity front runner for the vast majority of dealership service department customers.
It’s not just the streamlined curbside valet that’s keeping rush hour log jams out of dealer service departments these days.
Many locations are seeing more business—but at a much more manageable volume. With a large portion of the population working from home, the added work-life balance has allowed for more flexibility as it relates to customers bringing their vehicles in for service.
It’s not all early morning drop-offs and late day pick-ups anymore. And with the traditional “rushes” no longer as pronounced, everyone from department managers to service advisors to techs and cashiers now have less stress and more time.
Quality of work and customer service are more important than ever.
Things becoming more fluid and flexible could be great news for those needing to implement a more intentional approach to providing an exceptional customer experience. And there will never be a better and more important time to focus on customer initiatives.
Because when dealership service customers were surveyed by DriveSure earlier this year, they cited “quality of work” and “quality of customer service” as two of the top factors driving them to and away from dealers for service.
This will only become more crucial for service departments as value propositions continue to evolve and customer peace of mind becomes the biggest commodity of all.
Speaking of peace of mind, you’d be hard pressed to find a dealer service department that hasn’t put a spotlight on health and cleanliness.
While effective sanitization procedures should be nothing new for dealership service departments, increasing those efforts has now become a differentiator and a value add. More and more facilities are opting to become certified PrecisionCare retailers, providing extra-safe on-site conditions to customers with disinfectants EPA-approved and registered for use against COVID-19.
Taking every precaution outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with dealership facilities, vehicles, and employees, cleaning crews have increased protocols to align with all EPA recommendations. Vehicles are completely sanitized after any human contact, and of course social distancing between guests and team members is enforced.
In essence, similar to most other businesses, value propositions have inevitably shifted to promote the safety and well-being of every customer and employee.
Used Car Service Retention
The pandemic shut down factories for many months which resulted in fewer new vehicles on lots. Production still hasn’t caught up to fully replenish the supply, and as a result, many dealerships today are selling more used cars than new.
This is especially important for dealership service departments who have historically had a difficult time getting used car buyers to return for their first appointment. With the increase in used car sales—and because used cars typically mean more immediate parts and service revenue—the sales to service handoff for used car customers is now critical in retaining and building a long-term customer relationship.
Above and Beyond Dealerships Have a Clear Advantage
If there’s one takeaway, it’s this: service departments who are already positioned as “experts” will continue to have a competitive advantage, even as their value props change amidst COVID.
Those who offer additional programs that ensure high-quality service and extraordinary customer care will continue to be seen as the gold standard. In fact, dealerships who are going above and beyond, particularly with their pickup and delivery options are already seeing smoother workflows as well as increased:
• Customer satisfaction
• Retention rates
• Profits from higher-dollar repair orders
• Technician labor hours sold
To learn more about the things you can do to ensure you’re providing value to your customers, get your full copy of the 2020 Dealership Service Retention Report here.