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Chris Costner

Chris Costner Account Executive

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Dealers Shouldn't Be Forced

 

I have been running across articles and video over the past month or so that dealers now are “forced” to look at their service drive for vehicles because of the big shortage of used vehicles unable to be found from trade-ins or auctions.  My initial thought is if a dealer had a process in place for working current service customers, they may not be faced with the inventory problems they talk about.

A big concern of mine is that I have also ran across quotes of dealer personnel explaining once vehicles become easier to obtain, their plan is not to put as much effort into working the service drive.  Are you kidding me? A majority of the customers in the service department have already met you, liked you and purchased from you.  I cannot even try to imagine taking the service drive out of the “bag of opportunities” and sure hope other dealers wouldn’t either.  Also for those attached to the sales department that currently do not have a process in place for working the service department, it is time to get one going. 

A well thought out process for service will give you a better chance to recapture the customer or gain a new one.  Also reducing your selling and marketing expense, increasing your sales volume and increasing your preowned inventory. 

Keep in mind that we never want this approach to be overwhelming to any of our customers in service waiting on their vehicle.  One of the easiest ways to keep the relationship warm with those who have purchased from us already is to meet them in the service department whenever they are in.  Even if they purchased just six months ago, how hard is it to walk back and say hello, ask how things are going and even answer a question or two they might have? This will not only make it easier for you when you are ready to remarket on a future service visit but will also make a positive impact regarding loyalty further down the road.  Each “touch point” or “moment of truth” is key throughout the ownership period.

Many CRM systems will show the service appointments scheduled for the following day and the next few steps will require a little effort the night before but are well worth it:

  • Print list of service appointments for the following day and make note of which customers purchased from your dealership and those who haven’t.
  • Make note of which of those customer’s that did purchase from you still have their salesperson working for you.
  • Purchase details from prior purchase are great to have.  Now if they purchased six months ago, working a new deal may not be the best idea.  Seasoned loans or leases can also show if any “cancelable products” are available to help make deal.  (F&I managers don’t worry, you will get another shot at selling more products.)
  • Service appointments without a prior purchase from you should be treated the same as those you plan to present a new or newer vehicle to and work figures.

Now we have all the necessary information for each customer to get the right game plan together.  If the plan is to present a new or newer vehicle to them and work a deal I like to continue with the following the night before:

  • EMAIL (if possible): Explain whom you are and that you understand they will be in for service the following day.  It isn’t bad to note that it is hard to find quality preowned vehicles and that theirs could be worth more than they think.  Continue to explain that rather than waiting in the service lounge for their vehicle work to be completed, you would like to show them a new or newer vehicle of their choice and present no-obligation figures to help pass the time.  Who can argue that?
  • PHONE CALL:  Follow up after the email with a phone call to help reinforce the content sent and to help set the stage for the following day.

I believe this approach is more effective than doing an appraisal when the vehicle comes in and leaving a “we want to buy your vehicle” voucher on the dash for the customer to see when they are leaving. How many of them are going to cancel their next set of plans to spend even more time at the dealership to find out more information?  I would say not many of them.  Or even better, walking up to the customer sitting in service and hitting them up with what I stated above out of nowhere.  Get ready to hear “NO” more than ever I promise.  The biggest reason is that it is very “pitchy” delivered on the fly and nobody took the time to explain ahead of time catching them off guard.  Immediately putting the customer in a defensive frame of mind.  It is about the process, approach and delivery.

As we all know there will exceptions just as in anything else but having a solid process in place and sticking to it will result in better results.  Of course this isn’t the only way and I am sure many dealers out there have some great processes as well.  My reason for sharing is that I believe this variable should not be absent from our everyday business.

Good selling.

Hunter Swift
Chris, this article is right on! I have been telling dealers for a long time that one of the biggest areas of improvement is fixing the disconnect, lack of communication and cohesiveness between the sales and service departments. If I may add: How well is your dealership doing in integrating the two departments at your dealership? Are you marketing to sold customers who have not been in for service? If someone comes to your service drive with high mileage or is out of warranty, do you have a process of notifying someone in the sales department? When one of their sold customers comes in for service, do you notify the salesperson to greet them in the service drive (and ask for referral)? If a salesperson sells a vehicle, are they setting the customer’s first service appointment? Do you send out sold anniversary letters and/or emails reminding the customer of their registration renewal, recommended services, their current trade-in value, and current sales specials? Are you sending to your recently sold customers marketing regarding parts and accessories to customize their new vehicle? Does your sales department market to your service customers who have never purchase a vehicle from your dealership? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you are missing an opportunity to drive more traffic to your sales and service departments.
Chris Costner
Thank you Hunter, I am glad you agree. We do have a great communication between sales and service. Everyone is on the same page of music so to speak and many times we will have service advisors bringing a client to us. One thing I like to stress to service advisers is that don't worry about the RO you just wrote, whether the customer keeps the vehicle or trades it, the work still needs to get done. Also if traded, more than likely it will be more. You have some other great points and ideas Hunter and I too agree if anyone answers with a "no", they are definitely missing opportunities. It doesn't happen overnight but with a clear vision, it becomes part of the dealership culture.
Jim Bell
Good points Chris. I have heard of one dealship actually make a survey on different models and offer a gift card of somesort. The salesman would go to the lounge and ask the customer if they would fill out a survey. It would pertain to a new vehicle and would require a test drive. It would go over the different features and benefits that were upgraded from what they were driving. It was a win win. The customer got a free gift card, they talked to a salesman, and in some cases, sold a car. That's what it is all about.
Chris Costner
Exactly Jim, it is all about selling a car. I have heard of the survey approach in the past but never with a gift card. Great idea. I am not sure anyone could say no to that. As I think more about those stores where there are rarely any customers in the waiting area due to service loaners for any occasion, they would need another type of process and approach. What has anyone else heard or seen with this type of situation?

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