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Jason Unrau

Jason Unrau Freelance Contributor

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Can Your Service Department Go Mobile?

We know that a dealership’s fixed operations departments are the profit center. New and used vehicle sales can fluctuate wildly but vehicle servicing and parts sales are relatively constant. But we also know that service departments could be better.

The Service Industry Study by Cox Automotive last year 70 percent of vehicle owners who purchase from a dealer DID NOT visit the dealership’s service department in the past 12 months. Those cars still need service and repairs, don’t they? It’s telling when 7 out of 10 take their cars somewhere other than the selling dealer for upkeep.

And one of the top reasons for choosing someone other than the selling dealer shouldn’t come as a surprise: the dealership isn’t the most convenient place to service their car.

You Can’t Move the Bricks and Mortar

Obviously, if a customer lives and works outside of your neighborhood, it’s not possible to make travelling to your store more convenient for them. You can’t uproot the service department and move closer to them. It’s realistically only 20 percent of the clientele that fit into this box, though, so why don’t the other 80 percent find your store convenient?

Service departments have used shuttle drivers and loaner cars for decades to make it easier to bring a car in for service. Sadly, even these valuable services aren’t appealing to everyone – they can actually draw out the visit. The customer still needs to bring their car into the service drive then return later on to pick it up. It satisfies many, but there are still those who can’t take the time necessary for a dealership visit when there’s a quick lube shop on the corner.

Can You Bring the Service Department to the Customer?

Manufacturers including Ford and Toyota have been piloting programs to service vehicles through mobile technician programs. It may be just basic services like oil changes and tire rotations or repairs. BMW has taken an opportunity catch up on outstanding recalls with mobile technicians. YourMechanic has been doing mobile repairs since 2012.

Can your dealership go mobile?

There can be plenty to consider when starting out with mobile technicians. Who will go on the road? What types of service and repairs can your store perform on site for the customer? How will you deal with payments, a service vehicle, the tools, parts, fluids, lifting equipment? And who will write the RO or add lines remotely?

There are certainly challenges to overcome for mobile service techs. But consider that after buying a vehicle, you can expect more than two thirds of your customers to disappear after three years. If your store isn’t servicing them, who is? That’s lost service revenue.

But even more than service revenue, your losing a source for vehicle sales. If your dealership doesn’t find a way to service the customer’s car conveniently, your chances of selling them their next vehicle are slashed from 74 percent to 35 percent. They won’t buy their next vehicle at your store, and you’ll lose them as a source of referrals and valuable reviews.

Mobile servicing isn’t for every dealership. But if there’s a possibility that it can work for your store with just one technician on the road, it’s worth exploring. Perform a cost analysis to determine if it’s either a  break-even proposition or a money-maker. If it is, you’ll be giving your customers a reason to continue being loyal.

Marie Nies

Sounds like a good idea. 

Bryant Gibby

Jason, do you know any stores that have successfully implemented this? It sounds like a great idea conceptually but seems like a beast to pull off. Aside from the staffing and logistical concerns, it seems like it might be harder to upsell the customer during the service due to time/equipment limitations.

Any stats would be great. I wonder if tech efficiency and hours per RO are both greatly affected?

Jason Unrau

Bryant, I haven't heard firsthand of dealers who have successfully done it, but that it has been done. What I have seen myself is that it works for industrial applications. It wouldn't be ideal for vehicles that need repairs - those would need to be rebooked in the dealership. It would function best as an express service bay alternative, I think.

Another thing that piqued my interest since writing this: I saw a local government body (Department of Highways) with a mobile lift for inspecting vehicles roadside. If a dealer got their hands on that...

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