Recently, I’ve been asked to audit a few dealers’ fixed operations presence on their websites. They’ve found that their customer engagement hasn’t been performing how they expected, especially for online appointment scheduling. The main trouble they’ve cone into is that their one-line work orders have increased and it’s harder to upsell in the service drive.
If you look at it from the customer’s perspective, though, it’s hard to be surprised at the results. It’s true that customers feel empowered to make decisions when they can book an appointment online, at their convenience, and with transparent pricing, but there’s a deeper issue.
It’s much more difficult to build value in a service online.
All of the dealerships I audited had one main problem: their effective labor rate was decreasing because customers were booking their loss leaders. The online appointments contributed to one-line oil changes, price-shopped tire services, and the like. Very few customers were booking the scheduled maintenance package, going so far as de-selecting items recommended by time and mileage.
Not one of the dealerships recalled a timing belt replacement booked through their website. Same goes for the start of a major powertrain job. And only one dealer specifically recalled selling a full set of tires in an online appointment.
Auto maintenance and repairs don’t have the same appeal as purchasing a vehicle, I think we can all agree on that. It’s money that car owners have to spend that doesn’t have any visible results, which is why it’s easy for people to cut back on vehicle maintenance. It’s perceived as an expense, not a valuable purchase – at least, that’s how it is for most car owners.
As dealerships, employing a website to drive traffic to service and parts is a fundamental component now, and it’s growing even more important. It must be done well to have the same effectiveness as customers calling up to book with a BDC or service advisor. That’s not easy to do, so how do you build value while the customer is online?
Creating service content pages for the website was primarily for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) previously. In today’s market, service pages must do much more than be keyword-heavy. They have to deliver content the customer is going to consume.
A whole library of service pages should be available for the customers, especially while booking their appointment online. Pages such as timing belt replacement, wheel alignments, transmission fluid change, brake fluid flush, and any other services that could be commonly booked for your OEM’s vehicles – there should be a dedicated page for each. And every page should contain:
And for even more engaging content and added value, include a video of this information on the page. If it’s a service advisor or a technician featured in the video, it can become more trustworthy yet.
Serving your customers online properly includes answering questions as they come up. When will your online appointment-bookers most often wonder why a wheel alignment is recommended? It’s while they’re booking the appointment.
If it’s at all possible with your online appointment scheduling system, link to the related service page in the service description. When the customer wonders, “Why would I need that?”, the answer is only a click away.
If linking in the appointment scheduler isn’t possible, add a list of services above or below the scheduler for reference. While not ideal, it could still help.
If customers can see the value in specific services while they’re booking the appointment, they’re much less likely to un-check that box. It’s another step in transparency and trust-building, and certainly can’t hurt the customer experience online.