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Jason Unrau

Jason Unrau Freelance Contributor

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Internet Scheduling is Increasingly Popular, But Are You Doing It Right?

Like all industries, customers are heading online more often for automotive service. The 2019 J.D. Power Customer Service Index Study shows a 40 percent increase in online appointment scheduling since 2015, and that pace is increasing. Whether you’re a service manager, BDC staff, or general manager, you know how important it is to offer internet scheduling for a service department… but are you doing it right?

Most dealerships have gaping holes in their service appointment scheduler online.

I’ve had the opportunity to check out dozens of internet appointment schedulers for franchised dealers. Typically, they fall into two camps: over-simplified and overly confusing. There are very few that actually guide a customer to booking their service visit accurately.

Why Accurate Appointments Matter

An online appointment gets customers through the door where a service advisor can properly advise about the visit, so why does accuracy matter online? It’s really simple: Valuing the customer’s time. If your service appointment scheduler is designed as a lead generator rather than a tool to empower customers to book their appointment, it’s failing. The main reason that a customer is booking an appointment online is for convenience, so the experience must continue that way.

Picture booking your service appointment online for an oil change and tire rotation. Then, when you’re in the service drive, the service advisor informs you that your car is due for timing belt replacement, coolant flush, valve adjustment, or some other time-consuming service. Your visit has gone from under an hour to a whole day unexpectedly. Speaking from experience, it’s aggravating and a reason customers choose to avoid dealership service departments altogether.

What’s Wrong with Simple Schedulers

Your basic appointment scheduler offers a list of selectable services – tire rotation, oil change, wheel balancing, coolant flush, alignment, and a few other services. Once the customer ticks off the checkboxes and submits the appointment details, they have an idea in mind of what their service visit looks like.

That idea might be totally wrong.

These basic appointment schedulers miss an invaluable aspect – the manufacturer’s required and recommended maintenance. That authoritative stance informs customers what the manufacturer suggests they need based on their service interval – no more and no less.

The Complex Appointment Scheduler Isn’t Any Better

Unfortunately, many complex scheduling systems are difficult to navigate. And while they offer a more comprehensive listing of services based on mileage and time, they confuse customers. What should I choose – normal or severe service? Do I really need my brake fluid changed? What’s included in the A service?

Complex appointment schedulers often command a ‘safe’ response from the customer, which is the least they can do for their interval.  

What a Good Appointment Scheduler Looks Like

I get it. Some of the appointment schedulers are on manufacturer-designed dealer websites and you don’t have much choice. The best systems, though, offer interval-based appointment suggestions as well as customizable service requests. Remember, you want to make it easy and convenient for the customer to book an appointment with you, not irritate them with hard-to-navigate processes.

What You Can Do

Whether or not you can change your appointment scheduler, there are a couple of things you can implement that will boost your customers’ confidence when booking online.

Add Service Descriptions

What’s included in an oil change? How often is a tire rotation recommended? What does a wheel alignment do? Why does engine coolant need to be changed? Your average customer doesn’t know the ins and outs of auto service. Reduce their skepticism by linking your services in your appointment scheduler to service description pages or popups. Companies like Fixed Ops Digital do a fantastic job of this.

Call Every Appointment

Whether the customer has accurately booked their appointment based on their interval or not, you should be calling to confirm every appointment. First, it confirms that you’ve received their appointment and it’s booked in the DMS. Second, it gives you an opportunity to review any services that are due so the customer can book their day accordingly. And third, it puts a face to the dealership which establishes trust before that customer ever sets foot in the door.

 

Online appointments are growing in popularity. Make sure your dealership is doing it right to prevent pushing your customers to the aftermarket service providers.

Chris K Leslie

Where would you put Xtime as a service scheduler? 

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