Recently, I posted that dealerships should focus their marketing on the fixed operations department. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, service departments have been the only constant business a dealership could count on, and even that was at a reduced workflow typically. Looking forward to the next three months to a year, putting the service department to the forefront of business is paramount. That’s because service was, is, and will continue to be the linchpin to a dealer’s ability to thrive.
All too often, the service department is still thought of as a standalone department with their own customers – that is, unless a salesperson wants to trade up one of their customers that’s in for a service appointment. But what is so quickly forgotten is that virtually every vehicle that comes to the dealership goes through the service department. New cars come off the delivery trucks before getting prepped for the lot. Trade-ins need to be inspected for accurate valuations. Used cars have to be reconditioned prior to showing.
Service managers, you know this. It’s your chosen career to take care of all these vehicles and customers. And in the pandemic recovery, you’re about to be leaned on – heavy.
For stores that stopped shipment on new car drops, there will be a mad scramble to re-up the inventory levels. It has to be at a feverish pace because sales did not suffer as bad as it was forecasted. For the service department, that means you’re going to be counted on to get them ready for sale.
Pre-delivery inspection, new vehicle prep – whatever you call it, the new car department is looking to you to have their inventory ready for sale. How quickly will depend on the store’s inventory level. If there’s a shortage on the ground, you may need to find a way to get PDI’s done within one to three days of arrival.
Any trade-ins that are going to be kept for inventory and any cars purchased from auction should be reconditioned and certified before hitting the used car lot. It doesn’t have a good look when a used car lot has holes plugged with vehicles that need a bunch of work. Since reconditioning used cars can be a process that takes anywhere between hours and weeks, an initial inspection should commence within the first three to five days from arrival.
This might be your practice already, and it’s even more critical is the used car lot is half-empty. Pre-owned demand could soon be much higher as consumers lean away from shared mobility on safety concerns. Keep the low-cost units as trim as possible so there’s still profit left for the used car department.
Through it all, the usual service department customer volume is going to ratchet up to normal – perhaps a little more than before since people haven’t been servicing their cars as much in recent weeks. The reasons why client satisfaction is so important remains the same as always: these will be the customers you’re trying to retain so they’ll buy their next car from your store also.
Stay on top of the service customer workflow. Ensure constant communication and if your store is heavy with sales work, make sure you provide realistic completion times for your customers.