Rising interest rates and stagnant incentives point to a slowing new vehicle market through the end of the year. NADA predicts new vehicle sales will decline at least one percent, and probably more. Used car sales are picking up. But not at a velocity to make up for the loss of new vehicle sales. What should a dealer do? Some may need to lean on the parts and service departments.
Parts and service is your bread and butter to pull you through slow times. But how do you get more people into your shop, so your team is turning wrenches and not sitting on toolboxes? Before you shift service hours or hire more techs, take the time to scrutinize your phone system and your service marketing. Opportunity may be at your fingertips if you know where to look.
Fix the Phones
Too many parts and service departments prioritize service over sales. It makes sense that your service advisors focus on the customers in front of them, but this could be costing you customers. Ringing phones that go unanswered or are sent right to voicemail are missed opportunities. The average customer may try to get a hold of you one or two times, but then they give up and call the shop down the street.
1. To see if this is happening in your department, walk the shop during the busiest time of day. Are staff busy in the bays and helping the customers in the drive? Do you hear phones ringing but no one is picking up? If so, here are some methods that can solve the problem:
2. When a customer drops off a vehicle, schedule a specific time to call them with an update rather than telling them vague times like, “after lunch.” Then, call them before the scheduled time. This exceeds expectations, customer satisfaction, and reduces call bottleneck.
3. Use an escalation method for inbound calls. If a call rings to the advisor first, and he or she does not answer, your phone system should be able to have it then ring to the foreman, the service manager, etc.
4. Good call tracking software will identify calls abandoned by the customer. Use this information to call the customer back. Many will appreciate your initiative as they want to do business with you.
5. Designate one person to answer phones during busy times. They should be in the service lane or able to see the service lane either directly or using a camera system. This way, they will not transfer calls blindly to an advisor who is not there or unavailable to take a call.
6. Get rid of cold transfers. Whenever a call is answered, ask for a customer’s name, a phone number (associated with the account), and if the call is to schedule an appointment or talk to an advisor about a vehicle currently being serviced. When transferring, don’t type in the extension and hang up. Instead, own the call. When the advisor picks up, supply the customer information. If the advisor is not ready for the call, transfer the customer to another available associate, or let them know when to expect a call back.
Your Service Advertising
The average dealership spends $10,000 a month on Pay-Per-Click or Search Engine Marketing. Less than one-fifth of that is allocated to promote the service department. This is a huge missed opportunity. Especially considering that fixed ops profits have the potential to cover the cost of all the other departments at your dealership.
Consider increasing your SEM spend on service campaigns. There's not a lot of competition for keywords in the service space, so there is a lot of opportunity. For a clear understanding of which campaigns and keywords are delivering phone calls, appointments, and sales, think about implementing a Dynamic Number Insertion (DNI) solution.
Next generation DNI solutions assign every individual consumer accessing your webpage a unique phone number so you can track the exact online route they took to find your service department. This information allows you to shift money away from campaigns that aren’t producing results to those that are. Some DNI solutions even offer call transcriptions so you can listen to how calls are handled and provide more staff training where needed.
Declining new car sales don’t have to hurt your bottom-line if you focus on bumping up fixed ops revenue. Service customers are out there. Prioritize phone calls and service marketing to bring in more business and your service department will carry you through the slow times.