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Tim Clay

Tim Clay Chief Revenue Officer

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Is Your Service Department Invisible?

For car dealerships, when it comes to marketing, the overwhelming majority of messages tend to revolve around sales. The need to push more units, drive more traffic and conquest new customers seems to be the biggest priority for dealers as far as the allocation of marketing dollars.

The market is highly competitive -- dense markets can have three or more same brand dealers within a 30-mile radius – and that puts tremendous stress on dealers to capture as much of that business as possible.

But think about this for a second: For every competitor you have for sales, I guarantee that you probably have 50 for service in that very same radius. And not just franchised dealerships – all of the independents, whether they are large chain repair centers or small garages.

With lower margins, dealerships rely on the service department to keep them in the black.

Sure, service departments will always be busy with warranty and recall work. But what about customer pay maintenance and recommended services? This is the bread and butter and the highest margin repair orders that exists. However, I find that many dealers do little to market the service department outside perhaps offering some service specials, and an occasional direct mail coupon.

A study conducted by Google in 2012 found that repair and maintenance search outpaces search for vehicles and consumers needing vehicle maintenance increasingly use a search engine to find a local repair shop. Information is now easier for customers to obtain with a proliferation of online information and resources. However, if you visit the website of many dealerships, the presence of the service department is almost non-existent.

It would therefore be a wise move to look at every customer visit as an opportunity to start actively marketing your service department. The sad fact is that many customers already have the perception that dealership service costs more. But visit most dealership websites and you’ll find a surprising lack of information, and almost nothing about pricing or service specials.

Whereas, most independents – especially the large chains – publish information on basic, routine services, including price and details on what is performed.

Dealerships have huge advantages over independents when it comes to service: they use factory parts, service is recorded within the manufacturer system in case of any future warranty claims, and most of the technicians are trained and certified to work specifically on the brand’s vehicles. But those value propositions are rarely, if ever, listed on any website. In fact, on the majority of websites, the service department is little more than a schedule service form, hours of operation, and perhaps some expired service coupons.

Consider allocating more marketing dollars into you service departments through all outbound marketing channels including your website, e-mail marketing, social media, PPC and SEM and local listings. And, as customer reviews are now a big part of the decision process for consumers as far as where they chose to do business, train your service department employees to ask for reviews from ALL customers. Post these reviews prominently on your website as well as to Google and other top review sites. And don’t forget to include them in your traditional marketing – television, radio, direct mail, etc.

And let’s not forget that the service department is not only the most profitable area in the dealership in terms of service revenue, but also highly profitable in terms of sales. Think about those customers that loyally bring their vehicle in for service. If they keep servicing at your dealership, they inevitably become the next car buyer for sales.

If your service customers are treated right and enjoy an exceptional experience at your dealership each time they visit, they inevitably tell their friends and family and refer them to you to buy a car and can be your best source of referrals. They are also a great resource for acquiring front-line pre-owned vehicles without competition and provide the customer pay repair orders that your service department loves.

So, step up your service marketing game and try increasing your service presence in all your future marketing .I bet you’ll be surprised to find that extra sales come just a little easier -- all while seeing your service revenue grow.

Tim Clay

Thanks for that great comment. Selling value is absolutely a must!

Roger Conant

Great post, Tim!  Our GM totally recognizes the importance of FixedOpps. Just launched @BeckMastenServ and a full blown Vehicle Exchange Program.  And the exchange program is launching in "service" first! "Sales sells the fist vehicle...service sells "all" the rest!" And our OEM gets it too! After the recession and the ignition recall, GM dramatically saw the value of service...pulled many of their "customer care centers" back to Motown and their CEO Mary Barra visits those centers regularly.  Things are changing...for some!

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