Successful dealers are as varied as the automotive brands they represent, but they can all agree on one thing: while the sales department may receive all the attention, it’s fixed ops that pays the bills.
That notion was put to the test during the pandemic – and it passed with flying colors. So what lessons have successful dealers learned from statewide shutdowns? Here are five critical ones to consider.
#1 – Make pickup and delivery your new normal.
Before 2020, pickup and delivery was mainly considered to be the exclusive domain of luxury or near-luxury brands – and almost always limited to sales. The pandemic changed that dynamic. Virtually overnight, innovative dealers realized the benefits of pickup and delivery could be a game changer. In a recent study by Cox Automotive1, nearly three-quarters of consumers (71%), are likely to choose one dealership over another based on the availability of pickup and delivery. If the past is any indicator of future actions, consumers aren’t likely to want to give up that convenience once the pandemic ends.
#2 – Advertise, promote and champion the convenience of online scheduling.
Today’s customers value their time, whether working at an office or from home. They want the online convenience they find in other businesses large and small. Statistics from the same study cited above tell the story: A majority of consumers (58%) said they would be more likely to select a dealership that offers the ability to schedule visits online.
While offering online scheduling is important, so is advertising and promoting it. Give it a prominent place on your websites and all your social media channels. Make sure your customers – both existing and prospective – know that you offer and encourage online scheduling. Then be prepared to deliver on the promise with an online interface that’s easy to navigate and effective.
#3 – Play up your original equipment manufacturer advantages.
This is likely to surprise some people: 77% of consumers in the industry study cited above said they prefer to get manufacturer-recommended maintenance from a dealership rather than someplace else. If you’re not seeing that kind of traffic, ask yourself: where’s the disconnect? Is the culture in your service department customer-focused? There is a paradigm shift occurring in the marketplace where dealerships are now being price competitive (and at times less expensive) than independent shops. Does that describe you? Before you answer, consider this: focusing on your OEM advantages while creating a great service experience is a winning formula.
#4 – Communicate with your customers on their terms.
How do your customers like to communicate with you? If your customer base is typical of most businesses, texting wins the day. In a recent study2, 78% of people surveyed listed text messaging as their preferred communication method. The best dealers know that texting does more than simply communicate issues that need to be addressed. It builds trust, especially when the text is accompanied by a photo or video that helps explain the nature of the repair. Good communications are a huge factor in the overall experience – and customers are vocal about how much their service experience matters. In fact, 94% of customers believe the experience is more important than the repair3. Make sure you give customers a choice on how they communicate with you, and you may be surprised how much that positively impacts your service business.
#5 – Introduce new customers to your service department at delivery.
This last point is actually the first one that you should incorporate into your vehicle sales and service process. That’s because 21% of customers said being introduced to service came into play when deciding where to repair their vehicle4. Plus, more than half (53%) of customers said they decided to get repairs done at a dealership they trust. Making this introduction need not be lengthy or complicated, but it needs to be done. It’s an easy, rapport-building step to implement at delivery, with the potential to deliver significant dividends in your service business.
The pandemic has been a challenge for everyone. The most successful dealers, however, used it to improve their business. The lessons they learned provide an invaluable blueprint for any dealer willing to do what it takes to improve.
For more information on the topics discussed in this article, visit our fixed ops website at http://www.allyfixedops.com, or contact your Ally Account Executive.
Ally Intelligence is built on a century of automotive experience, and powered by the leading digital finance innovator. With penetrating insights into your entire dealership, we help discover revenue opportunities, improve CSI and optimize operations in multiple departments of your store. It’s a platform for success designed to move you aggressively into the future of automotive retail.
1 Cox Automotive Service Counter Study – July 2020
2 U.S. Texting Statistics, https://www.localproject.net/docs/texting-stats/
3 2017-2016 Xtime Market Research Study
4 Cox Automotive 2018 Service Industry Study