3 Tips for Service Appointments

Service Department, Scheduling, Service Bookings

It’s no surprise that appointment cancellations and no-shows can affect your service revenue, especially for stores booked out several days or even weeks. Service departments sell time. An open time slot is a missed opportunity to monetize that time. How can you recapture it and sell it? Here are three tips for handling and rescheduling no-show appointments, rebookings and last minute cancellations. 

Combat no-shows with solid appointment times. 

No-shows are commonly a consequence of ambiguous language from the service representative to the customer. Consider the employee who tells a customer, “We have open appointments at 8, 8:30, 9, 9:30, and 10. When would you like to come in?” It may sound like the employee is being accommodating, but what the customer is hearing is that your shop is wide open. In the customer’s mind he or she can come by anytime because your drive is not busy. 

Instead, instruct employees to ask customers when they’d like to come in and go from there. Employees should offer only one alternate time if the customer’s first choice is unavailable. If that time does not work, continue offering one alternate slot at a time. 

The next step, and I can’t stress this is enough, is to send a confirmation. And do it through text. Everyone has a mobile device these days – they’re practically Velcroed to our hands. Texting is the best tool you have because people read them. Studies show that 95 percent of texts will be read within three minutes of being sent, with the average response time being a mere 90 seconds. Ask the customer if you may text them a confirmation during scheduling. 

A quality text confirmation should include the name of your store, the day and time of the appointment, a link to Google maps with directions, and a request to respond back with a “C” for confirmed or “R” to reschedule. Send the first text immediately after scheduling and a reminder text the day before the appointment. Compliance with texting is important, but as long as you are not sending marketing or sales information you can text without implicit customer consent. 

Implementing a Digital Voice Assistant (DVA) is an ironclad way to ensure customers receive confirmation and reminder texts. Once an appointment is booked, the DVA will automatically follow your preferred process for texting follow-up. 

Capture rebookings with a prepared process. 

Cancellations happen. We all have busy lives. When a customer calls to cancel it’s important to immediately rebook that appointment. Don’t let the customer hang up without trying to save the service.
An effective message is to have employees state (in a pleasant way) that the service still needs to be done as the vehicle will not fix itself. Then they should offer up two alternative days and times. 

From a customer experience standpoint, employees should never ask the customer again what services need to be done. That information is easily accessible. Employees can access and read the confirmed services to assure the customer everything is ready when they come in. Asking again will only frustrate the customer and erode his or her confidence in your shop. 

If you’re using a DVA or chat bot to schedule and confirm services make sure the technology is deeply integrated with your online scheduling tool and DMS. This allows for seamless information retrieval and a fast and easy rebooking. 

Fill last minute cancelled time slots using your scheduling tool. 

Last-minute cancellations are sometimes a necessary evil. I did it to my kids’ dentist recently. They both had fevers on the scheduled day so I had to call an hour before the appointment and move it around. So, how do you rescue that time? 

The first step is to look at your scheduling tool and see if you can move up another customer’s appointment. It’s important to find a customer who wants a similar situation (for example, the customer will wait for an oil change and not ask for a loaner car, same as the scenario with the cancelled appointment). 

A great point to remember is that many shops don’t allow for same-day or next-day service. In this case, employees may never look at what’s happening that same day or the next day to find a customer to pull up. They know they’re booked two weeks out, so why look at earlier dates? They need to get in the habit of treating a cancellation as an opportunity to look at what’s happening in the immediate future to fill the cancelled spot. A DVA will do this automatically. If a DVA can do it, you can teach your people to do it. 

Your service revenue depends on a full shop. Recapture and sell open time slots with solid appointment times, a prepared process for rebookings, and a strategy to fill last minute cancellations. Use these three tips to ensure a bay never sits empty.    

Tiffany Peeler is the VP of Sales & Operations for Proactive Dealer Solutions. Tiffany joined the Account Management team in 2014 and quickly became recognized for driving growth and retention with her expertise in developing and delivering effective coaching solutions. Today, Tiffany leads the sales and fulfillment teams with a laser focus on delivering industry-leading solutions to improve upon the customer experience and radically improving dealership profitability for over 1,200 North American dealerships.


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