By Tiffany Peeler, VP of Sales & Operations, Proactive Dealer Solutions
What’s the “squeaky wheel” in your service department? Is it over-worked service advisors and techs? Frustrated customers? A high rate of dropped or missed inbound calls? These are some of the most common concerns that might signal you have significant department deficiencies and need a service department diagnostic tune-up.
You run diagnostics all the time on customer vehicles. Why not your own department? After all, almost half of the average franchise dealership’s gross profit is from its fixed ops department. Yet deficiencies can lead to emergency situations like low CSI scores, staff turnover, and loss of department revenue.
It pays to fine-tune your service processes and experience to work more efficiently, pull-in more customers and realize more revenue. Is it time for your service department to undergo a tune-up and set your team up for long-term success? Use this diagnostic checklist to find out.
1: Your CSI needs improvement. A poor customer experience leads directly to lower CSI. To determine where you’re falling short, start high level and break-down the customer experience step-by-step. Start with appointment setting. Are you missing calls because your service advisors or BDC are overextended? Move on to arrival. Do customers typically wait in long lines to drop off keys? Analyze communications. Does your team call or text with updates when promised? Be a fly on the wall and observe what’s really happening. Only then can you fix problems.
2: You have a high percentage of status update and “broken promise” calls. The number one customer experience issue we see over and over again is poor customer communications. If over 30 percent of your inbound calls are about status updates, you have a problem that is 100 percent affecting CSI and drowning your team in busy work. The first step is to start measuring your calls. Have your receptionist mark down every status and broken promise call for a week. If you don’t have a receptionist, lean on a call management system that leverages artificial intelligence to segment calls. Part of your ironclad process should be that every team member asks customers how they want to communicate, sets a specific time to call or text with updates, and follows-through with that promise.
3: You have a high call-fail rate. A high call fail rate generally suggest that your BDC and/or service advisors are overwhelmed or you’re not staffed properly for busy times. A fail rate below 10 percent is the gold standard. A call management system is the most accurate way to measure your fail rate. Many systems will send real-time email or text messages to department managers so employees can quickly call back. In addition, call tracking can help you staff appropriately. If several BDC agents all take lunch during a heavy-call time, you can stagger schedules to avoid missed calls. If you have an online appointment scheduling tool, don’t overlook the opportunity to enlist a Digital Voice Assistant (DVA) to answer inbound calls. Today’s DVAs communicate in a natural-sounding voice, can make service appointments faster than humans, and can even suggest and appoint vehicle-specific maintenance and recalls. This frees up employees to work with belly-to-belly customers and make more revenue-producing outbound calls.
4: You have a new or struggling BDC. Too often BDC managers and agents are trained only when hired than thrown into the pool to sink or swim. Help your agents swim with continual training that focus on soft skills, including call handling, phone skills, and conversions. Remember your agents are selling time and they need to fill that time. Too often, training dollars are allocated to sales. But, your fixed ops employees need attention to improve as well. Micro-training sessions that take place in real-time right after or before a call are a proven way to ensure best practices become habits that lead to better customer experiences.
5: You have a high defection rate. Selling fewer new vehicles and more off-brand vehicles (due to inventory challenges) means you may see a service slump within the next few years. Start thinking about how to create greater retention with your customers. Discounting prepaid maintenance contracts and focusing F&I efforts on service contracts are solid ways to begin a service relationship. Cleaning up the areas that we’ve already talked about will help optimize fixed ops, generate revenue, and lead the customer to want to buy from you again.
6: Your mid-level management needs more support. Your managers are the key to instill good communication habits and make them stick, but they need ongoing training as well. Especially today when the market has completely changed and employees need guidance on how to explain why service shops are scheduling three weeks or even months out. Management training will help fine-tune processes, create goals, manage KPIs, and develop coaching principles to drive a culture of accountability.
Don’t overlook a service department diagnostic health check. Your service department brings in half of your revenue. It’s smart to protect that money and make it grow with a health check that pinpoints deficiencies. It’s only when you know your challenges that you can bring in the technology and training support you need to deliver the best customer experience and grow customer loyalty.