The 5-Step Process to Make Every Service Touchpoint with Customers Fantastic

Service Department, Customer Experience

Your customers have high expectations – and they’re getting higher. Across the globe, 54 percent of all consumers say they have higher customer service expectations than they did just one year ago. If you can’t meet those expectations, customers will move on to the next dealership.

If that sounds harsh, well, it is. We live in a hyper-competitive business environment where you’re not just competing on product and price, but also on customer service. People want to give their business to dealerships that make it easy to get help, go above and beyond for them, and make them feel valued and appreciated. 

Place these soaring expectations up against current staffing shortages and things get even harsher. The truth is the average dealership service department already doesn’t answer 30 percent of inbound calls. Now with even fewer bodies to answer the phones, those rates are going up. 

At the same time, most service departments are slammed. Lack of new inventory means more people are holding onto older vehicles and/or deciding to fix an older vehicle instead of replacing it as they would have done in the past. Shops running at capacity are more likely to cut corners on customer service. 

What’s the answer? Leverage technology to create best practices that help your staff deliver a great experience at every customer touchpoint. Here’s how.

Making the Appointment

Ensure it’s easy for customers to make an appointment with a multi-channel 24/7 scheduling tool. The tool should include transparent pricing and repair duration estimates, and be integrated with your DMS to access and update customer records. 

Even though online scheduling tools were originally built for customers to self-schedule, what we’re seeing is that customers use the tool for research and then prefer to call the service department to make an appointment. But like I said earlier, up to 30 percent of those callers never speak to a person. They get sent to voicemail, or bounced around extensions, until they hang up in frustration and call the next shop. 

You can stop missing calls by implementing a Digital Voice Assistant (DVA). A DVA does not replace humans. It frees up humans to address revenue-producing tasks that are often neglected because of ringing phones. Tasks include outbound calls to your database, first-maintenance calls, seasonal promotions, and more. 

A DVA integrates with your online scheduling tool and DMS to collect contact information, create a ticket, schedule an appointment, make recommendations for additional service based on customer history, and even set up alternative transportation. I recently worked with a dealer group who implemented a DVA in its 8 stores to handle overflow and after hour calls. In the first month, the DVA generated 840 appointments with a realized revenue value over $530,000!

Arrival at Your Dealership

Your staff should prepare for each day by reviewing appointments and identifying areas of opportunity for every service customer. When a customer arrives, make it easy for them to check-in using a tablet or other software program. Welcome them and let them know what they can expect. This may sound simple, but I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been to a service center where staff are on the phone and/or taking a break outside and no one acknowledges my presence. 

Vehicle Walk-Around

Complete a full health report using a tablet. Use pictures and videos where applicable. Include the customer during the walk-around because it’s a great opportunity to build a relationship and discuss services. 

Word tracks that align with best practices keep your staff on track and build trust. For example, a service advisor can explain the reason for the walk-around by leading with, “I want to do a quick visual inspection to make sure I give your vehicle back to you in the same or better condition than when you brought it to us.” 

Word tracks can also help identify revenue opportunities. A casual “have you thought about trading up?” could lead to a conversation that wouldn’t have happened if your staff hadn’t asked. 

Reviewing & Approving the RO

Pictures and videos will go a long way toward showing customers what needs to be done, so lean on them as much as possible when presenting recommendations. Mitigate concerns about repair bills with word tracks that focus on safety and convenience. 

For example, a customer expresses concern that they don’t have time for all the recommended work. A service advisor can say, “I understand, but I know you want your vehicle to be safe and these repairs are necessary. Would you allow us to make this easier for you and give you a loaner vehicle? We can also drop off your vehicle at your home when the repairs are complete.”

Closing the RO

Give options not obligations when it comes to closing the RO. The percentage of people who want to communicate via text is growing. They’ll appreciate a link to the repair report, the ability to sign and pay digitally, and an electronic receipt. Others will want to speak with your advisor about the details and pay in person. The options need to be there to meet the preferences of individual customers and to create great customer experiences. 

The harsh reality is that today’s customers demand great customer service. And they won’t patiently wait around for you to get your act together. By investing in the right technology and training staff on best practices you can make every customer touchpoint fantastic and earn more ongoing service business. 

This article was featured in Fixed Ops Magizine

Lawson Owen is the founder and CEO at Proactive Dealer Solutions, the largest independent business development consulting firm in North America. Lawson is a thought leader in lead and process management and has been inspiring management teams for over 20 years. He is a regular speaker at conferences and industry meetings for dealers, dealer groups, and manufacturers in the automotive, marine, and power sports industries.

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