Achieving high levels of customer satisfaction at a dealership can be challenging. Today’s consumers have high expectations and demand a seamless and enjoyable experience when purchasing or servicing a vehicle. And unhappy customers are more likely to spread negative word-of-mouth, leading to a decrease in business and overall profitability.  

Higher customer satisfaction helps boost retention, and boosting retention by only 5% can increase your profits by up to 95%. 

So how can you improve the customer satisfaction levels at your dealership? 

The 2020 Dealership Service Retention Report

Insights from Nearly 2,000 Dealership Customers

1. Introduce a hybrid sales + F&I staff model

A Hybrid Sales/F&I Staff Model involves training sales staff to handle both sales and finance and insurance (F&I) responsibilities.  

This can help lift customer satisfaction by reducing the number of handoffs and allowing customers to discuss F&I products at the beginning of the process, rather than being passed from person to person (which happens with the typical sales-to-F&I handoff).  

In fact, a Honda dealership in Anchorage found that implementing a hybrid role led to a 90 percent drop in chargebacks (the money a dealership must repay when customers refinance loans or cancel F&I products). 

2. Adopt customer satisfaction roadmaps or checklists

One way to improve customer satisfaction is to create a customer experience roadmap that focuses on customer satisfaction and care, rather than just sales volume. 

Salespeople can use a checklist to ensure a smooth delivery, with items like showing the customer all key tech features or ensuring the BEV or hybrid vehicles are charged when they leave the lot. These can be VIN-specific lists that change depending on the vehicle.

Have the customer sign off on the list to confirm everything has been covered. Some dealerships use tablets to make this whole process easier. 

3. Improve the waiting experience

Many dealerships have an uncomfortable waiting experience, whether it’s in the showroom or the service department. This can lead to agitated and unhappy customers, lowering their overall satisfaction with the dealership.  

When customers are unhappy with their waiting experience, they may feel frustrated or even resentful towards the dealership, leading to negative word-of-mouth and a decrease in customer loyalty. 

To improve customer satisfaction, dealerships can focus on three main areas: 

A more comfortable waiting experience 

Find ways to make the waiting experience more comfortable, such as offering better entertainment, food and beverages, more comfortable chairs, or other amenities. 

Eliminating the wait 

Another option is to eliminate waiting entirely by offering to pick up or drop off customers when they come in for service. Rideshare is becoming increasingly popular as a dealership amenity as well. 

Better communication and managing expectations 

You can also reduce some of their frustration by communicating expectations as early as possible in the process and being as accurate as possible when telling them how long they can expect to wait.  

Great communication is about building relationships with your customers, beyond the sales relationship. If something changes, explain why and let them know how it affects their wait time. You may need to take steps to right the situation if the wait time is getting unrealistic (such as with a discount). 

Speaking of communication…

5. Improve your communication channels with customers

Great communication is the low hanging fruit of customer satisfaction. Effective communication with customers is key for building long-term relationships and boosting retention at your dealership.  

Here are a few channels to consider improving or adding: 

  • Direct mail: personalized direct mail pieces can remind customers about upcoming service appointments or offer special deals. 
  • Text messages: the majority of customers prefer to receive updates about their service via text message. 
  • Email reminders: sending personalized emails to customers can congratulate them on their new car purchase or provide helpful tips and information, building the relationship beyond promoting services. 
  • Clear website: a well-organized and informative website can make it easy for customers to find information about services, creating a positive experience. 
  • In-person communication: ensure that sales and service teams have clear communication processes in place, including follow-up phone calls and thank you notes. 

Post-sale communication in particular is important, as it’s often overlooked as a moment for improving satisfaction.

6. Improve the post-sale or post-service experience

While upselling is important for revenue, make sure it doesn’t come before providing quality service to customers. After a customer has purchased a car or received service at your dealership, continue to improve the process by providing a positive post-sale or post-service experience.  

Some ways to do this include  

  • Sending a personalized thank you after their purchase  
  • Showing them how to set up an appointment for future services 
  • Scheduling their first service appointment at the time of vehicle delivery 
  • Giving customers a specific contact in your service department 

For post-service, have your service advisors explain the work that was done, why it was necessary, and what they might recommend during the next visit. 

The post-sale and post-service interactions are pivotal retention moments that shouldn’t be treated lightly.

7. Create a customer feedback loop

Creating a customer feedback loop is an important step in continually gathering insights and improving the overall customer experience at your dealership.  

This can be done through surveys or casual conversations with customers, but it’s important to remember to respond and take meaningful action based on the feedback received.  

Without a response or action, the feedback loop fails to be effective. By constantly receiving and responding to customer feedback, your dealership can keep its finger on the pulse of your customer base and make ongoing improvements to the customer experience.

8. Provide unique, value-added incentives 

One of the quickest ways to boost customer satisfaction is by offering new amenities and incentives that show you understand their needs and expectations. A single amenity may not win over hordes of new customers but continuing to offer new and unique benefits can help establish long-term relationships with existing customers and keep them coming back. 

One way to do this is by using a service like DriveSure, which empowers new-car dealerships to provide a suite of renewable benefits with every qualifying service visit. These benefits (like dealer-loyal roadside assistance, and road hazard tire protection) set your dealership apart from the competition and give your customers a compelling reason to return to you more often for service. 

Master These Moments to Keep Your Customers

Discover the 5 critical moments causing customers to abandon your dealership service department, and how you can overcome them.   

Join us for a free online event on July 28th!Battling 5 Dealership Service Defection Points with DriveSure