In a world focused on customer experiences, dealerships must offer above-and-beyond service that keeps customers coming back.
It’s about making customers feel like a valued and significant part of your business—which will ultimately lead to great rewards for your dealership down the road.
As you look to create the best dealership experience, think about a customer’s journey through the service department and the ways that you can “wow” them at each stage.
1. After a customer purchases a new car
This is a new customer’s first potential interaction with your service department and can easily be a great experience or a missed opportunity. Set the stage for them to return in the future by creating a handoff from your sales to service team. Then make it official by giving them a tour of your service department.
Other ways to create a great experience at this stage are to:
- Send a personalized thank you after their purchase
- Show them how to set up an appointment, or better yet, schedule the first service appointment at the time of vehicle delivery
- Give them a specific contact in your service department
2. When it’s time for service
Next up, that moment when they are preparing for their all-important first service visit. It’s not enough to assume that customers will drive back to your dealership when they need service. Keep your dealership top-of-mind by being the one to remind them that it’s time for service.
Good communication is key.
Have their service contact give them a quick call to remind them that it’s time to come in for a visit. Or send them an email, text message, or postcard to let them know.
Once they know it’s time for service, make it easy for them to choose your dealership. Make sure your website includes a wealth of information about the services that you offer and, if possible, your prices. Price transparency establishes your credibility with current and potential customers.
81% of customers say it’s critically important to find the prices of service and repair on a dealership’s website when they’re shopping around.
Online scheduling is also a frequent customer request. Again, make it easy for them to choose your dealership and eliminate any friction in the process. If it seems like a challenge to schedule an appointment, they might look elsewhere.
3. When they come in for service
First impressions make all the difference when creating a positive feel for your customers. What or who do your customers see when they walk in the door? Are they greeted with a smile and made to feel welcome from the start?
Beyond the introduction, always look for memorable ways you can add a personal touch. For example, track past interactions with the customer that you can reference on their next visit. If there are small things that you can do to make their day or provide a better dealership experience, you’re on the road to creating a customer for life.
4. While customers wait
Make the wait as pleasant as possible for your customers. Most dealership waiting areas have comfortable chairs, entertainment, and snacks to keep service customers occupied. Think outside the box—what could make their experience better? Or better yet, ask them! What do they expect while they wait for their service?
Or eliminate the wait completely. For some dealerships this might mean picking up customers’ car or dropping them off after they come in for service. Work with what you have to make this waiting period as enjoyable as possible for your customers.
But while you do your best to deck out your waiting room, none if that matters if your customers don’t feel like they’re kept in the loop as they wait. Throughout their appointment, let them know the timeline for their maintenance and communicate clearly if there are any bumps in the road. The most comfortable waiting room won’t keep customers happy if there is miscommunication or no updates during their service. Make this communication an expectation and a priority for your service team.
5. After service
“Wow” your customers at this stage by walking them through the services performed and showing your commitment to them, not to a potential upsell. Have your service advisors explain the work that was done, why it was necessary, and what they might recommend during the next visit.
While upselling can be an important component of service department revenue, make sure that doesn’t come before providing the best service for your customers. Ongoing relationships have long-term value you don’t want to miss by pressuring your customers to make additional repairs.
Before they leave, ask them to respond to a customer survey and reassure them that your team listens and changes based on their feedback. Remember to be genuine and use their feedback to continually improve the dealership experience.
Bonus: The fun amenities!
Don’t jump straight to this part! If you don’t create a good customer experience throughout their journey in your service department, these additions won’t ultimately bring you success.
These dealership amenities pale in comparison to truly caring about your customers. Start there and build your way up.
Once you’ve laid that foundation, you can follow the example of the dealerships who are going above and beyond to create an experience customers love.
“It’s an environment you almost look forward to coming to, rather than feeling like, ‘Gosh, I’ve got to take my car in for service,'” – Craig Whetter, executive vice president of the David Wilson Automotive Group
These dealerships are investing in their service customers by creating departments that have:
- Barber shops
- Grand pianos
- Cafes & bistros
- Nail salons and spa services
- Espresso bars
- WiFi access
- Expanded hours and shifts
- Play areas
- Video game arcades
As you look to create a service experience that goes above and beyond, think through every interaction a customer (current or potential) has with your dealership. Remember, all the flashy amenities are only a bonus! The ultimate key to becoming the best place for car service is caring about your customers, backed by good communication. Everything else is icing on the cake.
The Sales-to-Service Handoff Checklist for Creating Lifelong Customers
Unlock the secrets of mastering the all-important sales-to-service handoff and watch your customers come back again and again.