Our work with thousands of dealership service departments over the years has made it clear there are some things, when executed well, that keep your customers coming back. Sometimes, this simply comes down to not driving them away in the first place — a poor service scheduling experience is a big culprit in that area.

A smooth service scheduling process isn’t just about convenience; it’s a critical part of keeping your customers loyal. As we found in our 2023 Dealership Service Retention Report, 32% of consumers said “limited availability for service appointments” might drive them to go elsewhere for service. That’s almost as big a factor as pricing, which highlights just how important proper scheduling is.

Expanding service lane capacity is a great start to address the costs of an overly busy service lane, but capacity is just the tip of the iceberg. What else should you take a look at if you want to improve your service scheduling process at every customer touchpoint? How do you make sure a customer books with you when booking is most convenient for them, so they don’t go elsewhere?

Uncover your biggest opportunities to retain more service customers.

Reviewing your service scheduling process

Ask every customer to book their next appointment before they leave

Why not make life easier for your customers by helping them book their next service before they even leave your dealership? Our report suggests that at least 10% of customers would prefer this proactive approach, yet many are never even asked.

For instance, saying something like “I see you prefer coming in on Mondays. Let’s book your next service for six months from now on a Monday so it’s all set, and you won’t have to worry about it.” This not only secures a future visit but also tailors the service experience to each customer’s personal schedule.

Make sure each employee is on the same page, every time

Have your cashiers get in on the action too. They can play a critical role by confirming appointments as customers check out. For example, they could ask, “Did John set up your next service appointment?” This step isn’t just about double-checking; it’s a chance to catch any issues a customer might have had during their visit that would make them hesitate to return.

Set goals and track performance

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Set clear, quantifiable goals for how many service appointments should be scheduled. This provides something concrete to strive towards and allows you to track progress over time.

Implement a tracking system

Finally, ensure you have a good system in place to monitor these practices. It’s not enough to hope that appointments get scheduled; make it a key part of your service culture. Track things like, “Out of the 50 repair orders we closed yesterday, how many resulted in a scheduled next service?” Keeping an eye on these metrics ensures that booking future appointments becomes second nature to your team.

Reviewing your time management in the service lane

Check service turnaround time and capacity utilization

See how long it takes to complete services and how effectively you’re using your available resources. Analyzing turnaround times and capacity utilization helps you identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies in your service workflow. Starting with a good sense of this data is key for making adjustments that can lead to faster service times and better resource management.

Check your consistency with time estimates

The scheduling experience isn’t just about when service starts, but when it’s completed, so make sure that service times promised to customers are consistently met. Failing to complete services within the agreed-upon time can damage trust and customer satisfaction. Regularly review your team’s performance in this area and address any inconsistency between estimated and actual service times.

Reviewing your maintenance reminder stickers

Nearly half of dealership customers use the windshield reminder sticker to know when it’s time for service. To simplify scheduling, include a QR code for easy digital booking or a direct phone number for scheduling. This makes it easy for customers to plan their next visit.

Add contact details for your preferred roadside assistance right on the sticker, providing extra value and peace of mind for your customers.

Reviewing your roadside assistance communications

Make it easy for roadside assistance customers to reach the right help and quickly get service. For instance, customers should have quick access to your preferred roadside assistance provider. That means more than just sticking a number in the glove box—it should be easily accessible, like a saved number in their phone or a handy QR code they can scan.

Stay connected with your customers, too. Whenever a customer uses roadside assistance, especially for something like a tire change, don’t just wait to hear from them. Reach out proactively to check if they need a loaner car or to schedule a repair or replacement. This not only helps them out of a tight spot but also reinforces that your dealership is there for them when they need it most.

Collect customer feedback on scheduling

Gathering feedback directly from your customers about the scheduling process gives you invaluable insights into what’s working and what isn’t. This can highlight areas for improvement and show you how your booking system stands up from a user’s perspective.

Implementing regular surveys or a feedback form at the end of each service visit can help you collect this data systematically and build a feedback loop to continually improve customer experience.

A closer look at auditing service retention

If you’ve found this guide useful, be sure to download the Service Retention Success Audit Checklist. This checklist will guide you through key areas of your service process and product offerings, helping you identify opportunities to strengthen customer relationships, improve service quality, and increase customer loyalty.

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Explore what it takes to maximize service retention and discover your biggest opportunities with our comprehensive checklist.

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