A recent Cox Automotive study revealed a decline in trust towards dealership service, with only 54% of vehicle owners citing “trust” as a reason for returning to the dealership for service in 2023, down from 62% in 2021. This points to a sizable shift in customer loyalty and satisfaction factors 

The study highlights a truth that we’ve been seeing for a while now: dealerships need to take greater measures to build trust and enhance customer satisfaction. We uncovered similar insights in our 2023 Dealership Service Retention Report, where over half of consumers said they might leave their dealership for good after just one bad experience.

To improve trust and keep customers coming back, dealerships need to get everyone aligned and cooperating, from sales to service to parts. By facilitating better communication and teamwork across departments, dealerships can improve customer experience at each step and avoid mistakes that are commonly overlooked. Doing this well can lead to a more consistent and positive experience for customers, ultimately contributing to increased trust and loyalty.

Prepare for the 5 make-or-break moments that can cause service customers to start going elsewhere.

Standardize your customer service process with a playbook

A big game-changer is creating a playbook, but not just any playbook. This one should be made with ideas from everyone, even the quiet technician. Consider getting everyone in a room, having some snacks, and brainstorming together on how to handle customer visits, step by step. Think about things like:

  • Customer greeting: Detailed steps on how to warmly welcome customers as they arrive, including specific phrases to use, how to address any immediate concerns they might have, and making them feel valued from the moment they step into the service area.
  • Service check-in process: Guidelines on how to efficiently check vehicles into service, which could include verifying appointment details, conducting a preliminary vehicle inspection with the customer, and setting clear expectations for the service timeline. Efficiently increasing service lane capacity will also help reduce wait times.
  • Communication standards: Best practices for updating customers about their vehicle’s status, including preferred communication methods, frequency of updates, and how to communicate delays or additional service recommendations in a clear and respectful manner.
  • Service completion and vehicle pickup: Steps to ensure a smooth vehicle pickup process, such as verifying that all work has been completed and the vehicle has been cleaned, reviewing the service performed and any charges, and thanking the customer for their business.
  • Handling customer concerns: Strategies for effectively addressing and resolving any issues or complaints that arise, with a focus on maintaining a positive relationship and ensuring the customer feels heard and valued.
  • Follow-up communication: A plan for reaching out to customers after their service visit to gather feedback, provide additional support if needed, and encourage them to return for future service needs.
  • Employee roles and responsibilities: Clear definitions of each team member’s role in the service process, ensuring that everyone knows their part in delivering outstanding customer service.
  • Training and development: Ongoing training sessions based on the playbook content, ensuring that all staff members are equipped with the knowledge and skills to implement the defined standards and processes.

Once the playbook is ready, the next step is teaching it to the whole team. This isn’t just about following rules; it’s about making sure everyone is on the same page and working together to give customers the best experience. 

This approach doesn’t just patch up trust issues; it shows customers that the whole dealership is working together to serve them better.

Prioritize your customers’ time with a smooth handoff

Making your dealership experience smooth from start to finish is key to keeping customers coming back. What are some of the instances where you could save the customer some time?

  • Streamlined check-ins: Make it quick for customers to drop off their cars for service, such as with a check-in process that starts before the customer even arrives.
  • Coordinated schedules: Align sales and service timings to reduce customer waiting times. If a sale is anticipated to close by noon, have the service team ready for any immediate installation or service.
  • Pre-appointment preparations: Get all paperwork and necessary parts ready before the customer’s appointment, such as having service orders and parts for scheduled maintenance set aside the day before.
  • Sales to service handoff: Educate new car buyers on maintenance importance and schedule their first service. Is the salesperson introducing the customer to a service advisor who schedules their first oil change? Nailing the handoff is essential.
  • Efficient communication: Keep customers updated on their service status to manage expectations around their wait. Send text updates about the car’s service progress and completion time, especially since 68% of dealership customers prefer text updates during service visits.

Provide memorable perks

Offering your customers a memorable perk can significantly impact their loyalty and perception of your dealership. This isn’t about grand gestures or expensive giveaways, but rather about providing something genuinely valuable that shows you have their best interests at heart. A well-thought-out perk can make customers feel appreciated and understood, reinforcing that their satisfaction is your priority.

For example, something as simple as a complimentary vehicle health check during service visits, emergency roadside assistance, or road hazard tire protection all go a long way toward winning over customers. These perks not only enhance the customer experience but also demonstrate your commitment to their safety and convenience.

As with any aspect of customer experience though, if you want to leverage these perks more effectively, they need to be communicated clearly to customers.

Many dealerships who want to create memorable and positive customer experiences are taking advantage of DriveSure’s Renewable Benefits suite. These are designed to complement your customer service strategy by offering a package of free benefits that renew at each service visit, such as road hazard tire protection and emergency roadside assistance. DriveSure trains your staff how to talk about these benefits to customers, so your customers will understand exactly why your dealership is their best option for service.  

Of course, addressing customer trust is no simple fix. If you’d like to learn more about what causes dealership customers to go elsewhere — and how to handle these pivotal moments — check out the DriveSure guide to Avoiding Potholes in the Customer Journey

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