Increasing service traffic is more important and more difficult than ever.

70% of customers who got their car from a dealer did not return for service in the past year, according to Cox Automotive. This creates a huge loss of revenue for the dealership because most of these customers are going somewhere for service.

So how do high-performing dealerships keep steady traffic flowing to their service department?

It involves more than just getting new car buyers to come back to your dealership for maintenance rather than going to aftermarket providers. The best dealerships find ways to increase the overall traffic from past, existing, and new customers.

Increase Total Amount of Traffic (# of Customers)

The obvious way to increase business in your service department is by increasing the number of customers who come to you for service. This traffic can come by investing in relationships with customers at a few different stages.

From Existing Customers

Current customers, not new customers, are the easiest source of increased revenue for your service department. Focus your efforts to encourage people who have purchased their car at your dealership to return to you for service.

It all starts with the first service visit.

While 38% of your new car sales might return for their service visit if the first appointment isn’t set, 57% will return if they do have that first service appointment scheduled. Encourage your sales and service teams to communicate so that you can set that first service visit early. This might mean showing off your service department while the customer waits for their vehicle or paperwork. Or it might mean training your sales team to set the stage for the handoff to your service department.

From Past Customers

Don’t forget to follow up with customers who haven’t returned for service in a while. Just like it’s easy to put off going to the dentist (even though you know it’s important) some customers put off coming back for service. Remind them of the services and amenities you offer and maybe throw in a discount or coupon to incentivize them to return.

From New Customers

There is still a potential for you to acquire customers brand new to your service department. The easiest way to do this? Make sure your dealership is easy to find online and full of the information people search for. Give them easy access to make appointments, learn about your services, and, if possible, see your pricing. Make it clear to these potential customers that you provide high quality service with trained technicians—show them what sets your dealership apart and makes you the best option!

Decrease Delays in Service

While increasing the number of customers who come for service is a significant part of increasing overall traffic, customers who delay maintenance also pose a large threat to your traffic.

Steady service traffic doesn’t just mean bringing people back to your dealership in general. It also means encouraging them to come back on time. Delayed maintenance happens for a variety of reasons, but comes at a large cost to your service revenue.

More time between service visits means a lower number of overall appointments your service department will see annually, resulting in decreased revenue. If you can encourage your customers to return when it’s time for their service (instead of days or weeks later), it will boost your annual maintenance numbers.

Reasons for Delayed Service Visits at a Dealership

How do you accomplish this when people’s schedules fill up quickly and it can be challenging for them to find a convenient time?

  1. Make it easy for your customers to come for service. Some dealerships will offer pickup and drop-off services while others will stay open later on specific days to accommodate for challenging work schedules.
  2. Emphasize the date of service on your reminders. Don’t just remind your customers that they need service—make sure they know the specific date they need to return for their maintenance.
  3. Schedule their next visit after their appointment. Rather than waiting to schedule their next service visit at a later date, encourage your customers to schedule their next visit at the end of their appointment!

Work with your service advisors to make it as easy as possible for customers to come for service on time. Your dealership will reap the rewards in revenue.

Decrease No-Shows

Not only do delays harm your service traffic, but so do the customers who make appointments and don’t show up. Start handling this challenge before it happens by sending reminders via the method that makes the most sense for the customer. For some it might be a phone call and for others a simple email will do the trick.

Don’t stop there.

Think outside the box when it comes to reducing missed appointments.

Doctors’ offices face this same challenge and offer suggestions on how to decrease no-shows. Here are a few:

  • Schedule appointments as soon as possible after a customer calls
  • Reward customers who keep their appointments
  • Keep their wait time to a minimum
  • Allow pre-paid appointments (and discounts to customers who pre-pay)

Beyond these suggestions, Digital Dealer has a few other ideas specific to dealerships, like:

  • Add directions to your dealership in their appointment reminder
  • Follow up with a quick call if a customer schedules a service visit online
  • Send an appointment reminder earlier than a day in advance, followed by a quick note the day of their appointment.

While it’s important to do what you can to remind customers of their appointment, don’t forget to follow up with the people who don’t show up. Have your service advisors call and encourage these customers to schedule another appointment as soon as possible!


The fight to increase traffic to your dealership goes beyond bringing in brand new customers (although that is an important part). It also means creating a great experience for your current customers that keeps them coming back—scheduling appointments when it’s time for maintenance and showing up for service when they’re scheduled. Do the intentional work on your dealership’s part to communicate clearly and use multiple touchpoints to build relationships. The reward is worth it.


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