This article was originally posted to DrivingSales.com

More flexibility and convenience. Pickup and delivery. Spotlight on customer safety and comfort. Increased importance on used car service retention. These are all ways in which fixed ops and car dealer service departments have shifted their value propositions amidst the uncertainty of 2020.

But if we fast forward a year or two, how will fixed ops really look in the “new normal”?

According to Automotive News, nearly 70% of dealers said they were not at all prepared for the changes brought on by COVID-19. Despite the challenges, though, they were quick to respond, as many dealership service departments are now essentially back to pre-pandemic levels of volume and revenue.

Among all the changes and adjustments fixed ops departments have been forced to make, there are a lot of things customers are getting used to when they have their vehicles serviced at the dealership.

Aside from a continued focus on safety and cleanliness (which should go without saying), here are a few things you should do to prepare for the new normal in fixed ops.

 

Go All In With Pickup and Delivery

This is something many fixed ops departments were dabbling in even before the pandemic, and it’s only gained momentum in recent months.

Coming to the customer’s home or workplace to get the vehicle, taking it in for service, and returning when finished has become even more important to customers. Already ranked as the #4 desired amenity in DriveSure’s recent Dealership Service and Retention Report, the accelerated adoption of pickup and delivery by most service departments has made this new level of care and convenience something customers will expect moving forward.

Paragon Honda in NY is averaging more than $500/repair order with pickup and delivery.

Aside from pickup and delivery being a tremendous value-add, it’s proven to be great for business, too. Paragon Honda in Woodside, NY, was one of the trailblazers in offering this service, and they’re currently averaging more than $500 per repair order through pickup and delivery.

 

Optimize Your Website to Include Fixed Ops Specials

If there’s one thing customers have come to expect these days, it’s a seamless online experience. From browsing vehicle inventory to ultimately pulling the trigger on a purchase, it can all be done online now.

But a superior online experience should go beyond just the vehicle purchase and become an integral part of your fixed ops as well. If your website doesn’t already have a “specials” tab, you should definitely consider adding one. Next to a new and used vehicles search, customers are most apt to click the specials link on your site—which should represent all four of your profit centers (new/used vehicles, as well as parts and service).

“Specials” is the second most visited content page users view on a dealer website.

More than just having a specials section on your site that includes parts and service, customers should be able to book their service appointments online as well. Now more than ever, there seems to be a strong desire for this capability, as customers ranked it their #1 preferred amenity in the Dealership Service Retention Report.

Top three amenities customers value the most

 

Offer Remote and Contactless Payment

The demand for remote payment options now exists in pretty much every industry. Order a pizza, pay in advance online. Take your dog to the vet, pay in the parking lot via a link they text you. Pick up your groceries and the delivery clerk processes payment automatically after loading you up.

Contactless payment is the norm these days, and dealer service departments are no exception.

Many fixed ops departments are using integrated payment solutions like Xtime to increase customer retention by transforming the ownership experience for automotive manufacturers and dealership service departments.

Paying for repair orders online or through text without having to wait in line or interact with a cashier both increases customer satisfaction and boosts dealer revenue and profitability. And the ability for a quick iPad “check-in” at the car saves both the techs and the customers an immense amount of time.

It’s these types of technologies and conveniences that put an emphasis on value, convenience, and trust, meeting a strong demand and delivering an exceptional customer experience. No doubt the new normal in fixed ops will be anchored in remote and contactless payment options.

 

Emphasize Digital Communication

As customers get used to more digital interaction, it makes it even more important to keep the lines of digital communication open both when they’re onsite and when they leave the dealership. Communicating via the same channels they interact with friends and family adds a more personal touch that has become not only acceptable from your customers—but expected.

The results of DriveSure’s Dealership Retention Report were loud and clear regarding customers’ preferred method of communication, with 32% saying they preferred text communications between service visits, and 60% want to be communicated with via text during service.

What’s more, 54% of dealer service department customers said they are “likely or very likely” to download a mobile app on their phone for service reminders.

Screenshot of DriveSure's Digital Pass

The moral of the story here is simple: staying in contact with your customers through text and mobile app marketing is a surefire way to cut through the clutter and outpace your competition in the new normal.

Learn More About What Your Customers Expect

Clearly, much of what’s to come for fixed ops will hinge on the ability to fully embrace the digital revolution. The good news is that many dealer service departments where headed this direction already. If you’re among them, keep your foot on the gas. And if you’re still on the fence, it’s not too late to get started and prepare for the new normal!

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s how quickly we can adapt and adjust to continue to exceed evolving customer expectations.

If you’re interested in a more holistic view of what fixed ops customers are looking for in their dealer service experience, download the complete Dealership Service Retention Report here.

The 2020 Dealership Service Retention Report

INSIGHTS FROM NEARLY 2,000 DEALERSHIP CUSTOMERS

Learn why customers choose to return to their dealership for service and why they don’t. Plus, we reveal your biggest opportunities for encouraging customer loyalty.

The 2020 Service Retention Report Is Here!See what nearly 2,000 service customers said about why they return, why they don't, and what dealerships can do about it.