With the level of competition in the vehicle service business, staying connected with customers is a constant challenge. Traditional communication methods like phone calls and emails are losing their effectiveness, leaving dealerships struggling to maintain strong relationships with their customers.

To better understand consumer preferences, DriveSure conducted the 2023 Dealership Service Retention Report.

We found customers are increasingly busy and prefer quick, convenient updates. They’re juggling multiple responsibilities and don’t have as much time to answer calls or sift through emails. This mismatch in communication preferences can lead to customer dissatisfaction, missed service appointments, and ultimately, a decline in dealership loyalty.

The solution? Embracing text messaging as your primary communication channel with customers.

In our report, we found a significant shift towards texting as the preferred communication method among customers. By adapting to this change, dealerships can meet customers where they are, improve communication efficiency, and enhance customer satisfaction and retention.

Why Texting?

Imagine a busy customer who is always on the go. They’re juggling work, family, and personal commitments, and they don’t have time to take a phone call or sift through a pile of mail.

But a text message? It’s quick, convenient, and accessible. It’s a small ping that fits more easily into their hectic schedule, providing them with the information they need without demanding too much of their time.

  • Unlike phone calls, which can be disruptive, or emails, which can get lost in a crowded inbox, text messages are quick, direct, and less intrusive.
  • They respect the customer’s time, allowing them to read and respond at their leisure.
  • Texts offer real-time communication, ensuring customers receive timely updates.
  • Texting adds a personal touch, fostering a stronger connection between the dealership and the customer.
  • About 98% of text messages are read within 2 minutes, and often within seconds. Meanwhile just 20% of emails get seen within that 2 minute window.

What keeps customers coming back to your dealership in 2023?

Insights from Nearly 1,500 Dealership Customers

The Power of Texting: A Closer Look at the Numbers

In our survey, we asked customers multiple questions about their communication preferences at different points in time.

It should come as no surprise that customers prefer texting DURING service visits — in fact, 68% of respondents prefer text updates during service visits, up from 60% in 2020. Meanwhile, phone calls were only preferred by less than a fifth of respondents (18%).

However, this preference is taking hold elsewhere too. When we asked “Which communication method do you prefer most when receiving updates or information from your dealership BETWEEN SERVICE VISITS?” the results were telling: 

  • Text messaging preferences rose from 32% in 2020 to 40% in 2023.
  • Preference for email dropped from 50% to 43%.
  • Preferences for phone calls (13%), mail (3%), and mobile apps (1%) remained steady.

When we broke down the responses by age, the preference for texting was even more pronounced among younger customers:

  • Participants aged 18-34 vastly preferred texting (56%) over email (24%).
  • Participants aged 35-54 still showed a strong preference for texting (46%) over email (34%).
  • The only group to still prefer email was the “55 and over” crowd, but even this group has seen an 11 percent increase in preference for texting in recent years, now at 35%

The Urgency for Dealerships to Adapt

These findings send a clear message to dealerships: it’s time to adopt a robust strategy for sending text messages to customers.

The good news is that progress is being made. More dealerships are sending texts (up to 75% from 58% in 2020), but even if you’re in that majority you might not be leveraging texting enough, so keep an eye out for moments when your emails or phone calls could have been a text instead.

If you’re in the remaining 25% who haven’t yet adopted texting for consumer communications, you need to start now. With so many dealerships still not using text, you don’t want to be stuck in that group as the number continues to drop, when dealerships with outdated communication methods become increasingly out-of-touch.

Adopting new communication methods is about meeting customers where they are and communicating with them in a way that respects their time and preferences.

Dealership Customer Preferences: What Else is Changing?

Our 2023 Dealership Service Retention Report underscores one of the many trends we’ve been tracking closely since 2020: text messaging is rapidly becoming the communication method of choice for many vehicle owners.

This shift in communication preference presents a unique opportunity for dealerships to connect with their customers in a way that’s both timely and relevant.  

It’s also part of why DriveSure provides services like a Maintenance Marketing System is to simplify this process, enabling streamlined service reminders and customer communication through automated follow-ups across multiple channels.

But beyond these changing communication preferences, the 2023 report gives more insight into the changing preferences of customers, from the amenities they prefer to the reasons they go elsewhere for service.

By downloading our 2023 retention report, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the evolving preferences of your customers. This knowledge can empower your dealership to adapt and thrive in a changing landscape, ensuring you remain the go-to place for your customers’ maintenance, tires, and repair needs.

What keeps customers coming back to your dealership?

Download the 2023 Dealership Service Retention Report to see what dealership service customers have to say.

Join us for a free online event on July 28th!Battling 5 Dealership Service Defection Points with DriveSure