Where Oh Where Did the Service Department Go?

03 Feb Where Oh Where Did the Service Department Go?

By Paul Moran

If you look at the ad spend of most dealerships, it would seem to suggest that the service department isn’t as worthy of marketing as sales. Perhaps an argument could be made that it’s more difficult to acquire a new sales customer than a service customer. I mean, your service department is busy. You have a mixture of customers who bought their vehicle from you and those that didn’t. All is good in the universe, right? If only we could get more people to come in and buy a car!

There’s a glaring fault in this logic. Service departments are the foundation of many dealerships. In fact, without the service department, many would go out of business. So, if the largest revenue center in the dealership is the service department, why not put just as much energy and effort into maintaining and growing it?

It does not have to be difficult to start giving the service department the TLC that it needs and deserves:

Website – When a customer visits your website for service-related information, what do they see? In many cases, it is limited to hours of operations, a service appointment form and perhaps some service coupons or specials. While every other page of your website is directly related to buying a vehicle in some way or another. Most of your revenue, however, exists within your service department. And, don’t forget that the lifetime value of a customer is so weighted on the side of service that it almost makes the sale itself irrelevant. Yes, you may make a couple thousand dollars on a new vehicle sale (if you’re lucky). But, think of the tens of thousands of dollars that customer represents in future service work, referrals and word of mouth advertising –if they are treated well. Yet, many continue to maintain bare bones service presences on their websites.

If you don’t know what type of service-related content should be on your website, simply ask your customers what type of information they would find valuable. They’ll tell you. Perhaps maintenance schedules. Lists of items included in minor and major services would also be of value. How about “how-to” videos, tips or advice? Provide appropriate content to answer basic questions and become a service resource for your customers. Not only will they appreciate it, but you’ll also find that your staff now fields less incoming calls as the customer has found their answers in the rich content you provide on your site.

Communication – The easier you can make it for your customers to contact you, the more likely they will. Most dealerships make it as easy as possible for customers to contact the sales department with chat functionality; texting integrated into CRMs and phones that roll over onto salespeople’s mobile phones. The same cannot always be said for the service department. Oftentimes, dealerships will have a receptionist fielding calls and transferring them to advisors –who may or may not be at their desks. These customers get placed on hold and bounced from advisor to advisor until they give up.

Does your chat software allow customers to contact someone in service? The same idea applies to text functionality. If your CRM has texting abilities, are your service advisors utilizing that technology as a way to communicate service recommendations, appointment reminders and basic messages such as informing a customer that their vehicle is ready?
If you can reach these service customers in a more efficient manner you can decrease your service declines, improve customer CSI and service profitability.

Marketing Support – Take a look at your last four newspaper ads. Go watch your last few television commercials. Look at your social media accounts. Review your last few direct mail pieces. How many are service focused?

Your social media accounts probably have a few sales related posts — but many dealerships neglect to realize that most of their social media audience will be people that bought a vehicle from them already. Don’t you think a more relevant message to that audience would be one coming from service? I’m not saying stop marketing sales messages. Just ensure that you include service messages across all of your marketing channels. This keeps your service department top of mind to anyone who comes across your ad; sees your television commercial; opens that direct mail piece; or visits your Facebook page or Twitter account.

Providing your service department with a constant presence throughout all of your marketing will help remind customers who are due for service. It can also attract new customers that are perhaps new to the area and haven’t landed at a dealership for service yet.

There are many ways to give your service department a boost in exposure without breaking the bank. Include it in existing marketing efforts; establish a healthy presence on the website you already have; and ensure it has access to the same technology your sales department enjoys. By doing this, you’ll find that your customer interactions will increase and be more productive

Analyze the ways you can increase your service department’s exposure and visibility for your customers. It’s easier than you think — and chances are you already have all the tools you need to make it happen.

Paul Moran is President and CEO of Vboost, Inc., the first proactive process to create positive viral marketing in the retail automotive space. He has over 28 years of experience in creating digital marketing programs and introducing dealers to effective technologies. His expertise covers all aspects of traditional, digital and social marketing. He can be reached at paul@vboost.com