Dude, Where’s My Car?

Customer: “Is my car ready?”answers
Advisor: “Let me check…. I’m not showing that its ready yet, ma’am.”
Customer: “Do you know when it will be?”
Advisor: “I’ll have to check with the technicians. We’ll be sure to call you when it is, however. It should be done by the end of the day.”

Is this a conversation your service advisors or cashiers are having with customers? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to have this conversation instead?

Customer: “Is my car ready?”
Advisor: “Hi Mrs. Smith, the oil change has been completed. The tech saw that the fluids were low in a couple of areas so he went ahead and topped them off. Your car is in the service bay currently getting the tires rotated and balanced. ETA on completion is about 30 minutes. Is there anything else I can answer for you?”

Not only would a customer be impressed, it would probably save your employee from having that same conversation with the same customer 3 hours later. Not to mention the time it would take them to track down and get the information from the various people involved to deliver it to the customer.

In today’s world filled with instant access to order statuses, tracking numbers and information, consumers are now used to getting immediate answers. With all the available technology at our disposal, and with that technology decreasing in price while becoming more powerful than ever, there’s no reason why a dealership can’t implement a similar tracking feature into their operations.

Having a system like this in place not only puts the power of information at your disposal for the purposes of customer service; it makes your operations more efficient. Gone are the days of the service advisor having to track down the tech to find out what’s going on with the customer’s vehicle. The tech doesn’t have to go to the parts counter to request parts for an RO, and the parts counter no longer has to track down the tech to deliver the parts.

Even at the most basic level, a system like this is worth its weight in gold. Of course, MPi takes this philosophy and multiplies it by a hundred but whether you go with a full-featured system like ours, or implement one of your own, the fact remains that customers want information. The more effort it takes to get them that information, the less time that service advisor has to write new ROs or upsell existing ROs on recommended repairs.

Businesses across the world are embracing and integrating technology into their operations to increase both efficiency and customer service. It’s time for your dealership to embrace technology and use it to create a more efficient and customer-friendly operation.

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Using Text Messages In Service Provides Instant ROI

text_messageIn today’s world where everyone is going 120mph, people are more interested in convenience than ever before. Is it because time is so limited in our hectic schedules or is it because we’ve become accustomed to taking the shortest route possible to achieve the same end result?  For example, when cooking dinner, do you take the time to buy, cut and combine all the fresh ingredients to make a colorful, well-put-together salad, or do you grab the pre-packaged bag with all the ingredients provided; tearing it open and dumping the provided contents into a bowl to make that Caesar salad in 30 seconds flat?  My wife who helps keep our busy household of 5 to 7 (depending on who is home for dinner) running smoothly would say it’s an ingenious way to keep things moving forward without missing a beat. 

So how can we apply similar logic in our service departments?  Provide quick information that is timely and isn’t slowing the process down, but in fact is creating opportunity to reach more customers in a manner that suits them.  In an era where technology seems to be everywhere, and can in some cases out number basic services, such as operating plumbing, we should be reaching out to our customers using the methods that appeal to them the most, such as mobile phones and text messaging

As of November 2012, 75% of cell phone owners utilize the text-messaging feature on their cell phones.  In addition, many people prefer sending and receiving text messages as opposed to leaving or listening to voice mails.  With the popularity of text messages, carriers have purposely designed cell phone interfaces to be text reading friendly with quick and simple access to reading those said messages.  It’s faster, more convenient and, in today’s world of “unlimited” calling plans… free.

Integrating text messaging into your service department allows you to communicate instantly with consumers when needed. Whether you want to talk to them about additional repairs, or simply notify them that their vehicle is ready to pick up, it frees up your service counter from having to make and receive numerous phone calls. Many calls that clog up the service department throughout the day could be handled much more efficiently via text.  Because every cell plan is different, it’s important to get the customer’s permission to text message them about their car.  Most customers will appreciate the courtesy request and will permit you to text with them for these types of notifications. 

Another way to leverage service department text messaging is to use it to send service due notifications, appointment reminders and to present coupons and service offers to your existing customers. Many consumers will welcome these types of text messages as long as you don’t go overboard and limit the messages to the types you promised. 

Text messages are a great additional tool for staying in contact with your customers. It’s convenient for both the customer and the dealership. Texting is another way you can effectively market yourself and communicate with your customer, while freeing up your staff to do other things. That, alone, is built in ROI.

Why Service Reviews Equal Revenue

customer-review-sitesToday’s world is full of review sites and social media- the epitome of information at your fingertips.  And because of this, reviews have become that much more important for customer retention and new client business. Search engines are becoming increasingly savvier by routinely displaying reviews (and review sites) very high in search results. Many dealerships are recognizing this and paying more attention to them, thus creating processes to encourage customers to share their experiences when buying a new vehicle.  This feedback is great and can help foster your next sale.

However, why solely focus on just the sales department? Your service department is the life-line to your customers after the sale is completed, from routine maintenance and repairs to aftermarket accessory purchases to the encouragement of buying their next vehicle from your dealership.  Feedback on our service department is equally, if not more important, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

We all know it’s easy for a consumer who has had a negative experience to leave a horrible (or less than flattering) review of your dealership without any help from you.  And, it takes a little more effort to get a happy customer to actually leave you a glowing evaluation.  Does it have to be this hard?  No; by taking the few minutes to engage the customer to ensure they are satisfied, then asking them to share their positive experience, can be that simple.  Most customers who feel they have been well treated and received good value will be more inclined to share their experience, even if the request is suggested by your service team.  For those customers who chose to share a less flattering review, do yourself a favor and reach out and try to turn a less positive review into one more favorable.  People can (and do) change their written opinion if they feel you made an effort to turn a wrong into a right.

Don’t fall into the trap of focusing only on sales reviews, thus neglecting your service appraisals.  Unhappy customers don’t distinguish between the two departments when sharing or reading negative feedback.  In a perfect world, you would never have to deal with negative reviews or be in fear of customers rejecting your business because of an off day.  But in today’s world, where information is shared in real-time and at a moment’s notice, you need to be prepared to take the good with the bad.  Whether it is sales or service, potential customers will certainly see all the shared feedback and will make their buying decisions based off another’s experience.  How you deal with the feedback is what really matters… it can either make you stronger or set up for failure.

Here are a few thoughts on why you should be encouraging your service customers to leave reviews for your dealership and how those reviews can translate into more revenue for your store as a whole.

  1. In most dealerships, the service department produces a large percentage of the dealership’s income. And because of this, I would argue that there are more people using search engines, such as Google, Yahoo!, or Bing, looking for dealerships to service their cars than to buy a new car. Maximize this opportunity to spread the word.
  2. The competitor base is larger for service than sales.   When you factor in competing dealerships, aftermarket car care centers and DIYers you need to grab the attention of your service customers.  When buying a new car, customers have limited options if they are drawn to a specific brand.  For example, if you are a Ford store, even in a dense auto market, you may only have 5-6 real sales competitors.  However, for service your competition can quickly escalate to 50 or a 100 (depending on the marketplace) with all the various service options available.  Make yourself stand out from the pack.
  3. All dealerships strive to turn their sales customers into service customers. Apply this same logic to turning your service customers into sales customers.  The fact remains that many of your service customers, if happy, will consider your dealership first when looking to buy a new car. Capitalize on this.
  4. On any given day, your service department, in reality, is going to be in touch and capturing the attention of more customers waiting for or having service performed on their vehicles than sales.  It’s a numbers game.  Take advantage of this opportunity.  The best marketing is free marketing.  Let you customers sell your business for you.  AND, on the chance that you have a negative situation arise, work hard to turn it around.  Don’t turn a blind eye to any opportunity.

With search engines incorporating more social signals into their algorithms, it will become increasingly important for you to get your customers talking about you. If you don’t already have a process in place to solicit reviews from service customers, start one today.

Final thought… at the end of the day, any customer review is an endorsement that can help you win new business, whether it is service or sales.  Encourage your customers to sell your dealership, as word of mouth is the best form of advertising.  It costs nothing and can empower you to gain a lot.

Why People Are Skeptical Of Great Customer Service and How to Use that To Your Advantage

customer_crosswordIn today’s world, there are many standout companies when it comes to customer service; Zappos and Nordstrom being a couple of examples. These companies focus on providing their customers with world-class service and, because of that, people are willing to pay more while maintaining fierce loyalty. Not only do these companies earn the loyalty of their customers through the service experience, they transform many of them into brand advocates. The reason their customers patronize them and recognize this level of customer service is that it is, unfortunately, not the norm in today’s world.

Zappos and Nordstrom are not in business to lose money. In fact, both companies profit through their reputations of providing great customer service that, in turn, increase their customer base by attracting new customers eager to share in the experience.

The Olive Garden restaurant recently sympathized with a patron whose parent’s house had just burned down and decided to comp the party’s entire meal. The patron posted a photo of the comp’d receipt to the Internet in an effort to thank and show appreciation for the Olive Garden’s good deed. Because people aren’t used to acts of kindness and service from companies, many were skeptical and questioned the receipt as a PR stunt even after the patron posted links to news articles reporting the house fire and the Olive Garden’s PR agency denying their involvement. The photo quickly went viral and has not only spread through social media but has also been picked up by prominent news agencies like Yahoo!, The Huffington Post and the Consumerist.

By providing an exceptional customer service experience; your customers will become loyal and share their experiences with others. Even though people may begin with skepticism, by providing a consistent experience of excellent service, word will spread and customers will not only go out of their way to patronize your dealership but also to encourage others to do so.

Through technology, we’re more capable than ever to provide this experience to our customers in an easier, more efficient manner that will lead to increased revenue, loyalty, customer retention and consistently excellent CSI scores while allowing you to maintain an acceptable profit on your services.

Richard Holland to Speak at the 14th Digital Dealer Conference


Transforming your Service Drive into a Sales Drive

In this presentation Holland will address how to empower the service department with tools that build connections with customers and drive owner retention. Although the obstacles can appear formidable, your service department can flourish in today’s rapidly changing automotive landscape. How auto dealer service departments will remain profitable and viable contributors to the business with fewer units in operation, longer maintenance intervals, and higher vehicle quality is a challenge. The subsequent reduction in vehicle volumes means that every visit, no matter how small, needs to be viewed as a vital opportunity. Many service directors are leveraging technology to be more efficient and profitable.

Technology in the service lane helps dealerships:

  • Turn service customers into new vehicle sales customers
  • Inspect every vehicle thoroughly to boost per-repair-order parts and labor profitability
  • Hone customer-engagement processes to improve customer retention
  • Conquest the service business from customers’ families and friends

New technologies in the service department have helped dealerships:

  • Increase annual service revenues 21% and more
  • Boost revenue per repair order $55 and higher
  •  Double the volume of vehicles inspected
  •  Increase fixed absorption rates 20%and more
  • Sell up to 6 times as many vehicles out of their service drive

The ideas Holland will share are to help your service department create a plan for profitability despite today’s challenges in automotive services and repairs.

Attendees will learn five key actionable points:

1)    How to develop a client retention strategy that builds trust between the dealership and the customer

2)    How to develop processes that turn service customers into new vehicle sales customers

3)    How to create follow up marketing strategies that engage customers who’ve declined recommendations

4)    How to create a personalized service experience utilizing mobile technology

5)    How to identify new opportunities and metrics to use to identify and remedy inefficiencies in service work flow.

Useful Resources:

http://www.mpiworldclass.com/worldclass-solutions/overview.aspx

http://www.mpiworldclass.com/results/testimonials.aspx

http://www.mpiworldclass.com/worldclass-solutions/platform/videos.aspx