How to Improve CX in the Service Drive (During and Post COVID-19)

April 24, 2020 John Kehm

The service drive is a critical component of the dealership customer experience in normal times, but it’s become even more important in the current environment.

Right now is the perfect time for auto dealers to assess their service drive and other critical fixed ops processes, tools and culture for what kind of experience they are creating for customers. You may discover opportunities to improve your dealership service drive experience that could continue to serve your customers – and your bottom line. 

In this post, we’ll discuss:

  • How a positive service drive experience drives future sales during and after COVID-19
  • How to identify service-to-sales opportunities
  • How customer respect relates to long-term dealer loyalty

Service Drive Experience Drives Future Auto Sales

Fact: The experience a service-not-sold customer has with your dealership will play a massive role in their eventual decision of whether to purchase their next car from you. With the cost of acquiring a new customer being 5x higher than that of retaining an existing customer, service conquest is both powerful and cost-effective compared to virtually any other form of conquest prospecting. 

Conversely, a bad or unsatisfying dealership service drive experience puts your service customers’ loyalty at risk. Losing a service customer means not only lost service ticket revenues, but also likely their next vehicle purchase. 

According to Cox Automotive research, 74 percent of customers who purchased a vehicle from a dealer and have it serviced there are likely to return as loyalty customers for their next purchase. However, only 35 percent of purchase customers who have their vehicles serviced elsewhere would return to purchase again. Losing service loyalty drops sales loyalty from a virtual sure thing to a long shot.

To retain service-not-sold customers and hopefully convert them into service-to-sales customers, focus on ways your dealership can break down the barriers between you and your customers. Consider these 4 tactical ways of improving the dealership service experience for your customers amid COVID-19 disruptions: 

  • Complimentary vehicle pick-up and delivery
  • At-home maintenance services
  • Video calls with service advisors for initial diagnostics and evaluations 
  • Expanded precautionary measures, such as vehicle disinfection before re-delivery and utilizing disposal seat, floor mat and steering wheel covers 

Prospecting and Personalization: Great CX From the Start 

Service drive sales aren’t stopping in the current environment. In fact, they’re becoming even more important as traditional auto lead generation strategies and showroom visits become more challenging. 

With in-person sales being lower than average due to COVID-19, the service drive has become your dealership’s front door for sales. Meeting and exceeding your customers’ expectations in the service drive starts with knowing what they need from you.

We’ve written before about the importance of having a formal connection between service and sales and the power of having a dedicated salesperson who is using data and analytics insights to identify and engage service customers who are the best candidates for an offer. 

This is someone whose primary role is to contact the best service drive sales prospects with whom you have scheduled dealership service drive appointments and begin a “consultation” process that includes a targeted and personalized sales offer made during their service appointment (or via video or phone). If you haven’t already, this is the time to identify the right person or people on your team to own that role.

Of course, service-to-sales opportunities exist beyond your own customers, as well. Research regularly finds that consumers are unlikely to travel more than 20 miles ​for a car service, and almost three quarters of vehicle ​service visits take place within ​10 miles of a customer’s home. Focus on marketing to your local community with proximity and convenience messages to try and keep their business out of the hands of your competition. 

For guidance on how to effectively increase the number of service drive appointments in the current environment, we created some best practice outreach templates and call scripts to use as a starting point for your own team.

A Little R-E-S-P-E-C-T Goes a Long Way

One of the simplest and most important concepts in a positive dealership customer experience is respect. Research shows that many consumers – and an increasingly large share of younger shoppers – do not feel respected by dealerships. This creates negative experiences, drives down purchase intent and damages loyalty. 

Evaluate whether your dealership’s service drive is showing respect for your customers in large and small ways. Here are some questions for your dealership’s service department to consider:

  • Are you respecting their time? What could you do to get them in and out faster, or to make it so they don’t need to come in at all? If they do come to your dealership, are you giving them options on how to spend their time in a productive or enjoyable manner? When it comes to the old saying that “time is money,” decreasing the amount of time your customers have to spend interacting with your service drive will increase their likely monetary value to you over time through improved loyalty.
  • Are you respecting their vehicle and what it means to them? Are you fixing it quickly and completely? Are you taking extra sanitation and cleaning measures? 

If you’d like more insights on how to improve customer experience in your service drive, see our webinar on maximizing your service drive in the current environment. We are also constantly adding to our collection of actionable COVID-19 resources for dealers to help you adapt, survive and thrive in this challenging environment, and if there are any questions you may have or any way 

If you have any questions, or if there is anything else we can do to help your dealership amid COVID-19 disruptions, please  contact us.

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