Amid ongoing inventory shortages throughout the auto industry, it’s easy to understand why dealers are looking for new ways to continuously generate revenue, especially as these shortages are expected to continue into at least late 2023 — and possibly even early 2024. Meanwhile, rising interest rates and high prices are pushing lower credit buyers and younger buyers out of market, according to S&P Global Mobility.
With both new and used vehicles being harder to come by and more customers waiting to purchase their next vehicle, many auto dealers are looking to their service drive to achieve sustainable success in 2023. For proactive auto dealers, the dealership service department plays two critical roles:
- Revenue: When the dealership's available inventory falls short of the sales manager's expectations, revenue from service drive tickets and other fixed operations functions serves as a vital source to sustain operations. Additionally, the service lane plays a crucial role in capturing service-not-sold prospects and actively fostering customer retention.
- Pre-Owned Inventory: As auction prices remain historically high, the service drive presents an opportunity for dealerships to acquire a consistent stream of top-notch, pre-owned vehicles. This helps dealers maintain a high-quality inventory while navigating the challenging pricing dynamics of auctions.
How Can Dealers Drive More Traffic to the Service Department?
Enabling dealers to stay in consistent contact with buyers between purchases, the service drive presents a unique opportunity to dealers to support both their loyalty and conquest efforts.
But to bring more traffic to the dealership service drive to attract new customers and retain loyal buyers, dealers need to adopt data-driven dealership marketing support through strategies for their service drive, including:
- Crafting a strategy to work the service drive based on the dealership’s needs
- Targeting the best potential customers with predictive marketing
- Focusing on customer experience in the service drive
- Accurately measuring service drive success
1) Craft a Plan Fit for Your Dealership
Every dealership of every size and location is going to work differently, no matter how much overlap there may be among competition. In order to find success, you must build a service conquest strategy that works specifically for you by addressing some specific questions.
Dealers should define their process and look for areas of improvement by asking questions such as:
- How many service ROs are you doing per month?
- How many people are needed to support selling in the service drive?
- What is your current market share?
These findings will ultimately help dictate your service-to-sales process, including setting the stage for creating appropriate goals and objectives. While this plan will differ from dealership to dealership, success in the service drive will almost always come down to a few factors:
- Knowing your service customers’ history and buying motivations
- Presenting the right offer, at the right time, in the right way
- Having the right people – and the right technology – in place to make this process consistent and efficient
2) Predictive Marketing for Service Success
As inventory challenges linger on, dealerships of all sizes should focus on long-term solutions, as well as capitalizing on low-hanging fruit, when it comes to marketing the service drive
Today, the challenge for marketers is no longer getting data on prospects. Instead, the challenge is there’s so much data available that it’s long past the ability of any human to absorb, digest and make informed decisions. That’s where analysis-based marketing comes into play, powered by AI-based analytics tools that can digest massive amounts of data.
These tools identify patterns and traits that would be indistinguishable by humans and ultimately deliver actionable projections and suggestions. For instance, Mastermind’s predictive marketing dealership solutions are powered in part by S&P Global Mobility demographic data from:
- 197 million households
- 3 billion ownership records
- More than 650 million vehicle records
When it comes time to identify the best prospects for service department offers, your team isn’t opening the database of 197 million owners, or even 2-3 million owners in a metro area. Rather, your dealership is being presented with a ranked list of the prospects within your service radius who are most likely to be open to that specific offer.
Presented as a simple 0-100 ranking, Mastermind’s Behavior Prediction Score® distills data from a dealership’s CRM, CDP and DMS, as well as insights from S&P Global Mobility and a variety of other public and proprietary data sets that have information relevant to automotive consumer behavior.
When leveraged by a member of your BDC or dedicated service-to-sales team, these tools allow dealerships to automatically identify owners who fit into any number of categories. These prospects will be primed for engagement, from customers who are approaching major service milestones to those driving well-cared-for, in-demand pre-owned models.
3-Step Guide to Fueling the Service Drive in 2022
3) Focus on customer experience in the service drive
Aside from ensuring your team is doing service walks and introducing service writers to potential buyers, the best way to fuel your service-to-sales marketing is to sell the meaning of service. This method is preferred over making the common mistake of trying to sell its features as a whole.
Yes, you need to share what your service drive will do for your customers’ vehicles; but, more importantly, you need to make them want the benefits of those services.
In marketing terms, that’s known as “Features-Benefits-Meaning” or “Features-Benefits-Value” marketing. While it might seem like an unusual way to think about your dealership’s marketing, it’s something you can do very easily by asking yourself why a customer should care about what you’re offering, then leading with that best foot forward.
It’s also important to keep it simple. Research from the Corporate Executive Board shows that in the crowded, information-dense environment in which we live, consumers value dealership marketing support that is simple and easy to understand.
Here’s a quick example of how to market your dealership’s service department:
● Features: What are the facts about the service you’re selling?
Your service drive offers free 25-point inspections for all vehicles more than five years old.
● Benefits: What does this service do?
Your inspection will identify needed repairs, flag potential issues and present the owner with an easy-to-understand report on existing issues and maintenance plans for upcoming service needs.
● Meaning: What does this mean to the customer?
They’re protecting their investment, can make their car last longer and can drive with peace of mind.
In this example, many dealers would lead with “Free 25-point inspection” as the headline on the mailer or advertisement in a feature-first model. Consider how much more powerful a mailer would be that included personalized messaging to connect with a headline along the lines of, “FREE: Peace of mind to keep your 2018 Ford Explorer on the road for years to come.”
4) Continuously Monitor Your Marketing Efforts
Another way for dealers to improve their service drive marketing includes formally assessing what high-performing marketing looks like at their dealership.
It’s crucial for the entire dealership team, from the general manager to the service advisors, to understand their individual roles in supporting the auto dealer marketing initiatives. This broad understanding and collaboration among all staff members contributes to the overall success of marketing efforts.
Every successful process you implement needs to be measured against expectations. Of course, no two dealerships are the same and the goals of some dealerships may differ from others. From the beginning, set SMART goals for your service department marketing efforts, which are:
To determine the goals for your team, it’s important for dealers to assess their current process in every way possible. Start by asking questions like how many ROs you have monthly and the total number of phone calls and emails your service team is generating. Looking at these sorts of key performance indicators, outside of just your sales number, is key to measuring your success and refining your future efforts.
Download the Guide:
30-Question Quiz for Maximizing Revenue in the Service Drive
Your dealership service drive is a critical element to your dealership’s conquest and loyalty efforts. In fact, Mastermind data finds customers who service at the dealership are 2.5x more likely to purchase their subsequent vehicle from the same dealer.
As dealers continue to face new and evolving challenges, no dealer should leave their sales and marketing efforts up to chance. By creating a data-driven service-to-sales process fueled by targeted predictive marketing and supported by a well-equipped dealership team, dealers are empowered to generate sustainable success, regardless of what lies ahead.
Want to learn how Mastermind can help you use car dealership marketing to drive more traffic to your service drive? Contact us for a free demo.