One of the biggest challenges faced by business owners is figuring out what customers want. Over the past several years, customers in the automotive world have spoken loud and clear: when it comes to their vehicles, they’re tired of the traditional dealership experience. Instead, they want one that’s quick, convenient, easy, and straightforward. We know this through the rise in digital car-buying disruptors such as Carvana, as well as dealerships struggling to retain customers in the face of competition from chain quick-lube and auto repair shops.
To withstand the storm of competitors, it’s important for dealer owners and management to listen to customer feedback and make changes to their dealership experience. Here are a few ways to delight customers and ensure that they return for their future maintenance, repairs, and new vehicle purchases.
4 Ways to Create a Better Dealership Experience
1. Designate a Service Department Quick Lane
One of the top complaints commonly received by auto dealerships is the amount of time customers spend waiting for simple maintenance items like oil, lube, and filter changes. An appointment that’s promised to take around a half hour often ends up keeping customers waiting — and fuming — for well over an hour and sometimes longer.
This has led many owners to improve their dealership experience by creating a quick lane in their service department that’s devoted to common maintenance items that should take no more than 20 or 30 minutes. Specific technicians are assigned to work vehicles that arrive in this lane, and if the appointment runs over the promised amount of time, the next oil change is free. Customers love these sorts of guarantees because it provides them with clear expectations of how much time to expect to spend at the dealership, as well as holding the dealership accountable for keeping their promises.
2. Create a More Comfortable Waiting Environment
Even during a relatively quick oil change appointment, customers need a place to wait. Whether your customer will be there for a 20-minute maintenance appointment or waiting for an hours-long repair, it’s easy to make them feel valued by creating a nice lounge area for them to wait.
This includes providing comfortable seating, high-quality snacks, great coffee, and free Wi-Fi. Some dealerships even offer iPads for kids to use while they wait with their parents. This combined with speeding up the transactional time will help your customers feel warm and welcomed instead of stepping into the service department with a feeling of dread.
3. Consider a Concierge Service or Loaner Cars
Some high-end dealerships have started implementing a concierge service to manage their customers’ car maintenance/repair experience. This includes scheduling a time for a porter to go pick up the car from the customer, bring the vehicle to the dealership to have maintenance or repairs addressed, and then returning the car when the appointment is complete.
If a concierge program isn’t a possibility, loaner vehicles offer a way for customers to simply drop their vehicle at the service department and go. The fleet of loaner vehicles should vary and include small trucks, compact cars, and medium-sized cars so every customer can be temporarily put in a newer/nicer version of their current vehicle in hopes that when the time comes, they’ll be excited to upgrade.
4. Focus on the Human Touch
Most of all, what’s missing from online car buying platforms and chain maintenance stores is the human touch. Customers appreciate feeling as though they’re dealing with family rather than an anonymous corporation. They love knowing that there are humans and actual people honoring their warranties and listening to their concerns — even if that means making changes like expanding dealership hours until 9 p.m. two nights a week so people can make appointments after work.
By hearing your customers out on auto dealer review platforms such as Google Reviews, Dealer Rater, and Performance Administration Corp.’s Customer Experience Transformer (CXT) and working to make real changes based on that feedback, you’ll be able to create a dealership experience that keeps you heads above the competition.