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New Car Sales May Wane, But Service Department Opportunities Abound

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It looks as though car sales may be in a slump. The Wall Street Journal Market Data Report shows that in January 2018, sales of many types of new car sales were down from one year before. These numbers don’t come as a surprise. Last December, USA Today predicted that 2017 would mark the first full-year decline in auto sales since the Great Recession.

Why are sales down? People are keeping their vehicles longer. This is in part because cars are better-made now than ever before and they’re lasting a lot longer. Another reason people hesitate to buy a new vehicle is the fast-paced development of new technology. Why commit to that brand-new car or truck now when there are rumors of a totally revamped audio system experience or a model that can park itself? This drives (no pun intended) many consumers to wait for the next new advancement rather than purchasing now.

This isn’t all bad news for car dealerships, however. The longer vehicles are on the road, the more service department opportunities you have. Here’s how to take advantage of that.

 

3 Service Department Opportunities to Take Advantage of in 2018 (and Beyond)

1. Promote the Benefit of Relying on Certified Technicians

As consumers hold on to their cars for longer, that means that the average age of many vehicles is increasing. This means more trips into the shop to tweak, repair, and replace aging parts and systems. This is why it’s important to place significant focus on gaining these service department opportunities and helping people maintain their older cars.

Many car owners are under the impression that once their vehicle is out of warranty, it makes more sense to take it to an independent shop for maintenance or repair. In order to earn business from these customers, you have to prove these assumptions wrong.

First, this means educating people about the importance of having a certified technician work on their vehicle. This education starts from the moment they purchase a car from you, continues as they bring it back in for complimentary maintenance, and should continue even on after the complimentary maintenance and warranty periods have expired. You can hammer these points home in blog posts on your website, as well as talk about them on social media.

 

2. Set Your Service Department Apart From the Rest

Next, work hard to make your dealership’s service department stand out from all the local mechanics. Leverage technology to streamline the car repair process by allowing customers to log in, make appointments, and even rent a loaner car online.

Always provide the best possible service to each and every customer. This means double-checking to make sure everything on a customer’s list is properly repaired and ready to go before the car leaves the shop.  The use of Net Promoter Score surveys can help your managers to monitor customer experience in an effort to streamline their process.  If a customer has to bring their vehicle back because an item was left unrepaired or a repair failed after they left the dealership, it’s a safe bet that they’ll second-guess bringing their vehicle back the next time something breaks.

Remember that small things that don’t take much time or cost your dealership a lot mean the world to your customers. This includes ensure that every customer is greeted promptly and warmly the second they step through your doors. It means having a waiting area that’s comfortable and features complimentary snacks, drinks, and free-wifi for customers who don’t have the option to leave while getting their vehicle fixed. A free car wash with every service or repair is another great way to leave customers feeling happy … and more likely to return for their next repair or vehicle purchase.

 

3. Service Can Lead to More Sales

Finally, work to convert service customers into sales customers. You can do this in a subtle fashion that never makes your customers feel pressured. Utilize tablets and kiosks inside the dealership that allow waiting service customers to interact with programs that highlight the amazing features that are available on the new lineup of vehicles you now carry. If a customer is paying for a large or rather lengthy repair, let them use a new model vehicle as a loaner for the week.

A slump in new car sales doesn’t have to mean a slump in business. With the right strategy, you can increase your service department opportunities even during the car sales downturn.

 

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About the Author

Richard Knight

Rick Knight is an Automotive Customer Retention Executive who founded Certified Maintenance® Programs in 1996. Rick has been successful in building custom retention strategies for thousands of auto dealers to better than double CP/RO counts in the first 12 months of ownership, drive back 34+% of lost opportunity customers and help auto dealers Sell The Next Vehicle™. 

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