The New Service Department
Welcome to the new normal! There is no question that services as a whole have changed in some way due to the recent pandemic, and the automotive industry has seen its fair amount of changes, both temporary and ones that will be here to stay. One of the departments that will be the most affected is the service department. The question I keep asking and searching answers for is: how do we keep the personal touch in a physically distant world? These changes are creating problems, not just for dealers but also for customers. I have been on countless dealer visits in the past few months, and as I notice the changes made between masks, gloves, germ shields, etc. I have also seen customers walking around the barriers with no protection, looking to have a more personal experience.
One of the positives of the current landscape is that progress is really at the forefront of the industry, while change is happening. If there are positives to every situation, one that I have found in a COVID-19 world is the industry’s willingness to adapt to a “new normal” as well as creatively find ways to offer an experience for customers.
There has been a lot of talk as of late on topics like online purchasing, digital retailing, and inventory shortages, but not a lot when it comes to the vehicle service experience for customers. For the most part, online purchasing has been a point of conversation for a while. Still, for the service department, these changes came from nowhere, and a lot of them are here to stay. If you think that you are just going to go back to doing business like you use to, you don’t understand what is happening. Let me be the first or one of the first to say that your department is different from this point forward. Process changes like hands-free hands-off or vehicle pick-up and drop-off, to name a few, are here, and you need to adjust to accommodate customers who are going to want these services available always.
Like any challenge, there are tons of opportunities to stand out in the “new normal,” For the leaders able to see this, the chances to gain market share and increase loyalty are very real and need to be considered as such.
So, what do you need to pay the most attention to offer the experience your customers deserve amidst all the changes? Here are a few areas to consider:
– The number one change that needs to occur is to communicate to your audience what you are doing differently; social media can be massive for this initiative. Let customers know what you are doing to keep them as well as your employees safe. Remember that whatever channels you use to communicate your message, you have to make it consistent across the board.
– If there was ever an opportunity to educate your customer base on the importance of scheduling an appointment, this is it. Make sure to space out your appointments accordingly as the current situation will affect the number of appoints you will be able to handle. If you have customers set a service appointment but have to wait for hours, it will be challenging for them to trust the value of scheduling their visits.
– Be careful what services you offer during these times like hands-off service or vehicle pick up, customers will remember this and will expect it the next time around. If you are not willing or able to adjust for this in the future, you are better off not making it available. – Make no mistakes; these times will lend for increases in gross. Most likely, you will experience a decrease in RO’s but an increase in profits because customers want to have their vehicles in the best condition possible. With the mean year at 11+ years, customers will be looking for ways to ensure the most reliable transportation. This fact, coupled with new working conditions to provide safe distances in working spaces, can equal bottlenecks in your departments. Adding second shifts or working nights or weekends might make sense to continue providing a pleasant experience.
– Embrace technology! Utilize platforms like YouTube, Google My Business, text, and digital platforms to communicate with customers and capture intent as they go online to search for service alternatives.
These are the main areas I recommend your dealer focus on, but keep in mind that to set your department up for success, you cannot afford to stay in this reactive state. There is no question that this pandemic posed a challenge for service departments as a whole, and it is incredible to see so many leaders taking on that challenge and thriving. In order to keep the personal touch in this physically distant world, you have to become proactive when it comes to your business’s future. Remember that in the digital world we live in, you can leverage technology to make your customers feel important and a part of your family. If you can do that now, there is no question that your best years are still ahead.
If I can assist in your current efforts in any way, please feel free to contact me.
As always, I am here to help you to build a brand with the people that will value it the most.