In a recent automotive digital retailing event, the importance of the customer experience was emphasized over and over again, and for good reason. In many examples, a number of dealerships have found that a good customer experience is even more important than price.
Of course, this was in relation to the dealer’s showroom, but what about fixed operations? Does the customer experience really matter when it comes to your service department? It goes without saying that, yes, providing the best customer experience is very important especially since many customers are more likely to buy where they get their current vehicle serviced.
Just as with the dealership’s showroom, the customer experience generally happens in two phases. There is the important first step of engaging with the customer online, which we discussed in the previous article in this series.
Then, there is the experience they have when they physically bring their vehicle into the dealership. This experience will determine whether or not they decide to continue doing business with you or not. This part is critical because as we will highlight later, for better or worse, it can also affect your vehicle sales.
So what can you do to ensure that your service department is providing a good customer experience?
Amenities Make a Difference
As I mentioned in my last article, I had been taking my previous vehicle to a local dealership for maintenance. However, my friends convinced me that it would be cheaper to take it to an independent shop. I took their advice and took my truck to a highly recommended shop for its next scheduled service.
While the shop did do a good job, I found their prices to be only slightly less than what I was paying at the dealership. The biggest drawback for me was their waiting room. The furniture in their waiting room was completely covered in dog hair (not a fan), and none of their office staff were wearing masks. While I’m not a germaphobe, if I have to wear a mask, so should they.
As a result, for my next service appointment, I had no problem paying a little more back at the dealership. The dealership where I took my truck had free coffee and WiFi. This meant that I could take my laptop or tablet and keep working while I waited for my oil change. For me, this was a huge advantage.
What separates you from your competition? Do you have great facilities, free coffee, furniture with no pet hair, a kids area, free WiFi? If so, are you advertising this as part of your customer experience?
While amenities are great and can set you apart, they mean nothing if your work doesn't meet expectations.
You MUST Meet Customer Expectations
What is the most basic expectation your service department customers have? If they are like me, they simply expect the work they are paying for to be done correctly. If your team can’t get the work done right, then everything else you do is pointless.
To emphasize this, let me share a personal experience with you. About a year ago, we took our work van to the local OEM dealership to have a basic oil change and fluid inspection performed. It was the kind of basic job that you expect any service technician to be able to handle with their eyes closed. However, the service tech at this dealership managed to do an incomplete job, and I ended up having to take the vehicle back and request that they complete the service. By the time I returned, it was the end of the day. The service advisor, no doubt eager to go home, worked to get me out of their hair as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the problem did not get fully resolved. On top of that, they wanted to charge me to diagnose an oil leak, an oil leak that we later found out that they had caused.
Because of the terrible service, we were forced to take the van to an independent shop to get everything fixed. Since then, I have purchased a used vehicle of the same OEM brand from a dealership in another city. Because of that experience, I would never even consider allowing that dealership to touch my personal vehicle. The secondary effect of this is that because I’m not using their service department, it is very unlikely that I will consider them when buying my next car.
How would you feel if one of your customers had this experience?
The fact is that this type of experience would likely prevent a customer from even considering buying their next vehicle from that dealership. How would you feel if your service department had a negative effect on both your service and sales team's reputation?
"THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE IS EVERYTHING!"
Have you read your service department’s reviews lately? Have you addressed negative reviews? Do you show appreciation for customer loyalty? Your service manager should take an active interest in your customer reviews and feedback.
Nobody’s perfect and we all have off days. There are going to be times when basic customer expectations are not met. What is your staff trained to do when that happens? I’m often impressed by businesses that are willing to take the time to follow up on negative reviews and offer solutions. But even better than that is the service staff that follows up on the problem before a negative review is left.
There is no question that there are some customers that you just won’t be able to please. But hopefully, those will be few and far between. The goal should always be to provide a quality customer experience that will cultivate long-term customer loyalty. Especially if you are taking the time and effort to market your fixed operations and get customers in the door, make sure that you’re giving them an experience that will keep them coming back.