Dealership service departments are catching on. They’re beginning to retail like some of the best in the world.
They’re making tire sales an integral part of their service model. They’re marketing to all makes and models. They’re making sure every vehicle, even quick lube customers, receives a multi-point inspection. They’re marketing and promoting services to wider audiences, all aimed at servicing more consumers better to earn and to keep more business for the dealership.
Make no mistake, unless auto service departments think as retailers – changing from a work-production to a retail-service focus – customers will drift away.
A retail mentality, while not forgetting the importance of objectives like Fixed Right First Time, is customer-centric. This may require think-shift for all service staff, from management to porter.
A retail mentality considers:
- Merchandising: Stock and, when and where applicable, present wiper blades, tires, fluid services, floor mats and other products customers often need, and are likely to buy if asked.
- Pricing: The dealership service department does not need be the lowest priced provider, but prices must be competitive. Study the competition, including other dealership service departments, aftermarket big box providers like Pep Boys, and Fred’s Garage down the street.
- Promotions: What is your offer today? If the forecast is for rain or snow, be sure to offer wiper blade replacements – go a step further and educate these motorists about the hazards of driving with blurry windshields. Offer tire replacement, if the walk-around shows tire wear warranting the recommendation. Educate customers on matters of tire wear, age and appropriate tread design for the vehicle and driving conditions.
- Communication: Use electronic and print, direct mail and email, text and service-centered website home pages to communicate service offerings consistently to consumers. Communicate to current, orphan and conquest consumers regularly. Use computer or smartphone click-through video presentations, menu pricing and appointment scheduling apps to make it easier for consumers to respond positively to the offers.
Selling in service like Wal-Mart requires a few best practices summed up by the acronym CSI, which here means:
- Consistency: If auto dealers are truly to succeed as retailers going forward, service must focus on providing a consistent experience and pricing across the drive. Without technologies that help unify the service process from advisor to advisor, too often consumers can receive different pricing answers to the same pricing questions.
- Simplicity: Focus on what is important, which is the customer, and by providing fast answers to questions about their vehicle, its services and service costs. Tools that integrate all this information at advisors' fingertips impress customers and help dealerships service them better, faster.
- Integrity: When advisor recommendations align with the owner’s manual information, dealership integrity is strengthened. Technology tools help integrate factory-specified services by VIN, mileage and other factors in such a way that this synchronization is apparent to the customer and service staff. This helps minimize mistakes and errors that can erode integrity.
The automotive service market continues to change. The competitive advantage remaining is how well the service department delivers its retail differentiation.
The views expressed above are mine and not necessarily those shared by Xtime, Inc.
Gregg Manson is Vice President, Field Services, for Xtime, the retention solution for the automotive service industry. He previously was Vice President of Fixed Operations for five years for AutoNation, responsible for 220 stores. He spent a total of 16 years with AutoNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via www.xtime.com