In a recent blog post, we discussed some of the challenges expected to hinder new car supply in the coming months, from microchip and rubber shortages to the ongoing dispute at the Port of Montreal and U.S.-Canada relations. After more than a year of enduring the Covid pandemic, it looks as though there are still some rocky waters to come in the months ahead.
From a dealer’s perspective, that makes now a prime time to review the fixed ops side of the business and look for opportunities for growth. When the going gets tough on the sales floor, it’s the service and parts departments that can keep profits flowing and dealerships afloat. But thanks to the new service standards forced by Covid that have become part of everyday life, the post-pandemic customer is going to have an entirely new set of expectations.
Here’s a checklist to help ensure your dealership’s fixed ops systems and workflows are optimized to attract business and meet the demands of today’s customers.
Check your convenience factor
People value their time more than ever and are willing to invest in products and services that make their lives easier, especially with premium brands. Now is a great time to review your customer service strategy to see whether you’ve got the right balance of shuttles, loaner vehicles, and at-home pick-up and delivery service to meet your customers’ expectations. Some dealers are also finding success with offering mobile mechanics for simple service work, which is especially helpful in areas with high volumes of vulnerable populations such as seniors.
Examine your service hours
Sorry, Dolly, but it’s been quite a while since the world last worked 9 to 5. As more people shift into remote work and flexible hours post-pandemic, this change will become even more pronounced, and customers may seek out service at unusual times that are more convenient for them. If you can find technicians who are willing to work evenings and weekends to improve service times at off hours, so much the better, but it’s no secret that even inflexible technicians are in short supply. Regardless of when service is being performed, it’s a good practice to ensure customers have access to easy booking tools such as online and text message communication. Consider also having service and parts advisors available outside of traditional hours to assist with scheduling and advice.
Build trust through communication
People expect instant and constant communication these days. There are multiple services on the market that make it easy for technicians to communicate with customers through text messages, photos, and videos to demonstrate and explain their findings in real-time. Some of these services also curate a database that can push automated notifications to remind customers of scheduled maintenance or recall work. Add another layer, and it’s possible to provide proactive communication about upcoming service requirements in advance so that customers don’t feel expensive work is being sprung on them unannounced. All of this builds trust, which is key to convincing customers to come back, especially when it comes time for post-warranty work.
Offer price-matching and seasonal discounts
Consumers still perceive dealerships to be more expensive than third-party service providers. Making regular use of your website, email marketing list, and social media to push out price-matching offers, coupons, or discounts on routine work can help break those preconceptions and build confidence with customers that you’ll consistently give them a fair deal.
Develop and market a tire strategy
Selling a winter tire package alongside a new vehicle, perhaps with incentives such as free storage for an introductory period, immediately puts customers into the cycle of coming back to your service department for tire changes. This very often turns into requests for other routine services at the same time, such as an oil change or alignment, and it requires no extra effort from your staff apart from setting up the initial sale. Plus, when you keep customer tires in storage, you have a chance to monitor them for issues such as tread wear and bulging and can offer to order a replacement set rather than letting that sale go to an aftermarket shop.
Make sure your website identifies these advantages
If you haven’t already done so, consider giving your fixed ops departments dedicated pages on your website that highlight these benefits you’ve set up. Some dealers also find success in adding how-to videos that explain things like what a service appointment looks like, when it’s time to buy new tires, or how to check your own oil levels. If you address general topics customers find helpful, they’ll return again and again to these references, which will keep your dealership top-of-mind when it’s time for their next service appointment.