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A Flexible Service Experience Creates Lifetime Value

Article Highlights:

  • The key to unlocking long-term profitability is in your service department.
  • How to create a flexible service experience, from start to finish.

It should go without saying that one of dealers’ top goals for their business is sustainable, long-term profitability. While the day-to-day rush of dealership operations and performance indicators like inventory turns and revenue goals are important, there’s no stability without an overarching vision for long-term success guiding the business. Without stability, there can be no permanent growth or improvement over time.

What’s the key to unlocking long-term profitability? Increasing the lifetime value of customers coming to your dealership. The place to do that is not in the showroom, where revenue can fluctuate wildly month to month, but in the financial backbone of the dealership: the service department.

And the way to do it is to create a flexible service experience that meets customers’ needs no matter where they are – by finally bringing your service department into the digital age.

The Status Quo Just Doesn’t Cut It Anymore

What does the status quo look like in your service department? Think back on the processes you’ve had in place for years:

  1. Customers make appointments by calling into the dealership or walking in the day of. When checking in, they wait in line to be seen by an advisor, which leads to an even longer wait as a multipoint inspection is performed.
  2. Customers are presented with service recommendations in-person, usually in the form of a handwritten piece of paper. If you have good advisors, they’ll attempt to upsell, though without a solution in place to force this step and track upsell opportunities, you’re almost certainly missing out on potential revenue here. More on that later.
  3. Finally, let’s not even go into getting work approved by the customer. This is almost certain to waste your advisors’ time as they make phone calls and leave voicemails in failed attempts to get a hold of the customer. In the meantime, the vehicle sits on the lift, taking up a bay because it’s been taken apart by your technicians.

Now, let’s take a step back and consider: What’s the common flaw in all these steps and processes I’ve just described? Each one relies on person-to-person interaction which takes up valuable time.

This issue is that more and more often, your customers aren’t staying at the dealership while their vehicle is being worked on. The challenge is keeping communication channels open while the customer is away. There’s a lot that goes into the service experience that can be hard to keep consistent and well executed. Processes have to be fine-tuned to maximize efficiency and sustainability.

How do you create a truly flexible service experience, from start to finish whether your customer is waiting in your service lounge or heading back to the office?

The Power of a Truly Flexible Service Experience

One of the greatest features of digital technology, at least from a business perspective, is the way it’s made everything more convenient when people aren’t interacting in person. The automotive retailing industry is no exception. There are abundant opportunities to swap out old, time-consuming, in-person processes for digital alternatives that boost efficiency and improve the customer experience without sacrificing profitability.

You can still provide a seamless, engaging experience by reaching your customers wherever they are with digital processes.

Consider the following scenario and contrast it with the status quo I outlined earlier:

  1. A customer visits your website to schedule a service appointment. She’s able to view current vehicle information, past vehicle repairs, needed maintenance, and previously declined work. With the click of a button, she selects repairs needed and schedules a service appointment.
  2. She arrives for her appointment, bypasses the line at the counter, and easily checks in by scanning her mobile QR code at a self-service kiosk. She also selects two add-ons offered to her and drops off her keys.
  3. As the technician performs the multipoint inspection, he tracks recommended work electronically. He links images and videos of repairs to the digital repair order (RO) and lets the advisor know the inspection is complete. Pricing and parts availability are automatically tied to the RO, so the advisor simply sends a link to the customer to review and approve the work.
  4. When the customer receives the link, she’s able to see all recommended repairs, including pictures and videos of her vehicle. She accepts one of the jobs but declines the other.
  5. At the dealership, the advisor, technician, and parts department receive the customer’s updates and start the approved work right away. Declined work is flagged for future opportunities. Once the work is completed, the customer receives another text alert with a link to view her invoice online. She pays securely online and heads to the dealership to pick up her vehicle. It’s after the service department has closed, so she checks out using a kiosk and her keys are dispensed to her.

This is the power of bringing your service department into the digital age: A single system, single-process approach that allows customers to schedule, review, and approve work on their terms, whether in-store, online, or both, while still allowing your dealership to retain profitability, accuracy, and efficiency.

This is also how lifetime value is created. By implementing a seamless and flexible service experience that meets customers’ needs wherever they are, your business will inspire the kind of loyalty that translates into a years-long, revenue-generating relationship.

This kind of control over the service process also empowers you to force adherence to your preferred steps. Think back to the service advisor who may or may not be attempting the upsell with every customer. If you can force that step (and others like it) with the help of digital tools, you can minimize profit loss and create brand new profit opportunities every single day.

Creating Lifetime Value

Ultimately, a digital, seamless approach in service, or any department, is about balancing the customer’s needs with the long-term success of your dealership. It’s about ensuring your customers are coming away not just satisfied, but loyal for the long term.

That’s what a flexible service experience will get you.

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Vice President of Fixed Operations Product Planning

Jason Sideris is the vice president of fixed operations product planning at Reynolds and Reynolds. For over 25 years, his focus has been on how innovative technology and dealership processes come together to create an efficient experience where both dealership customers and employees thrive.

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