The Message Matters

Car Sales in the Service drive Kendall Billman
Kendall Billman

Kendall Billman | Senior VP, AutoAlert

In the Automotive industry, it is often difficult for dealerships to be successful when it comes to Sales on the Service Drive.  Every day, hundreds of customers come through your service department. The service drive offers lucrative sales opportunities with additional benefits beyond the initial service-to-sales conversion. Successful dealers leverage smart technology and the power of their sales department to avoid “leaving money on the table” in the service drive while providing the customer with the best possible buying experience– when they might least expect it.

Not All Service Visits have Equal Value

Customers visiting your service department are one of the most controllable types of business a dealership has.  We know that not all of the daily opportunities will lead to an immediate transaction.

The challenge in realizing the service drive’s sales and Customer Experience potential is in knowing which customers to reach, when to reach them, and what the right message is at that time. Being able to data mine is one advantage but having the right person to speak with the client is critical.  As they say, “Knowledge is Power, but Timing is EVERYTHING!”. Buyers in a position to upgrade into a new vehicle are already in your service department, every day. These customers in for service can be viewed as a “dealership within your dealership.” Are you reaching them?

Use a Real-Time Process to Enhance Sales on the Service Drive

Stop reading this, take a look at your service drive, and come back. How many customers are in service right now? How many ROs were already started when you arrived this morning? How many of those customers are in a position to trade keys into a new vehicle today? Data mining is an essential piece of the service-to-sales whole, but data is only useful when it’s made actionable. If you can’t answer these questions in real time with your current service lane management software, you need new software.

A successful service-to-sales tool will set into motion a set of proven processes that equip staff to present the right customers with the right personalized deal at the right moment. The first step is to develop a process where the right person could be notified immediately, letting them know which customer just pulled into service.  The sales representative should review all past notes on the consumer and show them how the current incentives applied to their current purchase would allow for an easy upgrade opportunity.

The Message Matters– So Does the Tone

Sales in the service drive has been a constant want from every Dealer Principle and General Manager for the past 25+ years.  In the past, starting the conversation was awkward or even irritant: that service customer is in for a specific need and purchasing a new vehicle is rarely on their mind. Few of these customers are aware they are in a position to upgrade into a new vehicle, offering the dealership great opportunities for making sales today and nurturing long-term relationships over time.

Again, take a look at your service drive. How many are customers you already know, who have bought from your dealership before, and are back for service? Have you taken the time to say hello to them?

Modern tools can not only identify when a customer is in a good position to buy, they can provide personalized offers and even conversation starters tailored to that individual that make the process easier for the dealer and much more appealing to the customer.

A low-pressure heads up to a customer nearing a lease mileage penalty or a pending warranty expiration alongside a cost-effective solution is much more likely to foster goodwill with the customer. This changes the tone of the customer’s experience from a nuisance at a time when they may already be stressed about a costly repair to a valuable, courteous solution-presenting service.

Many customers like to keep up with the most recent technology and features. An opportunity to move up to the latest and greatest without significantly increased monthly payments is a very compelling offer, even to buyers who are not actively researching a new vehicle purchase and are for something as simple as an oil change.

Benefits Beyond a Better Customer Experience

The benefits of this approach extend beyond the sale itself. The service drive becomes a much better source than auctions for desirable, profitable pre-owned inventory. Because customers are already in the service drive, these tools allow for high ROI and reduced marketing spend attracting buyers to the dealership. Used vehicles acquired from service-to-sales conversions lower fixed costs of sourcing inventory, lowering overhead and selling faster (less than 28 days on average) than vehicles acquired from other sources. Sales made using a service-to-sales tool gross an average of 21% more per vehicle. Your dealership can spend less to make more by reaching service customers who are already there!

Sow the Seed Now, Use the Right Tools to Reap Sooner

Alerting service customers about upgrade opportunities doesn’t always result in an immediate sale, but making the effort is worthwhile and often doesn’t take long: statistics show that 42% of Service-to-Sales buyers make a purchase within 30 days of opening an RO. 27% of them will buy within 10 days. Using Service Lane Management from AutoAlert increased those numbers by another 6% and 7% respectively while increasing gross by almost 20%.

While higher profits generated faster are never bad news, presenting your service customers with a low-pressure, credible offer as courtesy rather than approaching them with a sales pitch they see as “stereotypical car salesperson” fodder changes the perception of the dealership as a whole for the better. It’s not all about the sale- it’s about a better total customer experience of the dealership today.

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