How’s the Service in Your Service Drive?

service drive

Tips for Taking the Customer Experience to Another Level

Better-tasting coffee. More comfortable chairs. Bigger TVs. You’ll find them in service-drive waiting rooms for one reason: to make the experience better for customers.

Nobody (or pretty close to nobody) wants to take their car in for service. However, there is a lot that dealerships do in between the time the customer arrives, and leaves with his car to make the experience if not enjoyable, then at least positive.

Beyond fixing what needs to be fixed at a reasonable price – and offering local coffee and chairs with lumbar support – there are new, data-driven ways your team can make the service experience even better.

According to Bryan Armstrong, e-commerce director of VW dealerships in Missouri and Utah, everybody wins when the focus is entirely on what’s in it for the customer, not what’s in it for the dealership.

“The traditional customer looks forward to going to the service department about as much as going to the dentist without Novocain – there’s a very negative bent to it,” Armstrong says. “It’s basically ‘This is probably broken; how much will it cost to fix it?’”

It comes down to data.

But when the customer is engaged in a conversation that applies specifically to her and her car, providing more options than usual, shifts the experience. Armstrong says tools like AutoAlert’s Service Lead Management provide all of the information needed for such a dialogue.

It comes down to data. Knowing things like what the customer can afford, what her car “position” is (where she is in her contract, whether her warranty is up, etc.), and what her recent shopping behavior has been, gives you an approach that can make a big difference. And having software with proven algorithms for determining what customers want, when they want it, makes the process easy.

For example, Armstrong notes that at any given time, 17 percent of the population is in the market for a new car, but which 17 percent? One indicator is recall notices, he says – even months after a national recall, customers often want a new car after losing faith in their current one. Having an advanced data-mining tool keeps him on track with those customers.

“Knowing when customers are in a position to easily swap, while providing a lower acquisition cost to the dealership and higher customer retention, has changed the game for us,” says Armstrong. “Plus, we’re seeing a greater customer satisfaction index and customer experience index.”

Customers are happy because they’re being approached with a benefit – a real, ready offer. Rebates and incentives that fit particular customers might allow them to take advantage of lower payments on a newer car, while forgoing a huge service bill.

Armstrong says his team will even refund customers’ RO bills if they choose to take advantage of the offer after they’ve paid for service and left. Every offer is left on the passenger’s seat.

Customers are happy because they’re being approached with a benefit.

“If we got the car as a trade-in, we were going to have to service it anyway,” he says. “This is a very empowering, positive experience for the customer. It puts them in the driver’s seat … pardon the pun!”

The customer is happy, and the sales and service teams are happy. Armstrong says this is another benefit to the customer-centric, data-backed approach: the team at the dealership really comes together through a unified effort.

Another unique feature of the service drive at Armstrong’s dealership is the walk-around videos provided to every customer. The service team makes a short video of what’s specifically wrong with the customer’s car, then sends the video via text or email, along with an upgrade proposal, when appropriate. They get an “open” or “read” report on each message, providing further useful data.

The team at the dealership really comes together through a unified effort.

“Overall, it’s not an angle of attack, but an angle of approach. The most contentious part of being at a dealership for customers is when they feel like they’re being sold, rather than being helped,” Armstrong says.

And although good coffee never hurts, what customers really want when they choose your service team is to be given options – something historically unavailable, and certainly appreciated.

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