The Customer Journey In the Service Lane

customer journey

Getting the Whole Team on Board

Sales in the service drive can be a delicate matter. There’s the challenge of knowing how and when to approach each unique customer, and then there’s the challenge of bringing together the entire team – service and sales – in a unified effort.

These challenges are worth facing and overcoming because the rewards of service drive sales are too good to pass up. In fact, they very possibly hold the key to our industry’s success in the near future.

Getting the Message Just Right

Our team at Middletown Honda has found that there’s a big group of customers who don’t respond to generic “we need your car” offers to buy their car. Customers today want transparency – they want to see our actual need for their car – and they want an offer that is personalized for them.

Luckily, we do have an authentic need for their car! Cars received from our current customers eliminate auction costs and transportation fees, while giving us a lot of information on the car if we’ve been regularly servicing it. People like that we know the car, and that we can tell them something about it: This one had one owner, that one averaged 8,000 miles a year, etc.

Plus, with software like Service Lead Management by AutoAlert, we have instant access to deals for every customer, even those who haven’t purchased from us. These deals are based on such a wide range of data that we end up meeting a wide range of needs and wants.

One thing we just started using is the “wish list” feature, which alerts us every time a car that we’ve determined as highly valuable shows up on the drive. Or we might just know which vehicles are likely in equity, making them low-hanging fruit. We can approach these customers and obtain their financial information, so that credible deals can be made for them going forward. Ultimately, it’s a form of relationship building that triggers future sales.

So we do approach customers with “we want your car,” but then we have personalized offers that make sense to them. Maybe their warranty is about to expire. Maybe they can lower their payment. Maybe they want the latest features and technology. (Remember when people didn’t want the newest technology, because they saw it as one more thing that could break? That changed!) Having just the right credible offer for every customer gives our Sales Associates confidence in their approach.

Bringing the Whole Team on Board

Nothing talks like money. It was relatively easy to get our Sales Associates on board with starting these conversations in the service waiting area, because this gives them more opportunities to sell cars. There is a small learning curve to the approach, but because the approach works, my team was willing to learn it.

Service was another story. The fact is, they didn’t want to lose out on business to a new car sale. I couldn’t blame them for that. However, there are ways to share the rewards. And remember, we’re not paying auction costs and transportation fees. For me, the solution was paying the Sales Associate a commission on the internal RO. Sales wins, service wins, and as a team we win.

With the whole team on board, it’s easier to meet our goal of making sure that every service customer is talked to before they leave the store. Showing them their real options gives them something to think about.

Sticking with It

Old habits can be hard to break. It’s hard to change behaviors when we’ve been “practicing” them for years, including how we approach our customers. But what our industry needs moving forward is additional ways of building and nurturing relationships, and the service drive provides a great opportunity – many times every day – for doing just that.

It took us a couple of years to get our processes down, and we’re still tweaking them, but we’ve found a lot of success in this fast-evolving market. We sell at least 12 to 15 cars out of the service drive, and that’s just what I can quantify. I expect that number to hit an average of 30 soon.

The truth is, challenges are nothing new to dealerships, or any business. Putting in the extra effort to overcome them is always worth it when the result in a win for the store, a win for employees, and a win for customers.

Stu Berkley

General Manager at Middletown Honda
Stu Berkley

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