Keys to Winning in the Service Department
Zac Stringam
| 2 October 2019

Keys to Winning in the Service Department

“I have a friend/family member who is a mechanic and can fix that for me.” “I’ll take my car to the shop down the street from my house.” How many times have you heard your customers say this? And when customers say this, what can you do to keep the service business? You’ve got a lot to offer your customers. Here’s how you can show them your value and use that to win their business.  

I have been one of these customers, but it wasn’t until recently that a Service Advisor changed my mind. Not too long ago, I took the family minivan to the local dealership for an oil change and tire rotation. While I was there, I also asked my Service Advisor to check out a clicking noise when the van turned at slow speeds. She said the Technician would diagnose the problem and she would let me know what they could do. She showed me to their lounge, and I took a seat, enjoying a cool beverage and fresh popcorn while I waited.

After about 30 minutes, she came over to tell me what was causing the noise. My CV axles needed to be replaced, and the power steering pump wasn’t working properly. What I really heard, though, were several cha-chings of the cash register. I was right in feeling that way, as she asked if the $3,900 repair would be something I wanted to get done today or to hold off on. My jaw dropped when I heard the number. I knew I didn’t want to spend nearly $4,000 on a repair that day, so, “I have a mechanic I’ve used in the past, and I know he could do it for less,” were the words that came out of my mouth. Since I now knew what the problem was, I could shop around.

A surprising offer 

What the Service Advisor then said surprised me: “We value your business. If you can bring me a written quote from another repair shop, I’ll see what I can do to match it.” She reminded me that their technicians were OEM certified and that they use OEM parts. She also mentioned that she could arrange a shuttle to take me where I needed to go if I wasn’t able to wait for the repair. With that in mind, I thanked her for the offer and continued to wait for my oil change to be completed.

On my drive home, I called my local repair shop. The shop owner told me it would cost $3,100 and that I would need to leave the van with him for at least a day. I asked him to email me the estimate, which he did. That evening, I forwarded the estimate from the independent shop to the dealership’s Service Advisor. The next morning, she called to tell me that she would match the $3,100 estimate I received. She said the repair would likely take about two hours, so I scheduled an appointment with her for the next day.

It’s all about value

How often do you lose service work to an independent shop over price or convenience? As a dealership, you can offer much more to a customer than an independent ever could.  Do you have a clean and inviting waiting area? Do you offer a shuttle ride or transportation? Do you have food and beverages for those waiting for service? Nine out of 10 times, the independents don’t have any of those. But you could!


A 2019 website study of 3,300 dealerships by CDK Global showed that only 44 percent of dealerships offer transportation options to customers. This includes a shuttle service, rideshare, loaner car, or rental. When I left my van to be serviced, I used the dealer-provided shuttle to meet my family for lunch at a local restaurant. It was free and convenient.

You likely have OEM-certified technicians working in your Service bays. The small mechanic shop down the street from your customer’s home isn’t OEM-certified. Certification is a huge selling point for a customer, especially as vehicles get more and more technical. Yet, only 48 percent of Service departments let customers know they employ OEM-certified Technicians. Make sure your customers know the advantage of getting repairs performed by an OEM-certified Technician.

Let’s talk price

Price is what initially turned me off about having the dealership repair my van. But as soon as my Service Advisor indicated she could price match, my ears perked up. As a customer, I don’t usually go with the lowest price. I value quality, and quality usually isn’t cheap. But there were four key points that had me go back to the dealer for service work:

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1. The dealership offered a fast turnaround.
I didn’t have to leave my vehicle with them for a day or more.

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2. The dealership had a clean, comfortable waiting area with TVs, food, and beverages.
The shop I would have taken my van to smells old, is dirty, and offers no amenities.

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3. The dealership told me they had OEM-certified Technicians
This assured me that the repair would be done right and I wouldn’t need to come back. I never had that warm, fuzzy feeling from the place I used to go.

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4. The dealership offered to match the price.
Even if the dealer would have dropped their price to come close to the independent’s estimate, I would have likely still given my business to the dealer for the aforementioned reasons.


Dealerships will continue to battle with independent shops for customers. But dealership Service departments need to realize they have more advantages over  the local repair shop down the street. Make sure your customers know the value you bring to the table. Try to be competitive on price. And above all, offer your customers a great experience each and every time they visit your dealership.


Zac Stringam
Zac Stringam

<p>ZAC STRINGAM is a Marketing Technology Enablement Manager at CDK Global. Since 2008, Zac has devoted his expertise to marketing communications, customer marketing, and marketing technology. He has a passion for driving positive experiences for dealers and consumers by learning about their environment and process and providing the right tools that drive change and growth. Zac earned his bachelor’s degree in business marketing and an MBA from the University of Phoenix.</p>

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