5 Min Read • August 10, 2023
Is Your Service Department in Tune with Customer Expectations?
Sometimes there are things people don’t see eye to eye on. When CDK Global surveyed over 2,000 service shoppers late last year, it uncovered what type of experience they’re looking for most from the dealership service department. Now, CDK has fielded a complimentary survey of nearly 300 dealership service providers across the country to see where their focus is and where a disconnect exists from the very shoppers they value.
We asked a simple question to set expectations: How do you rank your priorities as a service department?
The answer was overwhelming. Nearly three out of four (73%) of those surveyed said retaining existing customers was the most important area of focus. Winning back defectors ranked last at just 24%. But as we discovered in our Service Shopper 2.0 study, there are significant areas of opportunity to bring back lost customers. Here are three areas of disconnect that may be clouding service department leaders and staff.
Price Concerns Can Be Conquered
The constant struggle to retain customers and win them back centers around a number of factors from convenience, speed, reputation and, of course, price.
In our Service Shopper 2.0 study, nearly half of respondents (49%) said price was a top consideration when choosing a service provider. The typical thinking was that going to a dealership will cost more than an independent shop or chain provider.
However, far more dealers (62%) feel price is driving customers away and keeping them from coming back. While the shopper number is still considerable, there are ways to sway their thinking.
As we discovered in our study of shoppers, they gravitate toward the fact that the work will be done by certified manufacturer technicians with OEM parts. So advertise these benefits with every marketing message and do some research on local competitors. It’s very likely chain and independent shops charge just as much for routine service — like oil changes and tire rotation — especially with coupons or specials. Put these real prices, personalized, in front of the customer showing the value they’d receive at the dealership versus a competitor even if there’s a small price difference. Transparency can be a terrific way of winning customers over.
Your Reputation Matters Much More Than You Think
The biggest disconnect we found in our two studies was how much shoppers value the reputation of their service provider and how little dealers consider it.
You might not know it but your community is talking about you. People talk through Google reviews, Facebook neighborhood groups, Nextdoor and in good old-fashioned face-to-face conversations.
Be sure you’re monitoring these sources that can help or harm your business’ reputation. It’s perfectly acceptable to reply in these forums as long as it’s done with respect. If you respond to a negative comment too aggressively, it could do more damage to your reputation than if it had gone unanswered. Let users contact you to remedy the situation and to easily put the ball back in their court. You don’t necessarily need to admit fault but simply expressing empathy for their experience can go a long way.
You can also look to your loyal customers to help advocate. Consider incentives for customer referrals, like discounted or free services, so that when they see someone asking for a mechanic recommendation on social media, they’ll want to share your business name in the comments. This will also help with the last area of disconnect between customers and dealers.
Maintaining That Customer Relationship Will Pay Off
Four out of 10 service shoppers said they choose a service provider because of an existing relationship, but only 14% of dealers said this was a reason for customers to defect. Now, a shopper could be using an independent shop for many years to service multiple vehicles from multiple automakers making that relationship important. But dealers have a huge advantage if they capture new car buyers right across the store after the point of sale. Whether it’s warranty work or recalls, it’s a head start that should never be relinquished.
No matter where the customer acquisition comes from, each touchpoint with existing customers should be positive because it’s critical to customer retention and defection.
Technology can deliver a huge assist here. Utilize tools that service shoppers appreciate, like a mobile repair tracker, to relieve stress whether they’re sitting in the waiting room or a nearby coffee shop waiting on their car.
Service departments should also quantify the experience. A tool like CDK ServiceView can send out a single question survey to find out if they’d recommend your dealership to friends and family in Facebook groups.
Bring Them In and Keep Them Coming Back
Our Service Shopper 2.0 study uncovered five features desired by those coming in to a dealership for repairs or maintenance, and three of these ranked in the top five features dealers were very or extremely interested in as well. Shoppers were also interested in dealers’ top ranked feature, Predictive Service, even if it wasn’t one of their own top selections.
There were also two features dealers and shoppers had a disconnect over, like a designated work area for adults and play areas for kids. 79% of shoppers found these useful with a particularly high number, 58%, saying they had to have it. But only 25% of dealers were very or extremely interested in offering these to their customers. These areas may have a higher cost of implementation but don’t necessarily involve additional employees or man hours for training or monitoring.
Transparent pricing was the other feature where 72% of shoppers found it useful and 32% said they had to have it compared to 25% of dealers being very or extremely interested in offering this type of interaction during the service process. While not all service tasks, especially repairs, can be 100% accounted for when a customer drives into the service bay, this feature would also include updating customers with any changes and how that might impact their final bill. Communication about what’s wrong with the car and how it’ll be addressed is obviously paramount so customers won’t have to wonder about costs when they head to the cashier.