Three Steps to Take Back Service Business from the Independents

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It takes three things to entice customers to the dealership and away from the competition. Not surprisingly, it’s the same three things the independents and chains did to attract dealership customers in the first place.

First is convenience. You have to be open more—open when customers need you to be open. Time is very important in this busy world we live in today, so it’s not just about being open more…it’s what you do with the time you are open. In other words, you have to be quicker. Dealers have always taken too long to do the service, too long to do the paperwork, too long to get the parts, too long to answer the phone, and too long to call customers back. And to add to that aggravation of taking too long, customers hate standing in line at a cashier window to pay their bill. Independents never sent their customers to a cashier window—why should you? Service advisors need to do the service checkout process to ensure that all the numbers match and they need to do an active ‘caring’ delivery. It’s that simple.

Next, on the list of what it takes to get customers back is price. Like it or not the service business we are in today is very, very competitive. You have to match or beat the competition on the well known services like oil changes, tire rotations, check engine light diagnosis, and tires if you want to play in this game—you just have to. You can charge more for the high-tech work and repairs if you want, but you have to be seen as a competitor in the maintenance arena.

Third and last, you have to advertise service like crazy to get the word out. That’s what the competition does, so again…why aren’t you? Think about this, dealers dominate the market on car sales, new and used, because they spend huge amounts of money advertising. There isn’t a used car lot anywhere that can really compete with them, because the dealers dominate or own the market with their advertising. But when it comes to service it’s the other way around. The independents and chains are the ones eating our lunch, in part because dealer service departments just don’t advertise enough and often not the right way. The messages they send are not consistent. They try to live with tiny crunched budgets like two to three percent of gross and wonder why the Pep Boys down the street does more customer pay service work than them. Dealers need to step up, get the word out, and stop being the best kept secret in town. Divert some sales advertising budget to service and watch how fast the whole store grows.

Randy Johnson is the president of Car People Marketing. For more information, visit

Cody Larson


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