Building Better Customer Experiences in Your Service Department
Service department employees are often the unsung heroes of dealerships. While the sales department is an important part of the customer experience, service is most often where the customer experience influences dealership loyalty. In recent years, a combination of factors have led to more households to hold onto their vehicles for longer. As this trend continues, service departments will play an even more important role in a dealership’s bottom line.
How can service departments improve the customer experience and boost the dealership’s gross profit?
Your Dealership’s Employee Experience
First, let’s start with what service department employees need. According to recent data in the 2023 NADA Workforce study, service department employees had the highest risk of annualized turnover by position compared to lateral sales positions. For example, turnover nationally across non-luxury dealerships saw annualized service advisor turnover of 45%, B-Service technician turnover of 32%, and service manager turnover of 21%. If a customer visits a dealership two times a year to service their vehicle, it can become challenging to build rapport if the customer sees a revolving door of new faces every visit. Focusing on employee retention by understanding what barriers currently exist for employees in their employment experience, providing learning and coaching opportunities, and defining career paths for your employees can help improve turnover outcomes.
The Multi-Point Inspection
Most dealerships and OEMs today require a multi-point inspection process for the customer’s vehicle during the service visit. Throughout the process, the vehicle moves into various stages from check-in to completion. This process can be one of the biggest factors to improve or erode customer experience. Good service advisors know how important it is to discuss the Red/Yellow items on the MPI, but great service advisors know how to also discuss the areas that are Green. Showing the customer the areas that don’t need attention, but are still important to monitor, helps build trust. Remaining in contact with the customer with the status of the vehicle as it moves through the inspection and service process also helps the customer feel that the service team cares about their experience.
Understanding the Vehicle’s Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
While “we’re trying to reach you about your car’s extended warranty” communications have become a meme and societal joke, warranty coverage and communication about what to expect in the vehicle’s service process are no laughing matter. Understanding and communicating warranty related repairs or maintenance items can impact a customer’s perception of the service department. Failure to mention or leaving the customer to mention those items can lead to complaints and loss of trust. A common pitfall where this can occur is lack of service employee access to warranty information. For example, if the advisor or scheduling team doesn’t bother to check or doesn’t have access to check warranty information like open safety recalls, warranty coverage, or covered maintenance services available, the customer can be left in a situation that erodes the perception of credibility in the dealership. This can create bottlenecks upon arrival, at vehicle pick-up, and repair order billing. It is important that schedulers and service advisors have access to screens like OEM recalls, warranties, and pre-paid maintenance and communicates those items early in the service process where applicable.
While employee experience, vehicle multi-point inspection processes, and understanding warranty are all critical to customer retention, proper training and skill development is the common thread between them all. Not all training is created equal. Instead of looking at event-based training, focus on ongoing improvement initiatives. Invest in training that tracks ROI, employee skill development, and the overall improvement of your employees. If training and skill development are at the heart of the employee experience, it pays dividends into the customer experience. Focusing on these initiatives into the end of 2023 and beyond can help your dealership improve gross profit and improve retention.
Sarah is the VP of Sales at Quantum5 and specializes in dealer training solutions across BDC, Sales, Fixed Ops, and Leadership. Having spent over a decade in automotive retail, innovating new operations and capacities within the dealerships that she worked at, Sarah’s people-first approach, coupled with her industry knowledge, has allowed her to grow, impact and influence the automotive community.View full profile