It can sometimes seem as if you’re running a compliance department instead of a service department.
A customer contests a service bill, claiming the work wasn’t authorized or, perhaps, it turned out to be more expensive than expected. You know your service advisors are highly qualified and well-trained, and you assume your customers are honest.
But your service business and customer-friendly reputation are falling through the cracks. Clearly, something’s wrong.
The culprit is a communication gap between your staff and your customers. Put another way: Your dealership is having a “lost in translation” moment.
The good news: It’s never been easier to close that communication gap—thanks to the popularity of mobile devices.
Yesterday’s communication model
For your customers, a service visit can be a stressful event, with fear of the unknown driving customer anxiety and questions: Can they fix my car? When will it be ready for pick up? Will they find any complications? What if I don’t agree with the work that they want to do?
And then there’s perhaps the most anxious question of all: How much more than the original estimate will the final cost set me back?
Sometimes the explanation of a complicated repair over the phone is misunderstood or may not be thoroughly described, creating confusion rather than clarity. When it’s time to pick up the vehicle, the result is a surprise when the customer is shown the work done to their vehicle and their final bill.
Today, with fewer and fewer people listening to voicemails and reading emails, neither are the most effective way to communicate with customers.
A new way of communicating
The reviews are in: America loves text messaging. According to Pew Internet, texting is by far the most common cell phone activity: 97% of American smartphone users text at least once a day.
It’s easy to understand why. Texting is more effective. Mobile Marketing Watch tells us that while email has a 20% open rate, the rate at which text messages are opened is an astounding 98%.
Texting is more efficient. Text messages are read on average in under five seconds.
Transparency, from beginning to end
Let’s walk through what happens when your dealership adds texting to the customer service mix.
A customer arrives to get their vehicle serviced and is automatically offered the convenience of text messaging with the service advisor. If the customer chooses to do so, they begin to receive timely progress reports on their mobile phone or tablet.
For instance, they can receive a text message notice of when their vehicle is being inspected and what repairs need to be completed, including any pictures, videos, or supporting documentation for the repair.
Included in those text messages is an embedded link to capture the customer’s approval of the proposed work.
If any hurdles are encountered—such as the need to order a special part—the customer can be texted the request for approval. All of this helps to greatly improve transparency and ease the common feelings of anxiety while customers are separated from their vehicles.
Once the work is done, the customer is texted their final bill, including an itemized account of work performed and a “pay now” link. By clicking on the secure link, the customer can pay the bill at that very moment from their mobile device.
No more playing phone tag or technicians waiting for customer approval. And, best of all, no surprises for either the consumer or the dealer. It’s a win-win.
The virtual vehicle inspection
Sounds good, right? The beauty in texting images is bridging conventional gaps in the inspection process—after all, seeing is believing—and taking the customer experience to the next level.
For example, repair descriptions can be supported with photos of worn or failed components. You can text completed multipoint inspection forms, as well as additional service recommendations.
Plus, you can text your customers a 360-degree, walk-around video inspection of the work performed, which they can view on their mobile device and follow up with questions.
What’s the bottom line for your customers? Complete transparency. No inspection gaps. No questions left unanswered. And no surprises.
No wonder CFI Group found text messaging to be the highest-rated contact method out of all other customer communication channels. It’s how people prefer to communicate with each other, not just your dealership.
Will Mapes is the co-founder of Singlethread, the only service messaging platform helping dealerships generate more customer pay per visit. He has spent the majority of his career designing and implementing technology solutions for automobile dealerships, dealership service providers, and OEMs.