Many service departments suffer significant customer attrition over time. People who return to the dealership for repairs and maintenance immediately after buying a new or used vehicle gradually drift away — often never to be seen again.
How much more profitable would your service business be if you could stop these losses? Significantly. Here are five ways to fine-tune your service customer retention.
1. Reduce obstacles. Just how difficult is it to make an appointment with your shop? If customers have to spend a long time on hold only to end up in voice mail, or if they must wait days or even weeks for a time slot, you’re probably driving away patrons.
Start looking for ways to fix the problem. One way is to establish a firm policy for returning phone calls within a set — and short — period. Another is to allow people to set up appointments via e-mail.
2. Increase accessibility. Extended hours not only spell convenience for many people, but also allow you to more efficiently use your expensive service facility. Airlines like to keep their airplanes in the air as much as possible. You should try to keep your lifts in the air for more hours of the day, too.
What is even more convenient for customers than longer service hours? Mobile service trucks driven by technicians who can do normal maintenance and minor repairs right in the customer’s driveway or parking lot at work. Even owners of mass-market vehicles are often willing to pay a premium for this service.
3. Court enthusiasts. Car and truck club members and enthusiasts typically spend more on their vehicles than any other group of potential customers. Join the clubs that support your brands and attend their meetings and events.
Better yet, host sessions in your shop and throw in some pizza and soda. Ask your service and parts staff to go to the sessions to explain what your store can do for the club members. Establish a preferred customer list and offer these people incentives to try your facility.
4. Shop the competition. Have you ever actually taken a car for service to a competitive shop that seems to be stealing your customers? You might want to do this, just to see what happens. How are you greeted? Is the vehicle ready when promised? How friendly are the service writers? What did the service cost?
Compare your experiences with what you offer. If you and your staff are fairly well known around town, you can hire a shopping service to approach some competitors anonymously.
5. Reassess your pricing. Let’s face it: Many people base the decision to leave your shop solely on cost. Regularly reassess the going rates for vehicle service in your market area.
Customers are often lured away by shops with a lower hourly rate. But do these facilities charge for more hours on typical jobs?
Whatever you do, don’t accept that service customer attrition is inevitable. Use your customer list, as well as your knowledge and experience, to come up with some bold ideas and fight back.
Frankeberger Vausher + Company, CPAs is a full service CPA firm whose partners have collectively served the dealership industry for over 35 years. We provide a full compendium of professional services including traditional taxation and financial statement preparation as well as strategic consulting for dealers in such areas as: Financial and Operating Controls, all activities for Buy/Sell transactions, valuation requirements, estate planning assistance as well as being Expert Witnesses in Litigation Matters. In addition, we provide expertise in Forensic, Fraud and Embezzlement situations as that need may unfortunately arise.
Please contact Dennis Frankeberger at 909-597-1100 to discuss this article or any other dealership issue that may be of interest to you. Email address dennisf@FVCPAS.com