At Your Service! – How to turn a mundane oil change into an experience your customers won’t soon forget.

Let’s face it, the service experience shouldn’t start when a customer comes in for their first check-up. It should start the minute they take delivery of their vehicle.

Here’s a golden opportunity to introduce them to your service department. That sales to service hand-off – how is it done? Do you give the customer a card with some contact info for the service department? Or does a service advisor or manager come out at the time of delivery and promote their department by providing a tour?

There’s a better, more customer-centric way, because when a customer is taking delivery of their new vehicle, they’re not thinking about servicing it. But why not invite the customer to your store for a car care clinic? There will be refreshments, presentations about their vehicle and service, and they can meet the managers, maybe owners.

It’s something you can do through a third party, or yourself. From the customer’s perspective, it’s wise to include the owner whenever possible. The owner is passionate about their facility, and it gives the store a face, something customers can relate to. That’s also the time to talk about service, maybe offer a tour of the store, including the service area.

Small town feel

As dealerships become bigger, with more dealer groups, customers want to experience the familiar touch of the family run, small town, customer-centric type of store.  That’s where the car care clinic can make a difference, by introducing employees and members of the executive team, and rolling out the red carpet for customers.

In that car care clinic, customers can learn everything about their vehicle. They love to learn tips. For example, if you hold the remote to your chin, and press a button, your head will amplify the signal almost three times! Imagine how helpful that is for anyone with a stroller who’s trying to find their car in a crowded parking lot.

Customers also want to know about what they should do in the case of an emergency. Smart dealers put a permanent sticker on the driver door pillar with body shop contacts, tow truck information, and of course, their name. Or, they can supply a branded collision package – simply a zip lock bag with a disposable camera and instructions, like contact information for the local area and an outline of what to do in case of a collision. Make the customer feel like they’re looking after their safety

Booking a service appointment should be easy. There should be an online booking system. If someone in your service area takes a phone call, they should follow up with a text or email to confirm. That text message or email helps to make the customer feel obligated to show up.

Inviting facility

And when a customer does pull into the service drive, the facility should be inviting. Is there a screen greeting the customer by name? A service advisor should walk out and greet them, walking around their vehicle with a tablet, taking notes and making conversation that’s focused on safety. If there’s a car seat in the back, it should be checked, to make sure it’s fixed in. Mats should be clicked in.

Or perhaps there’s a greeter, who takes the customer’s key and introduces them to the service advisor. They take the vehicle through the car wash, wipe down the inside of the glass, and also the steering wheel and gear shift.

If your store is up to date, you should have a quick check alignment machine right in the service lane. This not only takes a number of photographs of the vehicle to ensure its current condition, but also generates a report which is very safety-centric.

You might want to think about setting up a display showing the difference between a used cabin air filter and a new one; an oil filter, a drain plug, worn brakes, broken thermostats, worn tires and suspension. This should be displayed in a way that the customer can clearly see the items, and can prompt conversation about safety.

When the customer is inside your service facility, it should feel inviting. Many companies provide screenage, where you can display educational content, or the manufacturer’s latest news or awards, or show the latest safety gadgets on next year’s models. Give the customer some tidbits they can use. Or get them excited about the brand – what’s your F1 or CASCAR entry, newest technology, or futuristic concept vehicle?

Role playing

Your people should present a friendly appearance, not be buried behind computer screens. Their uniform is important. Role-playing needs to be practiced, so perhaps doing some mock meet and greet walkarounds, introductions to the service manager, and so on.

Is your lounge friendly? Is there a kids’ area? Do you provide technology, free wi-fi, tablets and USB plug-ins? Is the coffee fresh? Are you providing disposable cups or re-usable ones? You might want to have some signs talking about how the dealership is trying to reduce its environmental footprint.

It empowers the customer to have knowledge about their vehicle, and its safety. They shouldn’t have to go to YouTube to find this. Your staff should be supplying it. Providing information and friendly education can go a long way to building transparency and trust, and developing a better relationship.

Article originally published in Canadian AutoJournal, June 2019.

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