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Service with a Smile

Consider the following statistics.

In a 2014 monthly online survey of U.S. consumers, nearly half of those who text regularly indicated they would be very interested or somewhat interested in corresponding with a dealership via text message after a vehicle purchase, for things such as service updates, recall notices, and maintenance information – up from 37 percent in 2o11.

A 2014 Customer Service Index Study conducted by J.D. Power and Associates found that communication from a service manager is a key element for consumers when it comes to a satisfying service experience.

And a survey by AutoMD in 2013 showed that a vast majority of consumers who rely on a dealership for service do so because their car or truck is under warranty, or because their vehicle has been recalled for service.  A total of 83% of dealer-goers say they would rely on an independent shop if it weren’t for a warranty or recall notice.

Dealerships need to develop a positive experience for consumers on every service visit, starting with the first visit – while their car is under warranty or recall, to help offset customers choosing independent shops down the road.  Consumers want to text with you, and they need to build a relationship with you (and feel comfortable engaging with your dealership) when it comes to servicing their vehicle.  It stands to reason, then, that if you offer your customers a texting option when it comes to your dealership’s service department, you’re opening up opportunities to connect and engage with a significant segment of your customer base in the manner they prefer.  And you can build deeper relationships with them in the process. 

Now consider the current service process at your dealership, and how texting can improve that process.

A customer sits with your service advisor who discusses the work required to be done on the vehicle.  At his computer, he reviews past service and what is scheduled to be done, based on the work that was done during the prior visit and the vehicle’s current mileage.

He hands the customer a work order to approve along with an estimated cost.  And then the customer either kills time at the dealership, takes a shuttle to work or home, or hops in a loaner car and heads out.

A majority of the time, the mechanic finds something else – either a problem that is urgent and requires immediate attention, a different diagnosis altogether, or a potential problem that requires warning the owner of future issues. 

The service advisor tries to call the customer at the phone number highlighted on the work order. In the meantime, the car is on the lift, taking up service space, and wasting valuable time while everyone waits for the customer’s reply…time that should be spent actually working on the vehicle.

Now let’s add texting to this process.

While the customer is at the service desk for the write up, the service advisor asks for the customer’s permission to text with updates while allowing the customer to text back with questions.

Once the customer says yes, the service advisor adds this information to the Repair Order and asks the customer to initial.  Now the customer’s opt-in is in writing and your service advisor can text the customer with issues – and the customer can text back in reply.  Each advisor has his own texting account and can get alerts when text messages arrive.  Many times, even if a customer is returning a call, the advisor might not be at his desk.  

Communication is quicker and more efficient than ever before, for your service team and for your customers.

There are many benefits to implementing a texting program into your dealership’s service department. 

For starters, you can use text message marketing in your service materials to drive additional service business by enabling customers to contact you the way they prefer – to receive notifications about special service and maintenance offers, to receive appointment reminders, to schedule service appointments, or to receive notifications about recalls and other important information about their vehicle.

You can also text-enable existing service landline phone numbers without having to create new numbers dedicated to texting, to drive additional service business with your existing customers and to generate service business with new customers, while improving the overall experience in the process.

And texting can create efficiencies in your service operations by enabling your advisors to get quick answers to important questions, to alert customers to additional work that needs to be performed, to update customers on the status of repairs, to let them know when repairs are completed and the vehicle can be picked up, and ultimately to decrease the time cars are on your lifts which cuts into productivity and erodes billable service hours.

The bottom line?  Texting is more efficient than a phone call or an email, particularly in the service department, and it’s the way your customers prefer to communicate with you.  Implement a texting program and your customers will thank you.  Now that’s service with a smile.

*Morpace Omnibus 2014 survey of U.S. consumers matched to demographics from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Scott Pechstein is VP of National Sales for Autobytel Inc., offering the industry a full suite of high quality lead products and marketing services, including Autobytel Direct pay-per-click advertising, TextShield, SaleMove, and Payment Pro. For more information, text or call (949) 278-8618 or email scottp@autobytel.com.  For more dealer training, tips, advice, and news, visit dealer.autobytel.com.