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Ready, Set, Service - Text

Here are some statistics to consider.

In 2014, Morpace Omnibus surveyed online U.S. consumers who text regularly. Nearly half of respondents said they would be very interested or somewhat interested in corresponding with a dealership via text message after a vehicle purchase, for things like service updates, recall notices, and maintenance information.

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.

The New Service Frontier

We all know texting is the new frontier when it comes to car sales, but there are dealers who still don’t understand the benefits of texting in the service department. One need only look at the data regarding texting in general to truly understand the opportunities that exist for your service operations.

  • Today, 94% of cell phone owners between the ages of 30 – 49 years send and receive texts.1 75% of cell phone owners between the ages of 50 – 64 send and receive texts.1
  • 98% text messages are read, compared to 22 percent of emails, 29 percent of tweets, and 12 percent of Facebook posts.288% of cell phone owners with annual household incomes of $50,000 or more send and receive texts.3 The average number of mobile texts sent and received on a monthly basis outpace call volume across all age groups.3
  • Text messaging (SMS) produces engagement rates 6 – 8 times higher than email4, and 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of delivery.5
  • 63% of smart phone owners use their mobile device to research and shop while at a dealership; 52% visit an additional dealership as a direct result; and 72% are more likely to visit another dealer than those not using a mobile device on the lot.6

Let’s look at the current service process at your dealership, and how texting can enhance that process.

Your service advisor sits with a customer to discuss 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.

Let’s add texting to the existing 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.

The customer can confirm permission either directly on their phone via the dealership’s text platform or the service advisor adds this information to the Repair Order and asks the customer to initial. Now the customer has opted in and your service advisor can text the customer with issues – and the customer can text 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.

Be warned, however. If you’re enabling your service advisors to text customers from their personal cell phones, your dealership is at risk for regulatory violations and hefty fines.

Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) guidelines are strict when it comes to texts, and fines for non-compliance can run as high as $1,500 per violation. That’s why it’s critical to implement a web-based texting platform to help enforce proper opt-ins and opt-outs. It also serves as a lead management tool to monitor and track communications.

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.

Texting platforms can be easily implanted and easily integrated into your existing dealership operations. Below is an overview of how they work on a general level.

  • Consumers see a marketing message that directs them to ‘text or call’ one of your dealership’s publicized phone numbers. These numbers can be any landline or toll free number, including call tracking numbers.
  • When a text comes in from any of these numbers, the system automatically identifies the contact as a text and routes the customer into a lead management platform. The customer is immediately provided with an opt-in message.
  • Once the customer opts-in, your sales staff is immediately sent an alert in the form of a text message and an email.
  • Your staff can now begin a text conversation with the customer from either their desktop computer or mobile phone within the platform. All texts are logged and stored and can be delivered to your CRM.
  • If the customer wants service pricing information, has questions about repairs or wants to schedule a service appointment, your staff can text directly to the customer. Both the dealership and the customer have a record of the conversation and any pricing quoted.

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. It’s also efficient for reaching a broader audience of service customers, and to keep those customers coming back.

 

1Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project Spring Tracking Survey, April 17 – May 19, 2013.

2Frost & Sullivan 2010.

3Experian Marketing Services and Simmons National Consumer Study.

4HelloWorld Benchmark Mobile Marketing Study, 2012.

5Mobile Squared Report: Conversational Advertising, 2010.

6 Placed, Inc. and Cars.com Mobile Device Use at the Dealership, January 2014.

 

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.