Understanding the wants and needs of your service customers can be challenging – especially as new technology and shopping trends emerge. Why do some customers abandon your shop after one service? Why do some schedule an appointment online and never show up? It’s critical to have a clear grasp of your customer’s journey with your shop to improve the customer experience and retention.
A customer “journey map” is a visual representation of a customer’s experience with your dealership. It provides an understanding into the needs and concerns of potential customers which directly motivate or inhibit their actions. It helps to uncover roadblocks because you can’t make improvements until you understand what’s inhibiting customers from bringing service business to your drive.
Before diving into the steps to take to investigate and improve your customer’s journey map, consider your current service department process. Many dealerships define process from the dealership’s point of view, not the customer point of view. This is a big distinction.
Your dealership is primarily motivated to make a profit by servicing as many customers as possible each day. Your customers are motivated to service their vehicles for a variety of reasons, such as safety, the need for a reliable vehicle, or to protect their investment. We also know that in today’s world customers prioritize speed and convenience.
The process of creating a customer journey map can be extensive but it’s invaluable for understanding your customers and how to align your processes with their needs and motivations. Focus your efforts on the following to get started.
Initial customer interaction. Customers begin their journey with your shop through several different avenues, the biggest being your website and in your store. I’d argue a great first step is to secret-shop your online experience. Do you give homepage real estate to your service department or does it take several clicks to find information? Do you post pricing details, hours of operation, and perks (such as a fleet of loaners, wi-fi in your waiting room, etc.)? How easy is it to use your online scheduling tool? Imagine how difficult it is for customers to retrieve information and make an appointment if its’ an arduous process for you?
Scheduling that first service appointment with new car buyers at vehicle delivery is not a new idea for anyone, but how well are you doing it? This second avenue of initial interaction is crucial to start a long-term service relationship. Observe your salespeople. Can they speak knowledgably about your service department and the perks offered? Can they speak to your highly-trained techs and time-saving technologies like text updates and mobile pay? Do they offer a walk-through of the service department? All of these steps show customers that you value their service business and are prepared to earn it.
The phone experience. Many potential customers will visit your website and then pick up the phone to schedule an appointment or ask a question. Call your shop to see how easy it is to navigate your phone system. A common customer roadblock is to post one phone number for your entire dealership. A customer calls and the first thing that happens is a system transfer. Transfers are an opportunity for long hold times, misrouting, and dropped calls. Consider having a phone line that goes directly to your service advisors or BDC agents.
You can also implement a service-specific Digital Voice Assistant (DVA) that is integrated with your online scheduling tool and DMS to pick-up all inbound service calls, answer routine questions, and schedule appointments. A DVA can schedule an appointment in about three minutes as compared to six for a human, and customers are willing to engage as most are comfortable with common DVAs such as Alexa and Google Home. An added bonus is that BDC agents can focus on revenue-producing outbound calls when not distracted by constantly ringing phones.
Arrival at your service department. First impressions matter. Drive to your service department just as your customers would. Is there signage for the service department so customers know where to enter, where to park, and how to check-in? Do you arrive to a long line of cars and frustrated customers waiting for help? Does your shop look professional? I’ve had the experience of arriving for a service to find techs right out front smoking cigarettes. No one welcomed me to the drive and I had to walk through a cloud of smoke to get to the front door. Needless to say, I did not go back. That first impression matters if you want customers to return.
On the flip side, I’ve serviced at dealerships that use arrival boards or RFID tags to personally greet customers when they arrive. I felt welcomed and appreciated and like my business meant a lot to the shop. That’s a personal touch that wins repeat business.
Service updates and payments. Status checks kill CSI. Customers hate when they don’t feel informed or have to call your shop for an update. The best way for your staff to communicate with customers is via text. It’s easy, fast, and efficient. Service advisors can text MPIs with videos explaining needed repairs and customers can text back approvals. Video engenders trust and higher rates of acceptance which improves the customer experience and RO dollars.
Vehicle pick-up. Customers arriving at your shop after a long day want to pick-up their vehicles and go. How fast is your check-out process? Do you offer mobile pay so customers aren’t standing in long queues? Do you attempt to schedule the next service via text before the customer arrives? Tired, hungry customers in front of you will most likely brush-off the next appointment because they want to go home. Schedule that next appointment before vehicle delivery and make it mandatory to schedule automated follow-ups within your CRM.
Your service department is your best bet for steady revenue growth, but only if you can attract and retain customers. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and map out their service journey with your shop. You’ll likely uncover roadblocks and pain points that once resolved will boost business and retention.
To hear more about this topic check out our episode of PDS On The Rocks: Journey Mapping for the Service Drive
Jason Beckett is the COO of Proactive Dealer Solutions, a leading provider of training and software solutions for the automotive industry. With a background in product development at Blackberry and infotainments systems and a Master of Business Administration, Jason joined Proactive Dealer Solutions in 2014, bringing his expertise in strategic planning, product development, and project management.