Should your dealership run a spring service clinic before summer’s big sale season? And is it really worth your effort? You bet. Now that’s settled, let’s move on.  

First things first. Start thinking like your customers. What are they looking for – and not looking for – in a service department? Once you’ve got that nailed down, it’s time to build your dealership’s spring service clinic campaign, complete with a strong service-into-sales component.  

Before we begin, though, we need to acknowledge the elephant in the (show)room. Customers think dealer service departments are out to overcharge them. So, one of your toughest jobs ahead is proving them wrong. How can you do that? Hold on to your dipstick, we’ll get to it 

We’re going to cover: 

  • Why service clinics matter to dealers. 
  • What customers want in a service department (even if they don’t always know it). 
  • How to turn service into sales.

Why Service Clinics Matter to Dealers 

Two things to keep in mind: almost 25 percent of auto searches are related to parts, service and maintenance – and 95 percent of car buyers use digital as a source of information. Takeaway? Strategic automotive dealerships are heavy into digital marketing and feature service-related content and events (like service clinics). Now, on to customer retention, profits and sales. 

Customer retention 

We’ll start with the bad news and end with the good news, which is how to overcome the bad news.  

Bad news: A study showed 70% of consumers who purchased or leased from a dealer didn’t return for service last year.  

Good news: That means there’s a lot of opportunity for improvement – and service clinics can play a strong role in your revenue building.  

Bad news: A recent survey found 77% of customers think small repair shops are more cost effective than dealerships.  

Good news: But customer experience is key to retention and loyalty, so building strong consumer relationships goes a long way in putting vehicles in your service bays.  

Profits 

When it comes to profits, it’s all good news for service departments – and a great time to maximize them with a spring service clinic. 

  • The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) found dealerships experiencing an uptick in gross profit due to service departments – up 4% in just a few years.  
  • An Automotive News article reported consumers are having maintenance done more often; many dealerships are adding technicians; and approximately 86% of dealer service bays are being used.  

Sales 

Build loyalty to your service department with a spring service clinic – and increase future sales. A recent Cox report showed that consumers who purchase and service their vehicle at the same dealership are likely to buy their next car at that dealership. Which means more future sales (and service visits). 

Related: Service Department Now Makes up 49% of Your Dealership’s Gross Profit 

What Customers Want in a Service Department  (Even if They Don’t Always Know It) 

Specialized Technicians  

Customers want to know their vehicle is in good hands. Highlight that your technicians are specialists; that they’re manufacturer-trained to work on the customer’s make of vehicle; and that they receive ongoing training.  

Personal Relationships 

Small repair shops have an advantage when it comes to one-on-one relationships, which can make it easier to build trust and loyalty. Work to make service visits as personalized as possible for your customers, taking time to create rapport and explain issues and repairs.  

Guarantees  

Explain that dealerships perform repairs for free if a vehicle is still under warranty. Even if it’s not, dealers can back up repairs with a warranty that’s good nationwide, so it’ll be taken care of at no charge by other dealers.  

Quality parts  

Make sure customers understand that, unlike small repair shops, dealerships exclusively use original equipment (OE) parts. The parts may cost a bit more, but they’re of a quality and engineering standard that only manufacturers can authorize. Many manufacturers offer some of the best warranties in the industry on parts – and the labor to install those parts.  

Price  

When it comes to getting their car serviced, customers often look for the lowest price out there. And your service department probably doesn’t have it. So, make it worth their while – and their dollars – with better technicians, parts, warranties, amenities, customer service and more.  

Location & Convenience 

Bad news: Small repair shops are often closer to customers than your dealership and more convenient if they need to leave their car for servicing.  

Good news: 

  • If the car repairs are covered by manufacturer warranty or a complimentary maintenance plan, customers will most likely go to your dealership. 
  • Your dealership probably has more amenities than a small repair shop – free shuttle service, loaners and a waiting room with snacks, drinks, cable and wireless – so invite customers to enjoy them during your spring service clinic.  
  • While dealerships aren’t doing a great job with retention through service – remember the 70% of customers who didn’t return for service last year? Well, more than half said they’d travel further and pay more for a better service experience. Survey results also showed what customers are looking for on dealer websites: 67% want to track their service history; 62 percent want OEM maintenance recommendations; and 70% want price ranges for services. Welcome customers to your service clinic – and your updated website with the features they want. 

How to Turn Service into Sales 

When planning your dealership’s spring event, consider these tips for turning service into sales and making your clinic the most successful ever.  

Leverage Data  

When customers set up service clinic appointments, check their equity and see if they’re in a position to upgrade. If so, provide a loaner while their car is being serviced and – when they return it – have some no-money-down offers waiting for them. Also, two in five customers want to know the cost of services needed, compared to the vehicle’s value, so have that ready too. 

Appraise Vehicles  

One in three customers want to get their vehicle’s trade-in value when it’s serviced. So, do an appraisal for every vehicle your service department sees during the clinic – and be prepared to make an offer.   

Assign Staff  

Dedicate team members to researching data, appraising vehicles and moving customers from your service drive to your showroom. 

Geofence 

Target service clinic customers with digital marketing while they’re at your dealership and on their phones – highlight special incentives, financing options, and makes and models via Facebook inventory ads

When all is blogged and done, a service clinic is definitely worth the effort. Because this spring event is about more than just the sum of its OE parts. It’s your dealership’s opportunity to increase customer retention, profits and sales. Now and in the future. Plus, there’s no better time than a service clinic to demonstrate the advantages of trusting vehicles to your accomplished team of technicians.  

Contact us to learn more about strategizing, developing, and launching your spring service clinic campaign. 

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