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The Digital Highway to Customer Loyalty and Financial Success

By Matt Rodeghero, Chief Product Officer, AutoLoop

Consider this breakdown of the current U.S. population:

  • Millennials 34%
  • Baby Boomers 30%
  • Generation X 25%
  • Silent Gen 11%

This breakdown also reflects your current service lane customers. Of these, Millennials, Generation X and increasingly even Baby Boomers depend on laptops, tablets and smartphones. They’re technologically savvy and spend countless hours online—at home, at work, or on-the-go with their mobile devices.

They’re engaged in social media, sending/receiving emails, texting, and video conferencing. They’re connecting via apps such as Snapchat, Mashable, Skype and Twitter. Even some members of the so-called “Silent Generation,” (born between 1925 and 1945)are using computers, tablets and smartphones on a daily basis.

With this in mind, it’s only natural that the majority of your customers expect digital technology to be “at their service,” enhancing their customer experience wherever they are—including your dealership’s service lane.

Need a few more statistics to convince you to go with the digital flow?

  • As of 2014 there were 163.9 million smartphone users.
  • Consumers age 25-34 lead the way in smartphone usage in-store.
  • More than a third of all Internet users are over the age of 50.
  • Online purchases in 2014 totaled $482 billion.

Why are these statistics so relevant to your dealership?

Today, the biggest share of a dealership’s profits typically comes from the service lane. Gaining new service lane customers while retaining existing ones is a critical part of growing your business, but customer loyalty is a constant challenge: competition from other dealerships and third-party repair shops is fierce, and will only increase.

You need every advantage you can find, and a digitally enhanced service lane can go a long way towards keeping your dealership competitive and your customers loyal.

So, what does your dealership need to do, specifically, to get up to speed on the digital highway to success? 

First, acquire digital service lane tools that integrate with your current DMS and CRM. An excellent service lane experience for your customers starts with high quality marketing communications from the dealership. Using digital technology, you can automatically target and send the most relevant email and text messages to your individual customers for all types of services:

  • Reminders for OEM-recommended maintenance
  • VIN-specific recall notices
  • Missed appointment follow-ups
  • Special-order parts arrival notices
  • Individual offers targeted to each recipient, including digital coupons

This digital assist allows your dealership to track your customers’ car care for them while eliminating generic mass emails and direct mail pieces that are irrelevant to the customers’ current needs.

Once your customers receive your timely digital messages, they can go online using their laptops, tablets or smartphones to schedule their own appointments at their convenience. Instead of being limited to business hours only—and almost inevitably being put on hold while a service advisor checks a schedule—customers are able to schedule at any time, 24/7.

There’s another benefit as well: when tech-savvy customers schedule their own appointments, they’re statistically more likely to show up. A better show rate, obviously, means more efficient use of your service bays and technicians’ time.

With digital technology, customers can also gain any-time access to their vehicle repair and service history online, as well as see current OEM or dealer service recommendations. This gives customers a sense of control while simultaneously inspiring confidence in the dealership.

The right software can even present customers with a range of options for services—from good to better to best—before their dealership visit, allowing them to choose the option that best fits their needs and budget. They can even communicate (by text, chat or email) with service advisors to discuss problems and explore solutions, eliminating surprises on the day of the visit.

Digital technology can make the check-in process smoother and more efficient, too. Mobile service advisors can access complete customer and vehicle data from a tablet or smartphone check-in tool before the customer even arrives at the service lane. They can complete a walk-around inspection and immediately make service recommendations and present upsell suggestions. Customers are more likely to value and follow recommendations when they perceive your advisors as well-informed.

Mobile-enabled service advisors also have digital access to pricing for repairs or services, and can even cite comparable pricing from other sources online for transparent pricing. And with real-time access to your parts department, prices, recommendations and availability of repair parts are all right at their fingertips.

Need to communicate with customers during the service and repair process? Digital technology makes it smoother and more efficient. Service advisors can text customers with updates, ask for approval for additional repairs or services, and even send pictures of any problem areas. Customers can text back questions and responses from wherever they are.

When serviced vehicles are ready for pick-up, advisors simply notify customers with a quick text. Repair bills can be digitally sent to each customer; with more advanced software packages, payment can even be conveniently processed online.

There’s an old adage:  “Faster, Cheaper, Better – Pick Any Two.” The idea is, there’s no way to deliver all three options … but the digitally enhanced service lane comes close:

  1. Eliminating paperwork and manual look-ups means faster, more customer-convenient service;
  2. Online access leads to transparent, competitive and arguably lower prices;
  3. Better information and more accurate diagnoses can drive quality service and customer satisfaction. (Dependent on management and technicians’ performance, of course.)

Provide customers with an exceptional service lane experience, and they’ll show their loyalty by returning for service in the short term and eventually coming back to you when they’re ready to repurchase. In addition, happy, loyal customers refer their friends and family to your dealership to buy and service their vehicles. 

Your service lane, your dealership, your customers: with an active digital strategy, everybody wins.

Matt Rodeghero is Chief Product Officer for AutoLoop, one of the fastest growing software companies in America, providing dealers nationwide with a marketing platform designed to improve customer retention through engagement.  Rodeghero is responsible for the planning, oversight, testing and delivery of nearly a dozen different software products in over 2,000 dealerships across the country and around the world.  www.autoloop.net