Best Practices

Service Sucks

There is a deep line in the sand between sales and service.  Variable and Fixed Operations just don’t live on the same page.  Is this true at your dealership?

Why is the divide so deep?  Is it because there is a fundamental difference in perceptions?  Is it because sales sees the world in shades of grey while service sees the world in black and white?

Or could it simply be that sales only deals with service when a customer is upset with his service experience?  Is service just an expense for sales as there are costs associated with vehicle preparation/reconditioning and accessory purchases?  Do these add-up to a disgruntled view from sales that translates into service personnel believing all sales people are jerks?  Maybe it is the income disparity between each end of the house.

I can list reasons why tensions are high all day long.  I lived a lot of them on each side of the line, but we all know these issues need to be buried.  There is no other word to describe it but ridiculous.  Service is not a waste of time and it certainly doesn’t suck.

I prefer to discuss ways to bridge this divide.  I can tell you up-front that this bridge is a tough one to walk across.  If you are capable of traversing it, you will be rewarded in ways that very few have ever seen in most dealerships.

Sales creates customers; service keeps customers.

  1. The first thing you must do, as a member of the sales division, is realize that your future is dead without service.  The transparency the Internet is birthing daily is creating an entirely new population of customers whose purpose in life is to find a reason to rule your dealership out.  You might do a great marketing and sales job on the front, but are you paying attention to your retention rate?
  2. Second, think about how service can be aided by marketing.  Many service departments still rely solely on direct mail with absolutely no regard for targeting beyond a year, make, model (the “year” might be a stretch).  A very simple way for you to help them is with some targeted email campaigns.
  3. Third, consider turning your branding messages into something about service.  Of course, you have to have some branding campaigns rolling to do this first.  I’ll argue that branding is more important than conquesting, but most dealerships put 100% of their ad budgets into conquesting.  If you’re only trying to get new customers then we need to talk – NOW!  If you’re allocating your budget to branding messages, then give service a hand.  You can brand service and still get your name in the marketplace at the same time.  That’s a win-win.
  4. Fourth, give service some space on your website.  Actually pay attention to those service pages.  Those pages don’t get a lot of traffic today because you don’t have much content there.  If your content is a framed-in appointment scheduler, think again; this area needs some love.  Give your service people some ownership of the website.  They only control the service scheduler, but I’m sure they’d have a great deal to add on the benefits of doing particular services.  I bet they’d love to have some content comparing how their franchised-backed shop is far superior to any Pep Boys or Mom & Pop shop.  The added content also helps your SEO efforts.  You can start this conversation by asking your service manager what his retention rate is (how many of the cars being sold are actually seeing the service bays in xx days).  There are other levels of retention your service manager would probably be happy to educate you on – just ask.
  5. Fifth, and this plays on the last part of the fourth point, show genuine interest.  I know you have 4,000 Internet leads and 8,000 phone calls to answer today, but it really doesn’t take a ton of time to help service get on the right track.  Service doesn’t change every month.  On your website it is mostly a set-it and forget-it bit of content.  Customers all add miles and time to their cars, so they are in need of specialized services at specific mileage intervals.  All I’m trying to say is service is predictable….it is black and white.
  6. Sixth, get paid on your work.  If you put a good effort into aiding service you deserve compensation.  However, the best approach to this is to get yourself some fans in the service department before asking the boss for more pay.  I suggest getting your service department hooked on a few of the items outlined here by making your work a necessary part of your service department’s continued success.

You can absolutely go much deeper with things here.  You can setup a series of PPC campaigns for service, film videos about how great the service department is, help them manage their (your) reputation, and simply include them in your marketing efforts.

Service is much easier than sales.  There is a lot less bullshit in service because it has more consistency.  The next time you need a vacation from the junk in the front, take a trip across the divide and make some new friends….make a bigger paycheck!

What are some of the things you’ve done to help fixed operations?

Who knew an argument with Jeff Kershner, in 2005, would lead to Alex becoming a partner with him on DealerRefresh. Where will the next argument take ...

Great reminders and I'll be doing a workshop on Fixed Ops Digital Marketing at the Boot Camp this weekend.

Christine Knowles has done a great job creating service marketing videos. If you type into Google "Virginia Beach Oil Change" her video and related microsite are at the top of search results.

Checkered Flag has done a great job using video to communicate the reasons why consumers should service their cars with them. Bravo!

For most dealers, their SEO efforts have not included a focus on fixed ops, but in reality its easy to accomplish strong visibility since dealers are traditional not competing with each other.
  • A
    Andy Guyler
  • April 14, 2011
Our service department was the bread and butter of our store. Our sales people would come in early just to sit and great customers in the service drive through. Our service reps knew when a customer needed a new car and did a great job flipping them to sales. At the same time, our sales rep would do an introduction with our service reps before they would even do a first pencil.

The way we looked at it, the sales person will see their customer once a year if that, but our service reps see them at least every 3 month/3,000 miles. The higher you can get your expense absorption in fixed ops the more money you have in sales to target current and future customers.
Andy is on point...the relationship-building of a perfectly synergized team will yield results that grow both fixed and variable departments' bottom lines. And, all of the growth begins with a proactive communications continuum internally. A great value of Andy's comment is the fact that he speaks from a hands-on perspective, and he cites examples of how THE PEOPLE at the dealership are interacting (i.e. appointments with service consultants are handshakes with consumers that may be parlayed into sales transactions or even referrals). Keep up the good work!
The Sales Dept. is like the Maternity ward (everyone is happy)
The Service Dept. is like the Cancer Ward (everyone can't wait to get out ;-)

The Sales Dept. is all about WANT
The Service Dept. is about NEED

I want a new AWD, DVD and NAV... in black... with alloys
I need an alignment, new brakes and tires (yuk)

The marketing pitch for the service dept is very different than sales, yet when you put forth a GREAT service marketing effort, sales dept. benefits.

I need to do a better job with our service pages. TY Alex!
I was just at the service dept. Not pleased, but that is the cost for not having a monthly car payment. What I found funny is that when I walked out from the cashier. I stopped to look at a new car even going as far as opening the door and sitting down (huge buying signal in my book), and not one salesperson came over to ask me if I needed help or to ask any questions.