I’m a big fan of service BDCs. In fact, during my retail days in the mid-Nineties, I was an early adopter of the concept. I had asked a consultant friend of mine, who help dealers set these up, to give me a hand at my store. We had staff who were either mishandling or not making inbound and outbound calls, so I remember being eager to see the results.
This topic must have been on my mind recently when I asked a class of NCMi students, “Where are your customers, and when are they coming back?”
Well, you would have thought I’d asked the question in a foreign language or something! There was absolute silence in the room. Some were looking at others to see if they had an answer. My take on the look on everyone’s faces was, “This is THE question, isn’t it?” No one ventured an answer.
The first service appointment is key
So, I then asked, “How many of your dealerships set the first service appointment on each new and used vehicle at the time of delivery, based on time or mileage?” Of the 25 or so people in the room, only two raised their hands affirming that this was, in fact, happening at their dealerships.
When we started our BDC, one of the processes we decided track was the first service appointment. We, for sure, were not setting these. I’d heard that getting a 65% return rate for the 1st Service Appointment was the Holy Grail but, we were told, only 14% of customers would come back on their own for non-warranty, maintenance, and repair work. You cannot build a business on 14%! So it became part of the sales and delivery process to have the BDC, based on time or mileage, to put the customer’s scheduled first service appointment into the system.
Consistent appointments make loyal customers
While we were very good in service in those days—especially in menu sales and work found on multi-point inspections, which we called the “perpetual service clinic”—I am sure we were not setting next service appointments, something I now know is a critical component to service profits.
With that in mind, I asked my students, “How many of you set the next service appointment with each customer during the active delivery with their Service Advisor?” The answer was zero.
It’s a given that the first service Appointment is a must to get the whole process started, but it’s setting the next service appointment that keeps it all together. I always think of this analogy: “How often would we get our teeth cleaned, if the dentist didn’t call to remind us?” The answers range from “not as often” to “never!” Service work on automobiles is no different; most people forget about it until the vehicle doesn’t run or they are reminded of needed work. It’s so obvious that it still amazes me that so few American dealerships take the initiative to set the appointment!
Challenge yourself to invite clients back
We all know that customer loyalty is on the wane. In response, most dealers have invested in CRM software to help us keep track of our clients. Yet, these tools are only as good as our processes. The sad truth is that many of my clients still are not setting first and next service appointments, even when they use these tools.
So, here’s my challenge for you: Always be able to answer the question, “Where are your customers and when are they coming back?” Create a reliable system that gets your clients back to the dealership after their purchase and keeps them coming back.