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Tag Archive: Express Service

NCM Associates

#AskNCM: What are the benefits of express service?

Is express service worth it? Fixed ops expert Steve Hall sums it up in one word: Yes.

If you aren’t giving customers a reason to come back, you’re just handing them over to the aftermarket places. Not only does express improve retention, Steve explains, but it can give your shop other valuable benefits.

Find out why Steve Hall says you need an express service:

Do you offer express service? Tell us below how it has impacted your customer retention! Want to #AskNCM a question? Leave a comment below, and we’ll answer it!

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Steve Hall

Customer Retention in the Service Department (Part Two)

This is the second installment in a two-part series by Steve Hall. To read Part One, click here

Service Advisor 2

This is the second installment in a two-part series by Steve Hall. To read Part One, click here

Now that you understand the importance of custom retention, the next logical question is how do you capitalize on these opportunities? The most common way has been express service. It is probably the single largest retention tool we have available.

Express service is a business we know we need to be in. If we don’t offer, and actively pursue this work, our customers can and will go to the aftermarket competitors. For the most part, we aren’t losing our customers to other dealers, but rather to Jiffy Lube, Goodyear, Pep Boys, Meineke and independent shops. It’s not uncommon for a metro dealership to have a couple hundred of these types of shops within a five mile radius of their dealership. This makes the competition fierce.

The advantage we have, as dealerships, is all of the customers start as ours. Let’s think about this. Every vehicle that is on the road was originally sold by a dealership. It was what we did after that point that allowed us to either retain or lose that customer. In an effort to retain more of these customers, express service became a battle cry.

The Advent of Express Service

Virtually every manufacturer and most dealerships started some sort of express service system. The problem with this was twofold.

The first problem is, because the state of the industry a few years ago, dealers had to accelerate their implementation of express service to try and get more customers, immediately. As vehicle sales plummeted, and due to better quality of vehicles being produced, warranty work continued to decline. Virtually overnight, industry contraction had mandated that we must fight for every customer we have. The years of continual industry growth and a strong economy had ended; a true focus on retention had begun, and thus express service became a mainstay.

This happened so fast that the dealer body didn’t have a chance to really learn how to implement a profitable express service program.  We didn’t have time to start by learning to crawl, then walk, then learning to run. Instead we had to start running immediately, and this caused many to stumble.

The second problem was that the automotive business was so tough, we got really focused on metrics. Unfortunately, traditional service metrics and express service don’t correlate well together; they don’t truly relate how the business is doing. The very acts of becoming more price competitive and pursuing more oil changes and light maintenance work, negatively effects metrics like: hours per repair order, effective labor rate, and gross profit margin. Though there are ways to negate this downward pressure, most dealers didn’t have the time, forethought and information to understand or implement the solutions.

When we start to focus on express service and drive a higher number of low mileage vehicles or light maintenance vehicles to us, these are the circumstances that commonly occur. Drops in hours per repair order and effective labor rate start the cycle of stress and the conversations of “What is happening to our business? Why are our numbers falling?” This is the common. How we react to this can make or break our retention goals.

Doesn’t every vehicle eventually wear out or break down?

Tires, brakes, batteries, air filters, wheel bearing, cv boots, transmissions, head gaskets… the list of items that wear out or break goes on and on. If we have done a great job of retaining our customers, we will get the repair work and that will help keep our overall mix healthy.

It seems many times we take the short term view and give up just before things get good for us. But how do we avoid this? If we follow our processes, give great service, present the items needed, develop a great relationship with the client and know that even if they don’t buy today, we will be the one they contact when the car won’t start, or the tire finally blows out, or the brake squeal gets so bad they must have it repaired. They will do this because we have the relationship with them and we have earned their trust. At that point we are their “go to” place and they are still ours to lose.

Even if the customer decides not to repair anything, they WILL need another vehicle, so keep this in mind. Never forget the CNW Marketing Research study that we talked about earlier. Remember the key results: 86% of regular servicing customers that you originally sold will become repeat vehicle buyers. Yet, it falls all the way down to only 8% of customers you originally sold will become repeat buyers if they never service their vehicle with you.

You can easily see that once we do a great job with retention, by utilizing express service as a retention tool, we will be able to grow not only our service department but also our complete dealership for the long term. Utilizing better metrics will allow you to do that with less stress and more understanding of the real picture of what it takes to build your business.

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Steve Hall

Customer Retention in the Service Department (Part One)


Is YOUR service department’s overall gross profit growing year-over-year? The automotive industry as a whole has been in a growth mode for the last five years.  Unfortunately, too often we want to continue to look back and blame the financial meltdown of 2008-2009 for what we are doing today. Although that did take a hard toll on us, currently we are actually in a good place going forward in the service department.

Since new vehicle sales have been on a steady rise for the last five years, the number of vehicles that are less than six years old coming into our service departments have continued to increase. These vehicles are our core target vehicles and allow us our highest retention possibility. So the question remains, is YOUR service department steadily growing year-over-year?

Looking at the big picture, we are able to see the overall industry growth pattern, but let’s take this a step further. The next question is what does YOUR retention look like? I’m going to quantify what I mean by retention. In my opinion, the definition of what a retained customer is varies depending on your manufacturer’s service interval. For instance, if your manufacturer recommended maintenance interval is 5,000 miles, then I would want to see two customer paid visits, per year, to be considered a retained customer. If your manufacturer recommended maintenance interval is 12,000 miles then I would consider one customer paid visit per year a retained customer. Looking at it this way, you will be able to find a figure that correlates with YOUR brand.

Why is this so important? I’m going to give you two thoughts on this; both are critical to the growth of a dealership.

Future Sales and Service Loyalty

The first reason I’m going to share is sales based. CNW Marketing Research studied owners of General Motors vehicles and correlated future sales with service loyalty. Here were their results:

  • Customers who regularly serviced their vehicles at the selling dealership became repeat vehicle buyers 86% of the time
  • Customers that occasionally service their vehicles at the selling dealership became repeat buyers 46% of the time
  • Customers who seldom serviced their vehicles at the selling dealership became repeat buyers 18% of the time
  • Customers that never serviced their vehicles at the selling dealership became repeat vehicle buyers only 8% of the time

Those numbers are just staggering. As we have just seen, service retention absolutely drives repeat dealer vehicle sales. And vehicle sales are a great long term by-product of service retention.

A Focus on Retention Leads to Total Dealership Growth

Now let’s look at the second reason that retention is so critical. It’s the immediate gratification that comes from increased service and parts gross profit. These two components make it so that if you are truly focused on retention, it will feed the whole dealership, both in the short term and long term.

Think about it this way, a retained service customer creates service and parts gross profit, they are more likely to repurchase from the same dealership and when they do, you will more than likely get the trade in. Over time, this helps every department within your dealership! So, if we know the “pie” or market is growing, and we know that increased service retention gives us an even larger slice of that larger “pie,” we start to see a positive pattern of current opportunity within our fixed operations.

Stay tuned for Part Two to learn how to capitalize on these opportunities. Subscribe to the Up to Speed blog to get our best practice articles sent directly to your inbox! 

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