If your dealership is like most, the sales and service side of the house feel like two disconnected islands most of the time. The teams rarely come together unless handling reconditioning or aftermarket accessory installation. But consider this: if sales and service are islands, then the sales-to-service handoff is the trustworthy bridge that connects them. Or at least it should be. Unfortunately, many dealers don’t have a solid plan for this crucial step in the sales process. Or, if they do, it’s followed by some members of the team and ignored by others. Here’s why it’s so important, and how you can start making it a habit for everyone in your dealership.
Why it’s important:
Loyalty requires a long-game mentality
As I’ve mentioned before, attracting and retaining service customers has never been more important than it is today. That’s why your aim should be to turn every customer who purchases a vehicle from your store into a loyal service customer. With all the competition out there, you simply can’t afford not to.
Familiarity leads to loyalty
According to a recent AutoLoop study, almost half of a dealership’s sales customers never return for service. While nobody likes to look at numbers like these, knowing the truth should inspire you to act. Using the sales-to-service handoff as a way to familiarize every sales customer with your service team is a crucial step in turning the numbers in your favor. Once they shake hands with your Service Advisor, chat about what to expect, and put a name to a face, returning for service down the road suddenly makes much more sense.
How to do it:
1. Master assumptive selling—it works for service, too!
Chances are, your sales team already knows and understands the power of assumptive selling. That is––to put it simply––the practice of talking with the customer in a friendly, open way that leads them naturally to vehicle purchase. Well, this classic tactic works just as well when it comes to discussing the first service appointment. Introducing sales customers to your service staff and helping them schedule their first appointment is really just the natural extension of assumptive selling from the sales side of the house to the service side.
You can easily incentivize your staff to do this, too. I used to push my sales team to introduce their new customer to a Service Advisor with each sale. After the walk through the Service Department and a run-through of available amenities, I’d have the Salesperson, Service Advisor, and customer write their name on a card, and then they’d be entered in a weekly drawing. For those who won, the Service Advisor would get $20, the Salesperson would get $20, and the customer would receive a complimentary car wash, vacuum, and cleaning. It really worked! Together, we were able to drive our first service appointment completion rates up from about 50% to 90%+ because service introductions went through the roof, and customers got invested, too.
2. Deliver one great experience from both departments
I truly believe that a great customer experience—one that cements the relationship and future business—is one where all departments work together. But as you know, not every member of your sales team will be comfortable visiting the Service Department with every sale they make. Like I mentioned above, dealership culture often dictates the two departments operate like separate entities. So, to further “encourage” reluctant team members, you might consider making the customer handoff a requirement (unless the customer declines the offer, of course). Or, since some OEMs require you to set the first service appointment with every new-vehicle purchase anyway, you could implement a software tool that helps automate the process for you. Some online schedulers integrate directly with your CRM, so whenever a sale is made, a window to schedule the first service appointment pops up with the customer’s details filled in, meaning you just have to select the date and time, and you’re good to go.
3. Give customers a nudge
Even if your teams are doing the best they can to ensure a better customer experience, you’re not able to call every customer to remind them of an upcoming appointment. That’s where the right software tools can help you, too. Many online schedulers send automated appointment reminders to customers prior to their appointment. But even if you want to go beyond that, most marketing platforms offer a range of service templates with multiple coupon slots so you can send incentives before they come in. What better way to remind them of their upcoming appointment than by delivering special offers for some other services they may need while they’re there?
To summarize, lasting customer loyalty takes ongoing effort from both your sales and service teams. A positive sales experience should naturally extend to a positive service experience, and vice versa. Because, at the end of the day, it all contributes to the success of one business.
Director of Professional Services