Every day you set out to manage the best service department possible. That means focusing on customer service, managing your staff, and planning strategically to grow your service and parts business. You also know that as soon as the service drive doors open, it’s easy to get knocked off-track.
Although dealership service and parts department net profit has improved over the last three years, it’s still below 2009 and 2010 levels. That puts additional pressure on you to attract new customers and retain existing ones to prevent further decline.
Is there a better way to set your service department apart from others and grow your business, while still focusing on customer service, mentoring your team, and managing the best department possible?
In a word, yes.
One proven approach is to let your branding, marketing, and even your consumables carry your message. Here’s why these products and services remain an important part of your growth strategy.
Branding and Recognition
Why are branded promotional items such as pens, key fobs, mugs, tote bags, calendars, and more necessary?
One word. Recognition.
These items help promote your brand on a more personal level and can improve customer perception of your store. They can be used as giveaway items, as gifts with purchases, for employee recognition and awards, or to reinforce branding around the dealership, including in your service department.
Branding helps attract new customers to your service drive, and can create loyal, return customers through a constant reminder of the positive experience they had.
The Right Balance
Is it overkill to put your name on everything — from pens to forms to floor mats? Will you alienate or offend your customers?
One word: No (and no).
Promotional items are proven to increase recognition and recall of your brand. According to a PPAI Research study, nearly 90 percent of people surveyed indicated they could recall the promotional product they received and the advertiser’s name.
Service departments should take ownership of every area that’s available to promote their brand in the dealership, in the home, and in the vehicle. This extensive promotion can reinforce your dealership’s message, improve brand awareness, and increase customer loyalty. And all of that can lead to the business growth you’re seeking.
Value in Direct Mail Campaigns
Why is it worth it to invest in direct-mail campaigns, custom service reminders, and holiday cards to help attract consumers to the service department?
(Isn’t print dead?)
One word: Personalization (No — definitely not).
According to the Direct Marketing Association, direct mail generates one of the highest response rates of any form of advertising (second only to phone calls). With the right provider, direct mail campaigns are highly targeted and personalized, with details such as the customer’s name, make, and model woven in. These personal touches make the piece more relevant, and, as a result, customers are more likely to retain and respond to them.
A critical role of your service reminder program is to clearly communicate the reasons customers should return to your dealership — to the advisor they trust, quick oil changes, shuttle service, and loaner cars for major services. The key things that set you apart from competitors need to be communicated to your customers on a regular basis.
It’s a safe bet that quick lube centers and other dealerships are always trying to entice your customers to give them a try. Holiday mailers are a great way to show appreciation for the customer’s loyalty and provide an incentive to remain loyal.
Is there a way to make this process easier, but just as effective?
Two words: one vendor.
The solution to making it easier to leverage marketing and branding services to grow your business is to be selective — really selective, as in selecting one vendor who can do it all for you.
A service department that deals with multiple vendors to create branded promotional items, direct-mail campaigns and custom service reminders, in-dealership promotions, and other forms and stationery, presents an inconsistent and uncoordinated image. With so many cooks in the kitchen, your brand and message can get diluted. Having a single vendor helps you portray a single, cohesive brand and message to customers.
In addition, having multiple vendors to manage can add to your workload because you’re communicating with different vendor representatives, checking their progress and handling any price and quality issues. With a single vendor, it’s easier and less time-consuming for you to plan your marketing and branding strategy and execute it using the vendor’s products and services.
Simply put, the right vendor will offer a multitude of services to take pressure off you and help you make more money in your service department.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article was featured in Fixed Ops Magazine.
Automotive News recently published an article discussing why dealerships are sourcing lower-grade used vehicles to fill their lots.