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Your Guide to Converting Service Customers to Sales Ones

illustration of a hand holding a car with icons floating around it
Article Highlights:

  • The key to finding the right offer lives within your customer data.
  • Use predictive analytics as a framework for future customer actions.

Every person that comes to your dealership has the potential to leave as a valued sales customer.

Yes, you heard us right. Every person. That includes those individuals only stopping in to your service lane for some repair or maintenance work.

Identifying the right service customers to approach with a sales offer can feel tricky, almost like finding a needle in a haystack. Some of these customers likely don’t even know they’re interested in a new car just yet, so how can you successfully close a sale with them? The answer lies within a combination of a few different tactics.

Utilize your Data

The first step to approaching a service customer with a deal is ensuring that you have all the information to approach them with the right deal.

Imagine a scenario where you ask a landscaper to trade his truck in for an SUV—odds are you’re not going to succeed. An SUV would not meet this customer’s needs, or at least not as well as his current truck does.

The key to finding this right offer lives within your customer data. It can work like a sort of guidebook to determine what kind of offers will resonate with your customer. That said, this is only possible when your customer database is accurate and updated.

Let’s go back to our scenario with the landscaper in your service drive. According to your database, this customer purchased his truck from you about 5 years ago, and he’s already in for his second set of replacement shocks and struts. This information might be an indicator that this customer could use a truck that’s more heavy-duty than his current one. So while approaching this customer with an offer for an SUV is a no-no, you might see success with an offer on a truck that has increased weight capacity or that drives better on all terrains.

Quick Tip: Your database is more than just a tool to help sell customers already in your service lane. Look through your service records from the last 6 months. See any repeat customers? If you notice a customer is coming to your lane more and more frequently, it may be time to recommend a new car to them.

Take a Proactive Approach

Beyond customer data, your dealership can also boost the success of your data mining tools through things like predictive analytics.

What is predictive analytics exactly? Put simply, predictive analytics is the use of past customer behavior to help predict future behaviors. Combined with your dealership’s equity mining tools, using predictive analytics is a great way to find customers before they even know they’re in the market for a new car.

Need an example? Let’s say a college student comes to your dealership at least once a year for some routine maintenance. According to your records, this student consistently schedules their appointments during the month of May.

Given this information, your dealership can assume that there’s a high chance this college student will schedule an appointment with you this upcoming May—that’s predictive analytics in its simplest form.

But our goal is to convert these service customers to sales ones, right? What if the college student updates their address when they schedule their next appointment, and people that live in that area typically drive small SUVs and lease? When you combine this insight with equity mining tools, you get your opportunity. Let’s say your records indicate that, for $50 less a month, your student could get a newer small SUV they are now interested in. With this extra bit of information, you’ve got everything you need to craft the perfect offer for this customer.

Quick Tip: Traditionally, dealers have been reluctant to try to make a second sale to the same customer in less than a year. Try comparing the customer’s current vehicle to their profile information—you’ll find that quite a few customers will purchase again in less than a 6 months—especially if they realize their first choice doesn’t meet their needs. You can step in and help them find the vehicle that does.

Play to Your Strengths

Another clever tactic that can help your dealership turn service appointments into sales opportunities comes from what many customers might consider their least favorite service experiences. No customer likes being told that their repair is going to take days or even weeks, but it does happen (and sometimes for reasons beyond your control).

During these lengthy repairs, it’s generally good practice to offer your customer a loaner car to drive for the duration of their repair. Not only is this a great move from a customer service perspective, but it also gives that customer a chance to consider the pros and cons of driving a different vehicle. In other words, it transitions your customer from a service mindset to a sales one.

When these customers do return to your dealership, start a conversation about the loaner car that they’ve been driving. How did they like it? Are you running a deal that would apply to that car (or something similar)? How would they feel about buying the loaner car with no money out of pocket today?

Your dealership won’t be able to sell the loaner car every time, but when you look at your data and assess each customer’s particular situation, you’ll be able to offer loaner cars that better suit your customer’s needs. And that effort won’t be in vain—you’ll increase the likelihood that these service customers fall in love with a new vehicle and choose not to part with it.

Quick Tip: Make it a habit to do a quick appraisal on each vehicle that comes into your service drive. Tell your customers that you’re doing this (with no obligation on their part). This will add extra value to your customer interactions, and it works as a great segue into a sales proposal.

Finding the right service customers to approach with a sales offer doesn’t have to be a hard. Even a needle in a haystack can be efficiently found with a magnet. The trick to turning service appointments into new sales lies in your customer data, equity mining tools, and loaner vehicles. And if you’re having trouble getting the success you desire, there’s always experts willing to help you find the perfect combination of these for your dealership.

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Mollie Swygart is a marketing communications professional at Reynolds and Reynolds. She is an expert on Reynolds’ suite of cutting-edge marketing products, their functionalities, and how they can be utilized to improve dealership success. Mollie received her Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art and English from Marietta College. She also obtained an Associate’s Degree in Marketing from Rhodes State College.

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