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By Mike Esposito

Most dealerships have an online scheduling solution, but are they doing enough to promote it? Many manufacturers are mandating online schedulers for two important reasons: they improve the customer experience and reduce the volume of inbound calls into the service department.

According to a June 2017 Ops Journal survey, 20 percent of customers schedule service appointments at their dealership with an online scheduler. Another 38 percent of customers said they would use an online scheduler to schedule service appointments, but they didn’t know the option was available.

Service advisors are busy focusing on the work that’s in front of them. Promoting your online scheduler to a customer they’re taking care of is probably the furthest thing from their mind.

To get the word out to your customers, try creating a campaign to let them know you have an online scheduling solution, and promote the benefits of using it. Here are a few tips:

  1. Add a “schedule” button to your website home page. Many dealers have a small button somewhere on their service page. Make your button more visible by creating a brightly colored banner around it that includes some promotional text.

  2. Offer incentives for using the online scheduler. Try offering 5 or 10 percent off your customer’s next service visit if they schedule their own appointment.

  3. Display point-of-sale (POS) materials. Create and display POS materials in your service lane, next to your check-out counter and in your sales department. Promote the fact that you have an online scheduling solution and that customers can receive exclusive offers if they use it.

  4. Email marketing. Create a series of email campaigns promoting your online scheduling solution. Experiment with a variety of special offers to see which one gets the most responses.

  5. Whenever a customer purchases a vehicle, include a postcard or other type of marketing one-sheet in their paperwork. Encourage the customer to make their first service appointment using your online scheduling solution. The incentive for these customers should be larger than your everyday incentive. You want to let them know how much you value their business and that you’d like to retain them as a loyal customer.

Online Scheduling Solution Tips

When you’re looking for an online scheduling solution, be sure it has the following features.

DMS Integration

Many dealers find that maintaining a third-party online scheduling solution becomes a hassle. Some report integration issues that result in double-bookings or appointments that are booked outside of business hours.

It’s best to use the online scheduler that is fully integrated with your DMS. If you’re an Auto/Mate customer, that solution is Rev/Mate.

A fully integrated scheduling solution like Rev/Mate provides a consistent and reliable experience, both for your dealership and for your customers.

Automated service appointment reminders

A few dealers have reported that customers who book appointments with an online scheduler have a slightly lower appointment show rate than customers who book via the phone.

It’s important that your online scheduling solution is able to send your customers automated appointment reminders via email and text. The reminder should include the ability for the customer to confirm their appointment. If the customer doesn’t confirm, follow up with a phone call.

Optimized for mobile

More than half your customers arrive at your website with their mobile phones. This is too important to not get it right. Use your own mobile phone to navigate to your website and go through the process of making a service appointment. Does it take more than two minutes? If so, you’re probably losing customers.

Customer-centric features

Your online scheduling solution should be able to do more than just schedule a service appointment. To make it valuable to your customers, look for a solution that allows customers to access their vehicle history, request a specific service advisor and request transportation, if needed.

Rev/Mate includes all of these features, plus a menu building solution that creates trust with VIN-specific factory recommended services. Additionally, dealers can create and customize their own recommended maintenance and repair menus for the customer to choose from.

Rev/Mate’s menu builder presents good/better/best recommendations with transparent pricing. The module also includes service advisor notes on specific service recommendations.

How many of your customers are using your online scheduling solution? If it’s less than 60 percent, you might want to consider a promotional campaign to increase usage.

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