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Rock’s Rants: New World, New Business

By Ken Rock, Customer Care Manager

I recently visited a dealership service department and asked the manager how they have changed the way they do business in the last year. Surprisingly, this dealership had not changed a thing, other than requiring masks. Customers still have to call to make an appointment, drive into the service lane to drop off their vehicle, wait in the waiting room and pay the cashier.

It’s shocking to me there are still dealerships that refuse to change the way they do business. I guess they think one day this Covid-19 thing will be over and things will return to normal. But I have news for you. We live in a new world, and not just because of Covid.

The new normal is a world where people expect to take care of almost every aspect of their lives using technology. All Covid did was accelerate this trend. There is no going back to the old normal. What was normal a year ago is now antiquated.

Even in a post-Covid world, I’m guessing one-third of your customers would prefer to never set foot in your service department again. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to use your services. That means they want you to cater to their needs.

First, they want to make appointments online. Today’s consumers really, really don’t want to call and talk to someone. Look at all the people who book their flights online and use OpenTable for restaurant reservations. It’s so much more convenient to schedule appointments online.

Whether your customers work at an office or from home, most of them are in fact working. Which means they would appreciate a pick-up and delivery service for their vehicles. When I ask dealers why they aren’t providing this service, they say it’s because they’d have to hire someone. Well yes, but there are many entry-level people out there with good driving records, who would not cost a lot of money. At some point you have to ask how much business you’re losing because you’re not providing your customers with options. Hiring an entry-level driver or two isn’t going to break your bank but it may win you everlasting loyalty from your customer base.

If additional work needs to be done on the vehicle, shoot a quick video and text it to the customer. The service advisor can do the exact same presentation as if the customer was standing right there. Texting is much more efficient—and preferable—than playing phone tag.

Last but not least, electronic payments are vital to a modern service experience. Why force someone to go into a service department and pay at a cashier? Additionally, electronic payments allow customers to pick up their vehicles after the service department is closed. It’s a win-win.

I realize that changing the way you do business can be challenging, but I promise you that the pros will outweigh the cons. The service experience I have just described is what many consumers expect but aren’t getting. If you are the one to give it, your customers will be impressed. Every time a customer says wow, it’s like a free advertisement. Word spreads.

You know what I love? I love that I haven’t had a cold this year, when normally I catch at least one cold every year. I might continue to buy things online, avoid handshakes and use hand sanitizer, even when the pandemic is a distant memory. So might a lot of other people.

The bottom line is that Covid has changed the way we live forever. Most businesses have transformed the way they do business to make it easy for their customers to do business with them remotely. This is the new normal in a new world. The way that dealerships service vehicles needs to change too.

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