Amid the rapid expansion of digital marketing channels in the automotive space, the process of connecting with and retaining service customers these days can be like the subway routes at Grand Central Station: complicated and moving quickly in multiple directions.
Such is the sentiment from a study released by DMEautomotive at this year’s NADA Convention and Expo.
“Our new study indicates that, with digital channels multiplying, the way consumers find, select, and choose to return to service businesses has never been so complex and fragmented,” said Doug Van Sach, DMEautomotive’s vice president of strategy and analytics, in the study’s analysis released at NADA in late January.
“Service providers that want to attract and retain customers — and want to have a prayer with the hard-researching, all-media-hungry next generation — need a digital service marketing attack plan with an unprecedented number of touch-points: whether ‘getting found’ at Google or ‘getting heard’ at Yelp,” he added. “Service providers, and dealers, in particular, are simply not doing enough to meet these realities.”
DMEautomotive chief marketing officer Mike Martinez would tell Auto Remarketing in an interview following the convention that there has been a “generational shift ” for younger consumers — and even among some of the older ones — to move more of their service interactions online or via mobile.
In fact, about a third of consumers under 35 prefer to set service appointments online (i.e. using smartphones, tablets or computers), versus 20 percent of overall consumers who choose this route, the study says.
Meanwhile, 51 percent of the under-35 crowd refer to set appointments by phone (62 percent overall favor this), and 17 percent of the younger group chooses to set appointments in person (same as overall).
“Another eye-opening finding: 16 percent of all servicers (up from 13 percent in 2012) — and 26 percent of those under age 35 — report they will now only visit service centers where online appointments are available, meaning dealerships that don’t enable easy, online appointment scheduling across all devices will increasingly lose business,” DMEautomotive said in its report.
That’s something that NADA Academy management instructor Les Abrams honed in on during a recent interview with Auto Remarketing.
Abrams was asked about how dealers can improve their use of social and digital mediums to boost the service department.
“The lowest hanging fruit for a dealer — it’s not easy to achieve, but here it is — what customers want digitally is to be able to make an appointment on either the website or on their mobile device — a service appointment, an actual service appointment, not a request for an email response … an actual service appointment,” Abrams said.
“In order for a dealership to be able to do that, they have to internally offer something called electronic dispatch,” he continued. “So when a dealership has electronic dispatch, then they can easily transition over to a customer making a service appointment and then they can go ahead and build an app.
“When they sell a customer a car, they can encourage the customer to download this app onto their smartphone and use it to make appointments. And this will really aid in customer retention,” he added.
Additionally, dealers “can use their website to track customers through some sort of digital marketing campaign,” Abrams added.
“Let’s say a dealership got a new wheel alignment machine. They can, indeed, use the search engine to market their new product,” he continued. “They can build a landing page on their website to promote their brand new alignment machine, all the benefits of it and give you coupons.
“And they can drive just about any service they want through digital marketing, if they understand how it works,” he added.
More on Mobile & Using Social Media Properly
Here’s a statistic Jeff Cowan shared with Auto Remarketing that might have dealers thinking more about how their use the mobile to lift their service department: some estimates indicate that 70 percent of the information people receive on a daily basis is through a cell phone.
Cowan — the president of Jeff Cowan’s PRO TALK Inc., a sales training and consulting firm focusing on the service side of the dealership— said that one of things that successful dealers he works with do is using texts on the service side; for instance, texting to give the customer an update on his or her car in the service drive or as a social media tool to get information to the customer faster.
Additionally, some dealers are using mobile apps for their stores to send push notifications to their customers to alert them, for example, that their vehicles are ready for service or suggest steps to winterize their vehicles.
Only the social side, Cowan also sees dealers using social media for advertising and communication purposes, but points out this mix that his own company uses: for every advertising-related message, there are three messages that are not directly related to what his company does.
While the non-advertising messages for Jeff Cowan’s PRO TALK might be more nationally based, the scale for a dealership is more localized, hence why dealers should be cognizant of what is going on in their communities. For instance, sending out a Facebook message congratulating a local high school basketball team for a big win.
It’s also important, Cowan said, that a dealership’s social media leader is someone who is actually savvy and knowledgeable when it comes to social media. He advises having one person in control who understands what’s going on in each department at the dealership as well as the surrounding community.
That comes into play when tailoring your social media message. For example, Cowan said, if you’re town is buried in snow, social media messages about car sales aren’t going to work — nobody is going anywhere. Rather, what might work better is a social media message about tips for winter.
Then once the snow clears, the store could run messages about specials or even coordinate with the body shop about messages on vehicle repair from the snow.
Point is, it’s about being connected and not just selling cars or service.