I love reading research about the future of auto retail. Last year’s research from Deloitte entitled, “The Future of Auto Retailing,” spoke to the need for retailers to move from a “product based” mindset to a more customer-centric value model. But most everyone’s thinking is still limited to the confines of the traditional showroom sales model. However, there are large opportunities in another department of the store that could significantly compensate for the upcoming slowdown in sales—the dealer service center.
The dealer service center’s potential as a sales point is being ignored by consultants, OEMs and most retailers. It’s a department where:
- A good number of customers are in a “window to buy their next vehicle”
- Customers have a totally different set of expectations
- Customers are already physically at the dealership
- Showroom fear, anxiety and perhaps mistrust most often does not exist
- Dealership loyalty has been positively cultivated
- Cost of acquisition is “0” dollars
- There’s a rare opportunity to deliver a unique CX experience
Think about it. After a showroom sale takes place, a major reason for that same customer repurchasing will be their experience with the service department. So, by that same reasoning, wouldn’t it make sense for auto retailers, at the very least, to start formally preconditioning the appropriate service center customers for their “next purchase”? Take your wireless carrier, for example. Are their brick and mortar locations solely focused on service? And while most research acknowledges the importance of the “service experience” with respect to retention, it doesn’t take it to the next step of formally leveraging the appropriate service customers for their next vehicle. Or better still, why not develop a formal framework to leverage this incredible opportunity. A second showroom, if you will.
The Separation of Sales and Service
Most auto retailers dramatically separate sales and service, thus missing out on a substantial solution to their number one challenge: trying to be top of mind at the exact time the vehicle owner decides to consider their next vehicle. While many automakers are encouraging retailers to add equity mining software to their sales process, they have been hesitant to promote leveraging that software to create a formal sales effort in the service center. Those same automakers, and certainly their dealers, are not extending that process to the next obvious step—expanding their sales vision beyond the showroom. They’re assuming that the positive loyalty generated by outstanding service center experiences will automatically work its way back to the showroom when the customer begins to shop for their next vehicle. Or, they’re counting on that previous showroom sales experience to automatically re-deliver the customer for the next vehicle sale, months or even years later.
It’s Worth Serious Consideration
In a world with so many options to purchase for vehicle buyers, I wouldn’t want to risk losing that potential prospect to another store or third party referral provider. Of course creating a formal sales effort in the service department is fraught with some challenges. But I believe it’s well worth serious consideration. I speak to the challenges in a blog post on LinkedIn.