Many dealerships have already squared away their marketing budgets for 2022, but are your fixed ops marketing strategies where they need to be to kick off the new year? It is easy for dealers to take a broad approach to promote the entire business as a whole.
But you cannot stop there as dealerships are essentially two businesses under one umbrella, encompassing the brand reputation. The umbrella can reinforce that customers will receive the utmost professionalism and top-notch service from everything under it, but each part of the dealership needs its own identity.
Car dealership service centers should be targeting a specific audience to keep the service bays full, and service marketing should cover multiple avenues of marketing, including digital and traditional marketing, to get the most out of the marketing dollars.
Digital marketing covers such a broad spectrum of tools and platforms that it can be overwhelming to know where to start, but all are equally important. Use as many platforms as possible to ensure you get in front of consumers in the new year.
Customers have entrusted you with their emails, so handle these with care. Targeted emails are a great way to reach your current customers, but each email should be valuable to the recipient.
Sending blanket emails to wish everyone a happy new year is a feel-good email that keeps your brand in front of your audience but does not require them to do anything except enjoy the sentiment. However, blanket emails that flood their inbox will have the opposite impact and likely do more harm than good. Your customers reach for the unsubscribe button before you can say oil change.
But there is a balance, and when you target the specific year, make, and model for your customer’s vehicle, and the services it might need, you will have a more willing participant on the receiving end of that email.
Get active on social media, starting with welcoming the New Year on all of your platforms. Yes, you should use multiple social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Your branding should be the same across each of these platforms, but messaging should be catered to each one. In other words, find ways to stylize your posts to fit each.
Facebook leaves more room for elaborate posts to tell a story and includes imagery. Instagram starts with imagery as the primary storyteller, but it does leave a little room for comments to compliment the picture or video.
Social media is also a great way to educate customers with video marketing and timelines for maintenance and services. You do not need professionally shot videos to have a professional impact. However, they do need to be visually attractive and include valuable content.
When looking for car repair parts and services online, customers type in a specific set of keywords. Paid search allows you to use these keywords in online advertisements to put your dealership at the top of the search engine results pages. While this requires a specialist that knows how to execute this type of marketing, it is a tool you will need to extend your marketing reach.
While digital is often the go-to marketing option, do not forget to take a traditional approach. Sending a little Happy New Year postcard with irresistible coupon savings on parts and services is a great way to make a good impression.
After all, many people put off much-needed services over the holidays, promising themselves they will get to it in the new year. What better way to remind them than a postcard or letter in the mail? Mailers can include coupons with discounts on parts like tires and wiper blades, or they can remind people about the launch of new service specials. Either way, a small note may be just the reminder needed to lure them into your service drive.
All marketing efforts, digital or traditional, should link to your website. Your landing pages should represent your service department as much as it does your sales department. You also want to improve SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to strengthen your organic search results.
Ask your existing service customers to review your dealership on social media as well as Google. Customer-based reviews instill confidence when a consumer is trying to narrow down their options for service. They want to know a dealership has reliable products and excellent services before making their appointments.
When you plan your marketing for the service department, use all available avenues to reach your customers. If you put all your efforts into just one platform or channel, you will miss your target audience. More importantly, you will leave a wide gap for your competitors. You can accomplish some of this in-house, but it never hurts to see how a marketing partner like TVI MarketPro3 can help.
Let's get moving. Get your customized marketing plan today.
Staffing Issues in Fixed Operations - Part 2
How do you attract new team members? Attracting and keeping a strong team is an ongoing battle for dealership service departments. Check out the innovative strategies some TVI MarketPro3 partners have implemented over the years to entice technicians and other personnel to join their team. Michaela Reardon – Fixed Operations Director: If we have when we do hire our bullies, we do let them know at the time of the interview that this is the entry level position. You are not stuck in this position forever and that we are looking at them to fill other positions within the organization if they are interested. So yes, our what we call our our service consultant trainee, the in-house training that we do, we definitely pick from our pool of valets, and they have turned out to be great service consultants. They also, we've had a lot of success moving them into the technician role, beginning on our express team and then into an apprentice role and then into a flat rate technician. So those are both career paths. We've also had values go on to work in our parts department as well. Chad Blair – Fixed Operations Director: The biggest thing that I let our guys, the applicants know and our new employees know is how strong our team is. You know, just the environment. I think that's really important, especially the new hires, is it's just it's not a you know, it's not an environment where you're walking on eggshells or it's not a cutthroat environment where you're, you know, everyone's out for everyone. We work as a team. It's fun, you know, But at the same time, you know, we're growing. You know, there's a lot of opportunity to move up within the business. If you put in your time and, you know, you come in here with solid work ethic and self drive. One of the programs that I work close with is the Honda Pact program. I've actually reached out and talked with the program instructor, and I invited him in here to watch my process to get to know my guys. And this is on the express side of things because I think it's important to have a close contact with someone like that. You know, so when they are finishing school or even while they're in school, they have a go to place. I don't think that there's any better way of getting someone through here rather than having someone who's been trained by, you know, the the Honda Process, the you know, they already have a basic knowledge of the technical side of things. And the cool thing we've been doing is having them work here part time while they're in school. So then when they graduate school, they end up being in here full time and they're, you know, ten steps ahead of everybody. So having a close relationship with, you know, a program like that that's close to you is a huge benefit on every level, in my opinion. The biggest thing that I that I let these guys know is that, you know, we want you to grow within the company. You know, we want to send you to school and, you know, just the sky's the limit. It depends how much you want to work for. Maribel Martinez – Service Manager: Right now, I have two other young men that are coming to me from Lake Washington Technical School. They are both in the automotive program. I had one young man that's already worked for me for six months. He had another classmate that unfortunately, he worked at a different dealership, which we will not name, and he was not treated fairly. They basically used him kind of like your go-for, like do all the crap work and stuff. And they weren't teaching him anything. So the easy way to get someone like that to our team is, hey, come here, we train you, we will factory train you, we will send you to school. We will pay for that schooling. So now suddenly you're giving someone a reason to want to come here because they're going to get something out of it. Above and beyond the schooling that the individuals are already paying for, they know they are now in a position where they're going to have some further training, which is going to be actual factory training, which will help them specialize in our brand. Tom Miller – Parts & Service Director: We've been looking for some alternate scheduling. Some people just can't, can't or don't want to work 8 hours a day or don't want to work, you know, 7 to 6 that's normally required in this industry, go into some part time things, alternate schedules and maybe even four day schedules, things we're looking at. It'll give us an opportunity to pick up some people that couldn't work, you know, maybe full time, you know, people who are still in school or other obligations. We're open from 7 to 7 during the week and we've got guys that start at seven. We got guys who don't come into eight and they work accordingly. You know, they don't when they when they start, that's when they finish. And, you know, guys again, want to work part time, we're flexible to that. Chris Seaver – Parts & Service Director: We take care of our people. We pay them well. We try to manage their workload in terms of, you know, we give the appointment scheduling to someone else. We try to make sure that they're not on the phone all day so that they can, you know, do their job in terms of selling and dispatching and try to balance their duty. So we try not to overload them and we pay them really well and then they're happy being here. It's it's a good family run company. I work with schools and the tech centers and they'll send me, you know, one or two here and there, and maybe out of six or seven that we hire and train, one might stay with me. We have a generous sign-on bonus program. If I look at hiring a technician and he's got some skill, offer up to a $5,000 sign-on bonus. Generous pay, I probably pay as high as anybody in the industry right now. We will hire these young people and let them know we'll pay for a starter set of basic tools. And if you're here for two or more years, the tools are yours. Matthew Stradone – Parts & Service Director: I mean, we really kind of fit in with wherever we can. So we've worked with a lot of different schools. Between Lincoln Tech, NTI, local programs, you know, anything that we can get ourselves into. Ford has a good program at Kingsville Community College through the asset program there. So we kind of utilize any avenue that we can to find technicians. What I would tell you is the biggest deal is getting the entry level technicians and giving them a path and a training process to follow so that you can grow them. And ultimately, I feel like you build the most loyal technicians and your it's easier to retain technicians that way because they're starting with you. They're learning your processes, they're learning, you know, your ideas and and they're really practicing what you're teaching them. So ultimately, I think that's been our success. Experience technicians that come in, they're not necessarily looking for the roadmap as much as when they come in the door, you give them the tools that you tell them that you will. You know, when we say, hey, we'll get you certified, we'll get you set up for training, and we do it. Rusty Gold – Service Manager: Most of it is just the team spirit. I try to allow a lot of freedom to these guys. I do not micromanage my guys and I think they like that as far as coming to work, they like who they work with. I try to keep the chemistry of my people very happy and I think most of the guys like coming to work here. So I think it's all just the atmosphere. Dollar-wise? You know, we're competitive, but I don't do anything crazy money-wise. I think it's more of just a comfort zone. I'm a big family guy, so if they've got kids, it's a perfect place to work because if they've got Donuts with Dads, I'm going to make sure they're there. I'm not going to force them to be at work when they should be with their family. Tri-C has an excellent program, it's called ASEP, that is a GM backed program and being on the advisory board, I get to have first pick so we get a great pick of who's coming up. And same thing with the high school level. I try to get those kids in here in the summertime just to get a feel for what they're about. Get them used to the store and then hopefully promote them on to the Tri-C program. They've been working excellent. I have got, I believe I've got seven ASEP graduates here right now. I've got one that just graduated last year. I've got a gentleman that's just starting this fall in the program that I picked up from the Polaris Vocational School, so it works. Andrew Nevling – Fixed Operations Manager: So a lot of shops, you'll see they have big sign on bonuses and they promise people the world our shop is we're very open, we're very honest. It's a family atmosphere here. Everybody knows each other. They knew each other's spouses, they know each other's kids. A lot of people are excited to come to work. Once they come in and see the flow of the shop and meet the people we work with, they realize that they're comfortable here. This is where they want to be. And it's just the team atmosphere is the biggest and I guess a perk that we have here where people want to be here and they learn and there's huge opportunities for growth. Chris Shillinger – Service Director: I'm just very fortunate right now. I got a great set of texts and I've got several in the wing that want to come here and work so I mean, right now. I don't have to do a whole lot to incentivize them. They want to come here and work. So I'm pretty fortunate. I don't know if it will be that way forever. Techs are hard to find, but I've got a great bunch of techs. Wendy Capri – General Manager: We just keep running ads through Hireology. We run some local ads from the local paper. That didn't really bring much. Hireology is helping. I also have some Facebook ads that's also gotten us a few technicians. We are looking at maybe some hiring bonuses or signing bonuses. I am careful with that because sometimes you have someone that you've had for 25 years and they say that I just got this and I've been with you this long, so we have to be really careful. It's again, a tightrope right now. Ralph Wilson – President: Well, I don't know that we do anything special to incentivize them to come here. We feel we have one of the best programs around. Our pay scale for flat rate technicians is excellent, I think the best in the area. So sometimes word of mouth gets out there, but there's a huge shortage of of the flat rate technicians. The other ways we go to the trade schools looking for a prospective candidate that we can bring in at the journeyman level, that's that's our best source of our future mechanics is to bring them in as an apprentice and work them up through journeyman. Actually, about the only thing that we've done we've had some success with is actually incentivizing our employees, our own employees, to find people that to encourage people to come here and apply for a job that they know and they come. And we've had some success with that. Sure.
May 26, 2023 | 9 minute read
Decreased Car Sales and the Impact on RO Counts
Words like Covid, pandemic, or chip shortage tend to cause a visceral reaction for many. However, they continue to be necessary discussion topics for fixed operations professionals. The past few years have had a lasting impact on service drives across the United States. Auto sales fell off a cliff in the early months of the pandemic and were slow to recover. Overall vehicle sales still dangle below pre-pandemic levels. This slow-moving trend continues to significantly impact fixed operations, particularly regarding Repair Order counts. High Prices and Rising Interest Rates High prices are among the most influential factors contributing to decreased car sales. Car prices have been rising for years, and the pandemic has only worsened the problem. The chip shortage caused supply chain disruptions, leading to lower inventory levels on dealer lots and higher vehicle prices. As a result, many consumers cannot afford a new car or truck. Another factor contributing to decreased car sales is rising interest rates. The Federal Reserve has gradually increased interest rates in recent years, which is expected to continue. Higher interest rates make it more expensive for consumers to finance a new car, which can deter them from purchasing. Impacts on Fixed Operations Leaders These factors have combined to create a challenging environment for the auto industry, particularly fixed operations leaders. With fewer cars sold, fewer opportunities exist to bring those cars into the service department for repairs and maintenance. The slowdown leads to lower RO counts and reduced revenue for the dealership. A recent J.P. Morgan article projects a decline in the average transaction price of a new vehicle "by around 2.5% to 5% year-over-year in 2023." While this remains higher than pre-pandemic levels, it should encourage a slow but steady increase in car sales. But this increase will still take time to positively impact the number of repair orders coming through dealership service departments. Strategies for Boosting RO Counts So, what's a service manager or fixed ops leader to do when organic business isn't flowing in? So many dealerships have led with innovation over the past few years out of the pure need to survive. The same out-of-the-box thinking will be vital to continue fixed ops growth during these slower-than-average times. Customer Retention in the Age of Decreased Car Sales One potential solution to this problem is to focus on increasing customer retention. Providing exceptional service and building solid relationships will encourage customers to return to the dealership for future repairs and maintenance. Doing so can help to offset the impact of decreased car sales. Strong customer relationships start when dealerships focus on providing personalized service that meets each customer's unique needs. Service departments should offer flexible scheduling options and transparent pricing to entice customers to return. Convenient amenities, such as shuttle service or loaner cars, should also be considered. Dealerships should also leverage technology to improve the customer experience. Online appointment scheduling, text message updates, and mobile payments make it easier and more convenient to do business. Tighten Up Loose Ends Dealership leaders can also explore ways to reduce costs and increase efficiency within the service department. This might include investing in new technology and tools, streamlining processes, and optimizing staffing levels. Dealerships can maximize their revenue by running an efficient operation to help maintain profitability in a complex environment. Diversifying Service Offerings to Boost Revenue Another potential solution is to diversify the services offered by the service department. For example, some dealerships now offer aftermarket accessories and upgrades, such as performance parts, custom wheels, and interior upgrades. By expanding the range of services provided, dealerships can attract more customers and generate additional revenue. Meaningful Marketing Strategies The question is, how does the lack of sales affect the service department? The answer is straightforward: the car buying experience is the customer gateway to the dealership service department. Without seeking and purchasing a new car, customers wouldn't know that some dealership car repair and maintenance options exist. The exposure, messaging, and offers they get when they purchase a vehicle all have them returning for service. The follow-up question is, why not reach new customers using the aforementioned strategies? A service department must reach out and find the right customer. Dealers should focus on attracting new customers. Relying solely on the sales team to bring them to the service drive is not enough. Finding this customer may sound challenging, but using the right marketing strategies makes this process efficient and effective. It's all about knowing who lives near a dealership and drives the same make of vehicle but has never been in for service. Once dealerships find these customers, the right message must land in their mailboxes, inboxes, and social feeds. Ideally, the message reaches them right before they need their upcoming oil change or other services. A fixed operations marketing company like TVI MarketPro3 knows how to find and attract these exact customers. Reach out to learn how to Grow Your RO despite reduced vehicle sales.
May 22, 2023 | 4 minute read
Staffing Issues in Fixed Operations - Part 1
What staffing issues are you facing? Staffing shortages are not new to Fixed Operations leaders, but the last few years have posed unique challenges for dealership service departments. We met up with some of our dealer partners to hear the challenges they’re facing. Hear it from the pros: Michaela Reardon – Fixed Operations Director: We have experienced staffing issues, thankfully not on the technician side, but on the entry-level side of our valet staff. Our dealer group has had some staffing issues in our call center, which, when that's the first point of contact with the customer, it's critical to get those positions filled. As an organization, we have 70% retention–that would be across the company in all positions. Now, certainly, entry-level positions do tend to change more often than, say, a technician one. Chad Blair – Fixed Operations Director: We definitely have lost some express technicians, mainly just because, you know, they've got a good amount of training here and are being offered technician roles elsewhere, which I understand. But the challenging part is that I'm still looking for more technicians. Maribel Martinez – Service Manager: I definitely have had some staffing issues on my front line, more so than in my shop. I've had a much harder time trying to find a person for my business development center, and I've had a tough time trying to get service advisors. We hopefully will be looking for just one more to make our team complete. But, I would much rather have a full staff than be trying to run around with two or three service writers is horribly difficult. We did it for a short minute because unfortunately, some people were sick, COVID and all that, but it was probably one of the hardest couple weeks we've ever had around here. Tom Miller – Parts & Service Director: So we are experiencing shortages and pretty much every position is fixed operations technicians, cashiers, porters, service advisors, parts countermen, you name it. We need more of it. It’s twofold. I think our growth is causing part of that, and the other issue is just the environment we're living in right now. Chris Seaver - Parts & Service Director: Technician. That's primarily where we're deficient. I mean, service writers, we don't have any problem with that. That's, rarely do we have any turnover there. The last bit of turnover we had was one of my guys [getting] promoted within the group. I don't see …a lot of young people getting in the field right now, less than they used to be. So, when they get in the field, they want to be paid right out of the gate what the veterans are making, and they don't know anything. Everybody seems to want to run off to college and not get into these fields anymore for some reason. And I think that's electrical, HVAC, plumbing, mechanics. So, we're fortunate that we have 16 techs back there, but we can always use more. Matthew Stradone - Parts & Service Director: That really has affected everything from valets, porters, to technicians, to advisors, to any support staff role really. Our parts personnel, it's across the board. The technician shortage has been happening for years. We've been pretty fortunate compared to others in the technician area. Finding new technicians is always very difficult and has been for a long time. But the technology and automotive vehicles today, you know, we need people, we need new people. We need people that want to learn, that understand electrical, all of those things, that gap between technicians where we have our older technicians that are the most experienced guys out there that have worked on cars for the last 35 years. They're getting close to retirement age or at retirement age. And then you have a gap where you don't have a lot of people that were interested in that role. Rusty Gold – Service Manager: Staffing is always an issue. Technicians are hard to come by, and good ones, that's the problem. I try not to hire poison, so I try to hire good people. And typically, good people are good where they're at, so they're not really looking. So, you got to kinda keep on networking. Andrew Nevling – Fixed Operations Manager: During the height of COVID, we had a lot of people that were afraid to come to work, and, you know, we had less people traveling. So obviously, our workload dipped here a little bit. But now we're seeing everybody's getting back into the swing of things. You're getting over two years in, and we're definitely getting the staffing back to where it was a couple of years ago. Chris Shillinger – Service Director: The lube techs are my biggest challenge at the moment. I got a great set of techs, you know, I've got great advisors, but the lube techs, at the moment, are an issue, you know, there isn't a whole lot of them out there. Wendy Capri – General Manager: Every area. Mostly in mechanical and body. Ralph Wilson – Dealer President: We cannot find trained technicians. Salespeople are still hard to come by and hard to retain. Our service porters, lot porters, telephone receptionists, very hard to find. Don Shaffer – Fixed Operations Director: Technicians, mostly. You don't see a lot of--right now–you don't see a lot of more experienced technicians kind of job hopping, at least not in our field, and definitely trying to get the younger staff in. You don't see as many enrollments down at a lot of the technical schools and stuff. So it's harder to get those individuals. Bryan Anders – Service Director: Hoping to hire more technicians, and technicians aren't out there. So, what we end up running into is the fact that we're looking for technicians, and what comes in is not quality; it’s just people. The flip side of that coin is everybody's looking for technicians, so the grass is always greener where you're at. So, they go exploring, and next thing you know, they're sitting in your office, and that strategy has changed. In 2019, you would have told that person, “Go try it.” In 2022, you can't afford to lose that person. So now you're squirming at the bit because that technician turns 60 hours a week consistently, and you don't want to see him leave. And the replacement is not out there. Don’t worry! There’s more. See Part 2 of this Grow Your RO series on labor shortages, where our fixed ops pros discuss some practical solutions and how they attract valuable team members. Visit TVI MarketPro3 for fixed ops marketing solutions.
Apr 20, 2023 | 5 minute read
Customer Review Management in Service and Parts
Undoubtedly, online reviews significantly impact a business's success, but managing these reviews, especially the negative ones, can be a stress-inducing, full-time job. Whether they are positive or make you want to find a secluded corner on the sales lot to hide, all reviews need your attention. Rave Reviews For optimism's sake, let's look at some glowing grades. Every dealership has a variety of feedback on multiple platforms. Here are a few from the DealerRater website for a Toyota dealership: 5 STARS - “Always great! I would never take my car anywhere else if it's not [Sample Toyota]! I absolutely love them. The best!!!! Always great work and prices.” 5 STARS - “[Sample Service Advisor] at [Sample Toyota] was very professional, knowledgeable, timely, courteous & had a wonderful attitude. He took extra time to review details, procedures and costs” 5 STARS - “I had a wonderful experience at [Sample Toyota] Service Center! My experience at [Sample Toyota] Service Center was wonderful. I was welcomed from the moment I walked in, and received outstanding customer service from Ms. [Sample Service Advisor] throughout the entire process. I will definitely recommend this service center to family and friends.” A Few Positive Reviews Don’t Get the Job Done Unfortunately, this Toyota dealership's service center only averages 2.5 STARS. How can that be with reviews like these? It makes you want to scream from the rooftop, "just do more of this right here!" Now, let's see if we can stomach the negative reviews for the same "Sample Toyota" Service Center: 2.5 STARS - "Check what they do carefully. Well here I go again! The last two times I had my truck serviced and it's under warranty, the tires were not rotated and it was not washed. And this last time I know for a fact the tires were not rotated because I placed a mark on one of them and it was still in the same place. So it gets me wondering after 2 and a half hours with an appointment what else is not being done that they tell you it had been done from the invoice. So be aware if you think everything is being done to your vehicle while in the service department chances are it's not." 1 STAR - "Just looking for ways to charge you more. I took my 2011 Toyota Tundra in for an oil change and told them to check, when the truck is cold it starts right up, however when it is warm it stutters, seeming like it is not getting gas like it wants to stall. Then it runs and drives fine. The service guy did not relay that and they came back and told me the battery was bad, an additional $ 135.00. Then told me it was fine, I picked it up and it was still the same problem. When I called I was told I need another analysis charge of $ 135.00 seems their magic number. Then they can look and see if they can find it. So they can tell me again they cannot find it. That will be another $ 135.00. I believe I paid for a battery that I did not need, so I will pass on the second go around and find another Toyota dealer, I would advise you to avoid their service department." 1 STAR - "Will never go to this dealership again for anything. My daughter took her car to this dealership for a $60 oil change. They told her that she did not need one yet but charged her $93 to visually inspect the driver's side floor mat (yes floor mat, itemized on invoice) and visually inspect brakes. I would strongly recommend avoiding this dealership." 1 STAR - "I had a service appointment today at 10 a.m. Unfortunately, it took 3 hours to finish it. Wasting my time. I know it doesn't take more than 45 min to change the oil in a car. I'm wondering why they give appointments if it takes 3 hours. If they don't have enough employees, then they should not give appointments. This has been happening for several times. Really disappointed." Maintenance Isn’t Just for Cars Look, we all know that preventing negative reviews is impossible. How you react to such reviews will make the difference to how they are perceived by a potential customer. The average consumer doesn't expect perfection, they do however, expect action, responsiveness, and correction. So how does a dealership service leader swing the negative review pendulum in the other direction? By regularly maintaining the various customer feedback sites. There are several steps to take to manage negative reviews: -Respond Promptly.-Address the issue.-Use the feedback to improve.-Encourage positive reviews.-Monitor all online reviews. Effectively managing negative reviews improves your dealership's reputation online, but remember to capitalize on those positive reviews. Positive customer reviews can help build trust and credibility with potential customers. They also demonstrate the quality of service offered by the dealership's parts and service departments. As a fixed operations leader, you can leverage positive reviews in several ways: -Share them on your website and social media channels.-Use them in marketing materials.-Share positive reviews with your staff and use them as teaching moments.-Use them to set performance goals.-The most important thing you can do is respond to the reviewers. After all, they did take the time to compliment your services. The least you can do is give them a review response to say "thank you," and you "appreciate their business." No Time? No Problem. Leveraging positive reviews strengthens your dealership's reputation, improves customer loyalty, and attracts new business. If you feel you don't have time to monitor customer reviews, take some time to check out review management software that will take care of reviews for you: -BirdEye: BirdEye is a comprehensive reputation management software that helps businesses monitor online reviews, manage social media, and improve customer experience. -Reputation.com: Reputation.com is a cloud-based platform that helps businesses manage their online reputation across various channels, including review sites, social media, and search engines. -ReviewTrackers: ReviewTrackers is a review monitoring and reputation management software that helps businesses track online reviews across various sites, including Google, Yelp, and Facebook. -Yotpo: Yotpo is a customer content marketing platform that helps businesses collect and manage reviews, ratings, and other user-generated content. -Podium: Podium is a messaging platform that helps businesses manage customer interactions across multiple channels, including messaging, reviews, and feedback. Reputation management tools help dealership service departments monitor and manage their online reputation. These programs also improve the customer experience and attract new business, making them a viable option for many fixed operations directors. Visit TVI MarketPro3 for more fixed ops insight.
Apr 19, 2023 | 5 minute read
Customer Relationship Management for Fixed Ops
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is critical for a dealership service department wanting to build and maintain strong relationships with customers. CRM systems can collect feedback from customers following their service appointments. The feedback can be organized to see if there are repeat issues that need to be addressed. While there are several types of CRM systems, they all serve a similar purpose that goes beyond collecting contact information. Proper use of this organizational tool helps increase customer loyalty and repeat business. Let’s take a look at just a few of the benefits your CRM provides. Customer Retention Good CRM practices help dealerships retain customers by ensuring they are satisfied with the service they receive. This can lead to increased loyalty and repeat business. The system allows for personalized communication, so dealerships can stay in touch with customers based on their individual vehicle needs. Targeted email marketing campaigns and personalized offers help dealers to connect with customers. Service history tracking helps dealers distribute accurate service reminders for each customer and vehicle. Timely reminders make it easier for them to keep up with their vehicle maintenance. Many CRM systems also offer loyalty program features to entice the customer to return for future service needs. Customer satisfaction is an important aspect of retention. Service leaders can use customer feedback to address specific issues and make overall improvements to their overall service process. Improved Customer Experience The customer data collected by CRMs should be analyzed so dealerships can gain insight into customer preferences and needs. The information provided allows the fixed operations management team to tailor their services, leading to a better overall customer experience. CRM tools also allow for efficient appointment scheduling, whether in person, over the phone, online, or on a mobile app. They also allow customers to receive automated service reminders. Both of these features make it more likely that customers will show up on time, which improves the experience for everyone involved. While their vehicle is being repaired or serviced, the CRM can also provide real-time updates on their vehicle’s status. Increased Revenue Once again, satisfied customers are more likely to return to the dealership for future service needs. Return customers, of course, lead to increased revenue for the dealership, but it’s not just about satisfaction. It’s the culmination of the aforementioned benefits that keep the cars (and the money) flowing into a service drive. More Efficient Operations When handled properly, a dealership’s CRM platforms help manage customer information, service records, and appointment scheduling more efficiently. These best practices lead to more streamlined operations and better customer service. Marketing and Communicating CRM systems can help dealerships stay in touch with customers more effectively. They provide timely updates on service appointments, promotions, and other important information. However, it also helps the dealership's marketing automation when the data is up-to-date and accurate. TVI MarketPro3 utilizes a dealership’s CRM to identify customer types. We segment vehicles based on their last visit to the dealership. Follow this with a targeted marketing approach to reach specific customers for individualized services. Suffice it to say that if the CRM information is inaccurate, the marketing strategy will be less effective. Conclusion A CRM is essential for any dealership service department to build strong customer relationships. It helps grow long-term business if used consistently and correctly. Got to TVI MarketPro3 for more automotive service insights.
Mar 15, 2023 | 3 minute read
2023 Automotive Market Trends in Fixed Operations
The auto industry is ever-changing, requiring frequent pivots from dealership leaders, including sales managers and fixed operations directors. The last few years have seen unprecedented challenges that have reshaped the industry and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. What are the 2023 automotive market trends looking like for fixed operations? Fixed operations departments are a vital part of all dealerships and play an overall role in dealership success. Many dealers strive to achieve 100% fixed absorption, but what are the projections for the new year? How will fixed ops professionals shift to meet the needs of their customers, employees, and dealerships? The Slow Swing of the Supply Chain Pendulum 2022 challenged the global automotive manufacturing industry, including major brands like Toyota Motors and General Motors. Supply chain issues caused a significant slowdown in vehicle production, making it difficult to produce enough inventory to meet consumer demand. As the disruptions slow down, CNBC reports that dealers should see an increase in the number of cars on the lots. The Fixed Ops Impact While dealerships’ sales departments saw a drag in car sales, most service departments experienced a hike in repair orders. More people decided to keep their current vehicles and spent more money on maintenance and repairs. But service and parts departments still experienced unique challenges over the last couple of years, some of which may not wane anytime soon. Labor Challenges While service departments all over the United States are struggling to build and retain a complete team, many dealership leaders say this was a pre-pandemic challenge that only got worse with “stay-at-home” orders and other pandemic measures. Now, dealerships are scrambling to fill positions, including porters, business development roles, and customer service representatives. But the employees that seem the most challenging to find and keep are the heart of every service department: the technicians. Fixed Ops Supply Chain Hurdles Supply chain issues aren’t just stemming from computer chips. Parts managers and directors are consistently scrambling to obtain the parts needed for repairs, maintenance, and recalls. The waiting game trickles down to the service department, preventing jobs from being completed on time. While the supply chain hurdles were significant in 2022, TVI MarketPro’s Ken Pletcher says industry leaders were not strangers to this type of struggle. Throughout Pletcher’s fixed ops career, he had to be innovative to find the necessary parts for repairs. He went as far as checking out-of-state dealerships’ inventories at the chance they might have something the manufacturer didn’t have. Pletcher also resorted to using aftermarket parts, “even rebuilding or resealing a specific part,” rather than replacing it. Experts say that while the supply chain looks to be improving for 2023, many factors may keep new car purchases and car repairs on the back burner. The increase in remote work has people relying less on their vehicles to get to and from work, and gas prices compound the issue, with drivers putting far fewer miles on their cars. Higher interest rates means consumers get less for their dollar which increases sensitivity to spending. The EV Effect As some states push to phase out gasoline-powered motor vehicles, electric and hybrid electric vehicles are becoming more of a factor for fixed operations. Some industry leaders predict EVs will hurt dealership service departments, but David Boyle, a fixed operations expert, says that though EVs will change the business, the change isn’t all negative. In a 2022 CBT News article, Boyle points out that “electric-powered vehicles will still need rubber tires, brakes, wiper blades, and other wear items.” So, just as dealerships pivoted in 2020 with the pandemic, they will be able to do the same with the EV shift. Marketing Solutions Service drive systems aren’t the only area where fixed operations departments need to pivot in the coming years. As the car repair business changes, the marketing strategies must evolve accordingly. Consistent engagement with customers through traditional and digital mediums is the only way to stay top of mind for customers ready for service. Dealerships must also educate customers on their services and why they are the best ones to perform the work. Drivers may not even consider that EV services and repairs are available at dealerships. Including this information in marketing messages will help as the EV shift continues. Targeted data-driven marketing is the most effective way to get your message to the intended customer. TVI MarketPro ensures all its marketing efforts target customers with specific vehicles and locations. TVI takes it a step further by identifying the last time each driver visited the service drive or if they are new to the dealership. Honing in on the perfect targets prevents the waste of marketing dollars. Conclusion The auto industry has continuously evolved since its inception and will continue to do so as unique challenges and changes arise in the coming years. Dealership leaders who wisely pivot to meet these challenges will not only survive but will likely thrive as they meet the needs of their customers. Get the most out of your 2023 fixed ops marketing with TVI Sources: Abraham, Tom. Best Practice for Optimizing Service Absorption and Dealership Profitability USC Consulting Group. Looking Under the Hood: What’s Ahead for the Automotive Industry in 2023Boyle, David. How electric vehicles might affect the fixed-ops department
Jan 20, 2023 | 4 minute read
Dealership Email Marketing for Fixed Operations in 2023
Email marketing for car dealerships is essential for vehicle sales, but if you want an increased gross profit and improved service absorption, parts and services must also have effective email campaigns. Determining which types of emails to send and what to include in each email is sometimes a challenge. However, a successful email marketing strategy can attract more contacts to your email list and more cars to your service department. Targeted Email List It is tempting to throw a blanket email list out to as many recipients as possible, but what if you focused on quality over quantity? If you could paint the perfect customer, you’d likely focus on where they live, what make of car they drive, and how long it’s been since their last service visit. You’d especially want to know those who drive your dealership’s make of vehicle that live nearby but have never been in for service. You want to reach these specific customers through email and attract them to your dealership for service. A high-value contact list prevents email faux pas like low open and click-through rates. You’ll also keep unsubscribe and bounce rates at a minimum. Avoiding such issues ensures more contacts will open and read your email. Great Offers When your customers receive an email, they’re looking for great offers and competitive pricing to continue to allow you to take up valuable real estate in their inboxes. The experience resulting from your email will also determine whether or not they unsubscribe from your contact list. Support your offers by providing excellent and prompt service. Check the inventory levels of the discounted products so you’re not offering products that will be difficult to obtain. You must also adequately staff for the promoted service, allowing the customer to get in and out quickly and seamlessly. If your emails are misleading or result in poor service, you will lose customer trust and the privilege to reach out to them through digital marketing, so be prepared to back any offers you might extend through your email campaigns. Clear Calls to Action No matter how persuasive your email is, you’ll be spinning your wheels if you don’t include clear and specific calls to action (CTAs). CTAs should take the customer one step closer to the intent of your email, which is to accept the extended offers, so the words you choose for the CTA need to relate to the contents of the linked page. For example, if your offer includes a complimentary multi-point inspection, your call to action should say something like: “schedule your inspection” or “make your appointment.” Straightforward and directive CTAs instruct customers on what to do next. Some might think it’s fun to get cute with their CTAs. Such wording can be effective if the email recipient knows what you are asking them to do. Don’t make it too difficult to decipher cheeky catchphrases. Once you’ve succeeded in getting the potential customer to click your CTA link, the goal is to get them into your service drive with as few hurdles as possible. Every page one must click through to get to your scheduler or make a phone call is a hurdle. Your link should take the potential customer straight to the page the CTA describes if you want to see more customer pay repair orders. Connect to the Dealership Website When emails encourage click-throughs to your dealership’s website, they boost your search engine optimization (SEO). While search engines don’t crawl or index dealership emails the same way they do web pages, effective email marketing can boost traffic and SEO rankings. When adequately executed, email marketing is a powerful tool to increase traffic in your service drive and on your website. Subject Line Why would we discuss the subject line last when it’s the first thing customers will see? Simply put, your subject line must relate to the content of your email. It comes back around to the trust component of email marketing. If you persuade your recipients to open your email with an enticing subject line, but the email is unrelated, you will not get the desired results. Instead, you’ll rack up bounces and unsubscribes from customers who feel you’ve tricked them and wasted their time. Yes, your subject line should be enticing, but that’s because the details of your email should be something a customer needs or wants. If you have the right offers, teasing them in the subject line will encourage more email opens and give the readers exactly what they want. A/B testing is a great way to see what types of subject lines are most effective with your dealership’s contacts. You’ll create two separate subject lines and send each to a portion of your recipients. Subject line testing will help determine the tone needed to get the most opens. Let TVI MarketPro3 plan your next email marketing campaign.
Dec 22, 2022 | 4 minute read
Automotive eCommerce for Parts and Services
2020’s events had all industries pivoting toward a more online customer experience. Restaurants like Chick-fil-A scrambled to design a system that was equally as efficient as their current system. Department stores created ways for customers to order online and swing by the store on the same day for pickup. Even with the pandemic days behind us, many businesses continue their online customer service processes. Dealerships, however, don’t always provide the most technologically advanced solutions, particularly for Parts and Service Departments. And, let’s face it, even the most technologically challenged individuals are starting to expect these online conveniences. So, how can the automotive industry, mainly dealerships, step up in offering online sales for car parts and repairs? Imagine the Possibilities Let’s start with parts. Imagine your potential customers, just a few miles away, searching online for a rear wheel bearing for a 2006 Honda Accord. Does your dealership even cross a consumer's mind as an option to buy automotive parts online? Are they going to see your dealer’s name pop up on their search engine results page when browsing for replacement parts? The truth is auto parts stores and Amazon have cornered this online market and consume a handful of the first results pages that appear on a search. When we finally see a dealer, the site rarely compares to the online capabilities of the competition. Most have the consumer complete a contact form and wait for a call. Now, let’s imagine a search for the same part, but your dealership has a solid paid search campaign and appears as an ad at the top of the page. A customer clicks into your site, where they can easily search for the specific part they need. Your inventory is incorporated into this search so the customer can see the number of available parts. Even better, these parts can be ordered and picked up on the same day if they’re in stock. Marketing Wins In this scenario, you have created four marketing wins. The customer: knows you existis aware that you sell auto parts onlinesteps foot into your establishment to experience five-star customer serviceconsiders returning for future service or repairs And you might hit the jackpot by persuading the customer to allow your service department to replace the part they’re purchasing. Allowing customers to buy auto parts online gains you more than just a parts sale, and your eCommerce site does much of the work for you. Selling Services Online Car parts aren’t the only things automotive companies could allow customers to purchase online. Repairs and services can also be ordered and paid for from a mobile app or website. The entire process, including updates, recommendations, and service completion, can all be communicated online. Companies like U-Haul have managed to allow the customer to take the reins with the entire rental process that once required personnel on hand to execute. Now, a renter can reserve a truck and other moving necessities, pick it up, and drop it off without ever making human contact. It’s not the face-to-face contact that most customers dislike. Rather, gaining valuable time motivates people to use mobile options. The added flexibility of when a customer can drop off and pick up a vehicle is also a prime motivator. What keeps dealers from selling repairs and car parts online? TVI MarketPro3’s Nick Shaffer has an extensive Fixed Operations background and spends a lot of time with TVI’s dealer partners discussing the business. He says there are four main reasons a dealer might object to adding these online programs. Objection #1 Lacking the Proper Procedures and Personnel Converting to an online process is quite a feat. You’ve got to have the right people and procedures in place to execute this transition. Once these systems are in place, you still need the right team to continue best practices for these programs. Dealers often struggle to find reliable employees, so adding new systems is not a top priority compared to acquiring and training talent. Objection #2 Cost to Purchase and Implement Programs These technologies are not cheap, and converting an in-person system into an online option often requires paying extra for developer support and training. It can be difficult for dealers to see the return on such an investment. Objection #3 Underwhelming Margins Traditionally online parts retailers sell their wares at a leaner margin and focus on a volume-based business model. Dealers who are unfamiliar with this business model and how to scale it are typically off-put by the gross profit % compared to their typical retail expectations. Objection #4 Integration Headaches Shaffer says, “until recently, only third-party companies had these kinds of tools, and each company specialized in one aspect of the process. So, a dealership would have a vendor for online scheduling, another for electronic MPI, and another for text message communication to the client.” Every vendor is charged an access fee to the dealership DMS system, which they then pass along to the dealer, and these fees can add up. Shaffer points out that some DMS systems are “famously difficult to integrate, which causes frequent IT issues and functionality breakdown.” Conclusion These objections are all valid reasons for dealerships to keep everything as the status quo. However, buying online is the preferred shopping experience for most consumers these days. Dealership parts and service departments should wade into the automotive eCommerce market shifting their business models to attract online customers. Doing so will expand their customer base helping them stand out among neighborhood auto repair shops and stand-alone parts stores. Check out TVI MarketPro3 for more automotive insights.
Oct 31, 2022 | 4 minute read
Anatomy of an Automotive Website
Oct 26, 2022 | 3 minute read
Conversion Rate Optimization for Automotive Websites
Websites are a vital tool in attracting and growing a customer base. When done well, they make a great first impression, grab the attention of potential customers, and guide them to take action. Conversely, a poorly designed website can have web users bounding away from a business before they even click or scroll to another part of the site. Overall, car dealerships tend to miss the mark when it comes to building a website that people will land on and stay on. More importantly, these websites often fail to turn a user into a paying customer. That’s right: they fail to convert. There are a number of areas that automotive leaders can simply tweak, or in some cases, completely overhaul to pack the intended punch and optimize their website’s conversion rate. These changes can be time-consuming, but worth the effort once they yield results. For the automotive industry, Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is when a website is designed to effectively increase the frequency of converting a website lead into a car sale or repair order. For all businesses (including automotive), an eCommerce website will be among the first few, if not all, interactions with potential customers. A dealership must assume the entire customer journey will be online. This virtual experience should be just as good as if they walked onto the sales lot or pulled into the service drive. While optimizing a website can seem like a daunting task, it really comes down to three core goals: Get customers thereKeep them therePersuade them to take action Get Customers There Getting more traffic to a website requires a multifaceted approach, starting with a strong digital marketing strategy. Digital marketing starts with meeting your potential customers where they are through email marketing or social media and drawing them to your website. This can also be accomplished through a strong paid search campaign, as well as ensuring your website is optimized for search engines. So many people are ordering car parts online, which makes auto parts marketing an ideal way to draw consumers to your website. Keep Them There Once people arrive at your website, you want to be sure they stay there long enough to get to know your business, and more importantly, take action that gets them one step closer to becoming a customer. There are many factors that can help your website to be more inviting. TVI MarketPro3’s paid search professional, Ian Favre, says the first priority is to avoid leaks. Favre points out that dealerships spend tons of money driving people to their websites, and too often they provide links to other websites like tire stores, parts stores, or the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). Favre says dealerships “spend all this money getting people to a website, only to give them a link to immediately leave.” Dealerships must keep people on their site. To do so, the website should be clean, clear, and easy to navigate. It should be directly related to the search that attracted the user in the first place. If customers have to do too much work to get what they want, they’ll quickly leave your site looking for a more instant solution to their problem. Persuade Them To Take Action Favre recommends setting clear expectations with customers on your website: “What can a client expect? Who is going to follow up? How long is the follow-up going to take?” By answering these questions clearly and concisely from the jump, a customer is more likely to answer your website’s calls to action (CTAs). If your CTAs are effective, you have a much greater chance of converting. It’s all about user experience (UX). Undoubtedly, websites need good, quality content, but you need to keep that content under control so your website is simple and easy to use. That’s why landing pages are often used for specific services. It allows the user to get exactly what they came for without distraction from the rest of the website. Customizing individual contact forms on dealer websites is effective, yet so rarely done. Too often, dealer websites simply use a default form. Dealers should set expectations by instructing users when filling out the form. This is a chance to provide a “why buy” message to explain why they should do business here. Why fill out the form? It's imperative for all profit centers of the business to be represented creating an identity or impression with the consumer. Here are some important factors Favre says dealers should keep in mind to optimize conversion rates: Know what specific service topics are bringing search traffic to your website and create content/landing pages to support them.Make sure content pages have clear calls to action and multiple ways to submit a lead. Leads can include a phone number, a form, or a chat.Make sure amenities are easily findable on your site.Provide high-quality pictures and videos to show them different areas of the dealership, such as the waiting area.Include a service menu with pricing. Price transparency is important to the consumer.Ensure the service offers are valid and up to date on the site.Personalize the content to the dealership. Most dealerships simply use the default content that came with the website.Share Google Reviews and other positive testimonies on your website. Measuring Your Conversion Rate In order to reach success, you must be able to measure your conversion rate. Google Analytics is the place to start. Conversion rates are calculated by dividing the number of conversions by the number of total ad interactions. Interactions must be tracked to a conversion during the same time period to count. A good conversion rate lands between 2 and 5 percent according to Google. Ruler Analytics found that the automotive industry has an average conversion rate of 2 percent. Needless to say, there is room for improvement.
Jul 18, 2022 | 5 minute read
Does Your Used Car Reconditioning Time Measure Up?
Car dealers face an unprecedented demand for vehicles, changing the automotive industry for at least the foreseeable future. Business Insider reports that the devastating shortage of microchips is slowing car production worldwide. The lack of new models is driving prices up. These high new car prices have created a great demand for pre-owned vehicles. This demand has forced dealerships to pivot in some areas and improve efficiencies in others. One area dealerships are working to improve is the time it takes to get a used car ready for resale. How long is your used vehicle reconditioning time? A fixed ops leader posed this question on LinkedIn, sparking various responses from other industry professionals. The general consensus was that used car recon generally takes three days. However, some fixed ops leaders stated that, in some months, it might take a little longer depending on circumstances. Others claimed a 24-hour or less turnaround time. Undoubtedly, multiple answers mean there must be multiple ways of handling car recon. There are many variables that impact a dealer’s ability to get a used vehicle ready for the market. Challenges that prevent quick turnaround times for reconditioning One hurdle to completing reconditioning work in a timely manner is getting the necessary parts. Without a doubt, the labor shortage has impacted most industries, and the automotive industry is no exception. Finding good techs is an ongoing challenge for service leaders but more so since the pandemic. Furthermore, manufacturers sublet recall repairs to dealers which often causes backups in service departments in addition to everyday repairs. The backups can cause reconditioning services to stall. The hold-up creates tension between fixed ops leaders and variable ops leaders. With any business, communication is vital to successful processes. Many dealership leaders comment that inefficient systems and lack of communication between departments are major hurdles in reconditioning a vehicle. Impact of long recon times The adage goes “time is money.” The longer reconditioning time takes, the more customers will leave the lot without test driving that vehicle. As you can imagine, this really takes a dig at the potential income for the dealership. Dealership decision-makers must put systems in action that help sales and service teams smoothly execute the reconditioning process. Quick turnaround on used vehicle recon benefits both the sales and service departments. Solutions to speed up the process Some dealerships commingle reconditioning work with customer pay and warranty work, while others have teams or individuals dedicated to car reconditioning. Fixed Ops professional Nick Shaffer says “it would be wise to remove reconditioning from those teammates who process your customers' cars. Their pay plan is likely focused on CSI or Customer Pay Sales which disincentivizes them from giving priority to used cars.” Shaffer also points out that “sometimes the biggest bottleneck for the used car reconditioning turn time is the parts department.” He recommends incentivizing all teammates who touch used cars on used car turn time, including the parts back counter. For more automotive industry articles and insights, visit TVI MarketPro3.
May 4, 2022 | 3 minute read
2022 ECONOMY & FIXED OPS PT 4 - TRICKLE-DOWN EFFECT
We're wrapping up our series with a look at the decrease in car sales and how this has impacted the fixed ops departments over the past two years. TVI MarketPro3's Eric Hawkes gives his thoughts. QUESTION: What has been the status of new cars sales over 2021-2022? ANSWER: Two major factors and they’re somewhat intertwined, but the Covid Pandemic has created a loss in the labor force with manufacturing, be it in Japan or be it in the United States that’s tempered the pace in which the cars are produced. The other item is the chip, the chip crisis, the chip shortage. Cars are ¾ of the way completed on the assembly line, but they need the chip to finish through, so they have to park them to the side, and neither one of those, I don’t believe we’re going to see a difference in 2022. I’m not an expert on the pandemic, but it seems to be with us for a while now, maybe different strands, maybe not as potent, but either way, it’s going to disrupt the workforce just the way it has in the construction business, the service business, restaurants, hotels. And then to compounded with that, you have a lack of chips, so what has occurred is a lack of sales in total volume, but what cars are available, be it used or new, they’re capturing a very high premium. So, dealerships are actually making more money through this craziness ironically. They’re making more money per car being sold be it new or used, and people are shying away from buying as the inventory is not there, and the cost factor is increasing, people are shying away from buying new and used cars which then goes to the service industry. It’s quality of sale over quantity. Is this decreasing the number of sales reps? I don’t think so. I think that might just be natural attrition if it is happening. But remember, salespeople in the service world and the sales world are typically on commission, so it doesn’t cost a whole lot of money to have more employees or the same amount of employees they had before with the exception of hourly employees be it the valets. The office may not need as many people for support because there may not be as many car deals, so there might be a little bit of hit there. QUESTION: How is the current state of the economy affecting these issues? ANSWER: The auto industry is a great economic indicator just like first-time home purchases, just like other indicators out there. The automobile groups and manufacturers are not immune to inflation. Parts go up because materials are more expensive. Labor goes up because there’s less people, so it’s just causing an increase in cost and an increase at the end of the day in what you’re going to pay for your car. QUESTION: List some occurrences in 2021-2022 and their cause/effect relationship to car sales issues. ANSWER: I think what you see again is that used car prices are up an average of 35% from the prior years. New cars, I believe it’s about 16% to 18% for the same vehicle. The inflation and the economy have caused this. So again, what it’s helped ironically is the dealership groups and the dealership owners to increase their profitability. The other side of that is it’s causing a lot of customers that were thinking in their third or fourth or fifth year of their car to upgrade and get another car, ah maybe not. Let’s get those brakes, let’s get those tires, let’s reset our car. Yeah, it might be a thousand or two thousand dollars, but I own that car now. Looking at the price increases and looking at the value of what they have has changed a lot. You know, three years ago, leases were very popular, just lease a car for three years, buying a car every three years, getting a new car. It was almost a self-sustaining business, and this has a kink in it, but again, the irony of it is there’s a lot of money being made. Back to the service end, a lot of customers are opting to keep their cars and put money into them. One side is if I sell it, a used car, I can make good money on it, but then what do they do for transportation? QUESTION: Did you ever face similar issues in your time as an automotive leader? ANSWER: No, not similar, but there’s been some major impacts. Let’s go back to the 1970s when I was a little wee tike, we had gas lines. There was an odd day you could get gas if you were a license plate ending in an odd number, you could go on those days. If it was an even, you had to go on the other days. There were lines half a mile, a mile long that you waited. Some people ran out of gas waiting in line for their turn at the pump. Well, that was a major shift from taking the large domestic cars to trying to make them economical. And then as that was happening, Japan swooped right in as they were trying to get entry into the United States. Toyota, Honda, Nissan, they had cars that were 25-35 miles to the gallon. Unheard of and the American V8, we’re going to get you there with power and speed. That definitely changed the dynamics of the auto world. Go back a little further, World War II. There was such a shortage of natural resources like rubber and metal that weren’t available t produce cars, and those people that were available to produce were more likely to produce airplanes, engines, tanks, and equipment necessary for the war. So, it is kind of neat to look at the big picture and see some of the disturbances in the business cycle of the automotive world. QUESTION: What effect have these sales issues had on fixed ops? ANSWER: Initially, when Covid hit, everything just stopped, but automobile dealerships were still open because they were considered a necessity. I’m not sure about that because if you can’t drive to work, and you can’t drive anywhere, what type of necessity was it? When you look back and think back to when Covid really hit at the end of March and the beginning of April, it was catastrophic. Everybody just stopped what they were doing and said I’m not doing it. I’m not going to work. I’m not touching anybody. I’m not seeing anybody. But most of the states considered automobile dealerships, particularly service departments, essential. And so they stayed open, but the fixed ops business, parts, and service, certainly took a hit because the people, even though dealerships were open, were not opting to go in. And that was pretty much the end of March, April, and May. Not that the pandemic changed or got better, but June and July I saw what I coin as basically Covid revenge. People had enough. They had to get out of the house. They wanted to get their cars fixed. There were recalls that needed to be done. They needed brakes. They needed oil changes, so it flooded the market. So you have that over the course of the next year and a half coming in compounded with the people that aren’t buying new cars and aren’t buying used cars. They’re servicing their car, so we’re finding quite a bit of dealerships service departments booming right now during the pandemic which is sometimes counterintuitive. You wouldn’t think it would happen, but it is, and that’s good again for the dealerships to maintain their strength and we need that. We need restaurants and automotive dealerships, and construction workers to be out there working and making money because when our technicians get their check, they may go out to dinner with their family. But when Covid first hit, they weren’t going out to dinner A – because of Covid & B – because they didn’t have any money. They had to figure this out. There’s been a lot of issues that have come from the fear of Covid and getting around the pent-up need for service and recalls that are coming out. And again, the chip shortage is just dragging the new car sales down, but fortunately, knock wood, the dealers can make money on the profit side of it. QUESTION: With the fixed ops side booming at this point, are the other challenges that aren’t income-related? ANSWER: There’s no doubt that the… probably the number one challenge that our service departments and dealerships are experiencing is a labor shortage. There seems to be a lack of people in the pipeline coming through that want to do this as a profession. What do they want to do? Cyber security, computers, I don’t know. But if there was one greatest issue right now that is staring us in the face in the fixed ops is shortage of labor. Technicians, parts counter men, service advisors. It’s hard work. It’s long hours. It’s very similar to being in the restaurant business, the hotel business, long hours, lot of upset and angry people because they’ve got Covid, or their family’s got Covid, and their government is telling them what to do or how to do it. All these pent-up frustrations, and they’re quite often thrown out at the people that are trying to help them in the service department, in the restaurant, and a lot of people are saying “not going to do it.” So, some of the dealers are getting creative in finding technicians, taking some people from maybe the HVAC world, taking electricians, and trying to encourage them to come into the auto dealerships. It goes back to the almighty dollar. There’s a lot of dealerships stepping it up and saying we’re going to pay what I find to be astronomic wages, but they’re in a crunch situation, and they say of we’re going to do it, we’ve got to go, and we’re going to go hard and try and get ourselves situated. Which is kind of like the NBA, and the NFL where there’s a little bit of a bidding war on this type of labor that increases the cost for everybody. QUESTION: What are some suggestions you would give to a fixed ops leader that is trying to overcome and/or capitalize on these issues? ANSWER: Just remember always, we are in the customer service business, and we happen to work on cars. We’re dealing with someone whose pet may have died before they came in or whose son just graduated from MIT and they’re the happiest people in the world. You never know what’s happening with your customers, so while we’re the experts on the cars, we can’t assume they are, and we need to respect their peace, their place, respect the fact that they’re coming in and trying to hand us money. So just sometimes take a step back in respecting the owners that are taking risks every day that they could go out of business particularly when Covid just hit. The customers that are coming in, and that you’re making a paycheck. You’re making good money. I think that’s paramount with what we have not just in our industry, but in all industries. Just taking a step back and appreciating what we have. RELATED ARTICLES: 2022 ECONOMY AND THE EFFECT ON FIXED OPS (PART 1) - SUPPLY SHORTAGE ISSUES 2022 ECONOMY AND THE EFFECT ON FIXED OPS (PART 2) - LABOR ISSUES 2022 ECONOMY AND THE EFFECT ON FIXED OPS (PART 3) - INVENTORY ISSUES 2022 ECONOMY AND THE EFFECT ON FIXED OPS (PART 4) - CAR SALES TRICKLE-DOWN EFFECT TO FIXED OPS
Apr 22, 2022 | 9 minute read
2022 ECONOMY & FIXED OPS PT 3 - INVENTORY
We continue our series with Robert Morris, a TVI MarketPro3 agent that’s been in the automotive industry for more than three decades. Morris was the Dealer Principal for Morris Cadillac Buick GMC before joining TVI. Inventory issues have a trickle-down effect all the way to the service department. Morris explains how some of this has had both a positive and, in some ways, a negative impact on fixed ops. Check out what Morris had to say on the matter. QUESTION: What are some of the major inventory issues fixed ops leaders have faced over the past two years? ANSWER: Over the past few years, there have been numerous challenges faced by fixed ops directors as well as entire dealerships, and that all stems from the inventory shortage. And the inventory shortage is creating a cascading effect in the service department, and what I mean by that is obviously there are much fewer new vehicles on the lot. That means there are fewer vehicles coming in which means there are fewer vehicles to do a pre-delivery inspection or PDI on. So, that adversely affects revenue in the service department. Then as fewer new cars come in and become available, there are fewer trade-ins. So, the used car department also suffers, and that affects service because there are not as many vehicles to perform reconditioning on. And then lastly, and this is more tangentially related really, but there are no courtesy cars. So in terms of a service department, not having courtesy cars, or loaner cars, available to cover the customers, this exacerbates the problem and results in a lot of dissatisfied customers. Now granted, some customers obviously understand the situation, but other customers, it’s a legitimate problem trying to get work done on their car when they can’t get another one to use in the meantime. QUESTION: How is the current state of the economy affecting these issues? ANSWER: Well, the inventory issues obviously fall in line because of the economy. And the economy right now is red hot. I’m not an economist, it’s not for me to say why it’s red hot, but at the end of the day, it is. Customers are demanding more and more new vehicles, and when they can’t find those, they’re buying late-model used vehicles. So there’s a cascading effect in terms of the pricing. New vehicles become more and more expensive with less and fewer rebates offered by the manufacturer. That in turn, drives up the price of used cars, so as long as the consumer demand remains this hot, the manufacturers have a hard time keeping pace. So what happens is a dealer may have 40 cars on the ground when they would normally have 200. They get another 50 cars in, so they sell 90 for the month, and at the end of the day, they still have 40 cars in stock when the month is over. So, it’s a challenge. Without inventory growing on the lot, things are going to remain like this for a while. QUESTION: List some occurrences in 2022 and their cause/effect relationship to inventory levels. ANSWER: The entire inventory issue right now is created from the pandemic. In the early days of the pandemic with cities and economies and businesses shutting down, so to speak, and everybody working from home, that drove the demand for items like personal computers, new cell phones, all the technical aspects that people have brought home over the last year and a half. At the same time, automobile manufacturers, not knowing what was going to happen as everybody was sequestered at home, cut way back on the chips that they ordered for their production. Vehicles today require more than one computer chip in order to make everything work with the state of the technology that’s in the new vehicle. So, when the manufacturer scaled back their orders and canceled orders, the other industries like computers, cell phones, televisions, whatever the case, increased their orders which created a chip shortage for automobile manufacturers. And it’s affected other industries as well. But really within the last 12 months is when the auto industry has felt that pinch. Until the manufacturing catches up with the demand, it’s going to stay like that, and the problem was made worse because I believe there was a manufacturing facility in Asia that had a fire and burned down some of their capacity in terms of being able to manufacture the chips, so it’s kind of hit with a double whammy. QUESTION: Did you ever face similar issues in your time as an automotive leader? ANSWER: I’ve been in the automobile industry for over 30 years. I’ve seen strikes by manufacturers, GM strikes. I’ve been through manufacturer bankruptcies. I thought I had seen it all up until the last year and a half. I know when we had vehicle manufacturing strikes, inventory was depleted, and we spaced the cars out further. Instead of having all the cars in a row, we’d space cars out 10-15 apart. But when you only have 10 or 20 new vehicles in stock right now, you can’t space them out a hundred feet between each car and make the car lot look full. There’s no way you can do that. So no, I’ve not seen anything like this in my 30 plus years in the automobile industry. It’s absolutely crazy! QUESTION: Are dealerships making more money now than they were prior to the inventory shortage? ANSWER: Oh yeah! They’re making tons of money. QUESTION: Do you think they’ll be eager to get back to the days of greater inventory? ANSWER: No, personally I don’t. Dealership profit levels for the last year and a half are at record levels because the margins now are so good. When you have a new vehicle that’s selling for $5-$10 thousand over list price compared to it being sold at $3, $4, or $5 grand below list price before. One vehicle sale now is making up for 4 or 5 vehicle sales in the old dynamic. Dealers aren’t going to be anxious to return to it. The real question is going to be, at what point do the manufacturers adjust their manufacturing capacity because right now the manufacturers are pretty happy with it also. Their incentive spend is down dramatically. I guarantee you right now that manufacturers, they’re trying to figure out the sweet spot between having more cars than we do today, but also not having inventory issues as we’ve had in the past where it's an inventory pressure sale and giving away more, and everybody is being too aggressive with their pricing. QUESTION: What is the direct effect inventory issues are having on Fixed Ops? ANSWER: All these inventory issues, and it’s not inventory pressure in the historical sense when there are simply too many cars on the ground. Now it’s not enough cars on the ground, so what happens is that the dealership service department loses PDI (Pre-Delivery Inspection) income, and when the new vehicle comes in from the manufacturer, it goes through service to make sure it’s ready to sell before it’s put on the lot. Now there are much fewer of those, and adversely, used car sales are down. So right now, given the inventory pressures since there are so few new cars available, and they’re commanding a premium, and late-model used cars are almost as expensive as they were when they were brand new (which I’ve never seen before, many customers are opting to repair their car. So, that creates a huge opportunity for service departments whereas a customer has an older car that needs a transmission or needs an engine or needs a substantial amount of work. A lot of times now that customer is opting to get the work done because either there’s no car that they could buy that they would like, or the premium for the new car is so much more expensive that fixing the old one right now just makes sense. So, that creates a huge opportunity, but again fixed operations directors and service managers have to use every opportunity they get that comes through that service drive right now, whether it’s effective labor rate or hours per RO. There are fewer built-in revenue streams from the service department in terms of PDI and used car recon, so now they have to make it up from the consumer, and not waste any opportunity or any at-bats that come through the lane. And that’s where TVI MarketPro3 comes into play because we bring you those at-bats and bring you those customers that you haven’t seen before. RELATED ARTICLES: 2022 ECONOMY AND THE EFFECT ON FIXED OPS (PART 1) - SUPPLY SHORTAGE ISSUES 2022 ECONOMY AND THE EFFECT ON FIXED OPS (PART 2) - LABOR ISSUES 2022 ECONOMY AND THE EFFECT ON FIXED OPS (PART 3) - INVENTORY ISSUES 2022 ECONOMY AND THE EFFECT ON FIXED OPS (PART 4) - CAR SALES TRICKLE-DOWN EFFECT TO FIXED OPS
Apr 22, 2022 | 7 minute read
2022 ECONOMY & FIXED OPS PT 2 - LABOR
Moving on to part two, we'll take a close look at another area that has been greatly impacted in the 2022 economy, the ability (or lack thereof) to find technicians for service departments. TVI MarketPro3's Nick Shaffer has nearly twenty years in fixed ops working in a variety of leadership positions. Here's his take on the labor issues dealerships are currently facing. QUESTION: How is the current state of the economy affecting labor issues in fixed ops? ANSWER: Unemployment benefits offered during COVID enticed entry-level employees to not work. Every hiring manager I spoke to in the last 18 months reported a high no-show rate for job interviews. Their assumption was that candidates were doing whatever they needed to appear to be looking for work to keep their unemployment benefits going. Those benefits are now gradually getting pulled back, but there isn’t an immediate surge of unemployed folks reentering the job market. Perhaps due to the high cost of fuel? QUESTION: Are dealers putting innovations in place to entice new team members? ANSWER: For stores that are having trouble getting their folks back to work, that were previous employees, yes. But, when we’re talking about someone who’s trying to hire a new candidate, there’s no real equivalent to that other than big signing bonuses. And I do have lots of dealers that are offering signing bonuses, and very few of them are reporting that it’s providing the motivation that they’re looking for. The dealers that I’ve spoken to, that are having success hiring new candidates, are really focusing more on the benefits than the signing bonuses or the wages. So, they’re focusing on things like PTO offered on day one rather than after ninety days, health benefits offered on day one rather than after ninety days, a three-day workweek rather than a five-day workweek, eight-hour days instead of ten-hour days. So, my dealers that are really focusing on offering good life-work balance and benefits seem to be having better success hiring people than my dealers that aren’t offering that, but instead, are focusing on big signing bonuses and big wages. QUESTION: What are some of the major labor issues fixed ops leaders have faced over the past two years? ANSWER: Entry-level employees are scarce. COVID took the national technician shortage from bad to worse. Unemployment benefits have enticed many entry-level technicians to stay home. To keep up with business demands, many dealerships are giving their technicians raises to incentivize them to stay. This becomes a double whammy on the dealership's cost of doing business because the techs that stay are getting raises, and the entry-level tech headcount is depleting. Many service departments get top-heavy in the shop. To keep the gross profit margins, dealerships are raising their labor rates, and the increased operating cost is passed along to the customer. Every service manager in this situation has ongoing hiring efforts, but I have yet to speak to someone who has figured out a reliable way to hire entry-level techs at will. Fixed ops leaders are also facing parts supply issues which are a labor issue in some instances. There are shortages of drivers, dock workers, parts distribution center workers which all contribute to parts availability delays. QUESTION: List some occurrences in 2021-2022 and their relationship to labor shortages. ANSWER: The demand for automotive service and therefore technicians has changed a lot in the last two years. I already spoke about the shortage, so now I’ll speak to the demand. Throughout 2020, many office workers were afforded the ability to work from home. At various stages, they’ve largely returned to the office and resumed a somewhat normal driving pattern which created a huge pent-up demand for light-duty maintenance in the summer of 2021. Dealers who were staffed appropriately set records while dealers who were not staffed properly over-promised and under-delivered which is creating a long-lasting ripple effect with client attrition. Meanwhile, blue-collar workers never broke stride. There’s no such thing as ZOOM to a bricklayer or landscaper. As a matter of fact, the demand for their skilled labor increased. As some of the white-collar workers clocked in from home, they became more motivated to act upon home improvement projects that they’d been previously neglecting. This created a surge of business for contractors of all sorts. In turn, the demand to service their domestic trucks increased. Ford, GM, and CDJR dealers who were staffed appropriately are enjoying this business. The low supply of new cars is making both new and preowned cars more costly than we are used to. As a result, people are keeping their current cars longer and investing in them. What a great customer pay opportunity for dealers! Every dealer should be considering how to better market themselves to the older model year cars in their market. Quick side note, during the recent covid surge in December 2021 and Jan 2022, dealers are reporting a much larger than the average no-show rate for service appointments. QUESTION: Did you ever face similar issues in your time as a fixed ops leader? ANSWER: There was a tech labor shortage when I was a manager. There were very few entry-level techs on the market. Master technicians worth hiring were being well cared for by their current employer, so most of the master techs on the job market were coming in with bad habits and negative attitudes. These conditions that I faced are still an issue today. The difference now versus then is that now we have additional conditions which are enticing lower-wage workers to stay home. QUESTION: Are Apprenticeships Effective? ANSWER: I think if you had a hundred dealers, a hundred service managers, in a room for a meeting and asked them to raise their hand and asked them how many of you have an apprenticeship program, ninety-five out of a hundred if not more would raise their hand and say, “I have an apprenticeship program.” But that’s a very subjective thing. An apprenticeship program is going to mean something different to each service manager. To many service managers, an apprenticeship program is nothing more sophisticated than, “I hire entry-level technicians. I give them online classes to complete, and I hold them accountable to do so. And somewhere we have a roaming shop foreman that will help them and train them if they raise their hand and say they need help, and that’s not, in my opinion, a real apprenticeship program. A real apprenticeship program needs ongoing education, both virtual and hands-on. I’ve seen dealers have success with team systems where each dealership has several technician teams, and those tech teams usually are 4, 5, or 6 technicians, two entry-level, two mid-level, and one master, and that master is responsible for the ongoing training of everybody who is on his team. And that shows entry-level technicians not only the hands-on learning that they need, but it also shows that there’s a career path. It's not that there are forty techs in the shop with one shop foreman, it’s that there are five teams in the shop. Every team has one shop foreman, and there are several levels I can work to achieve between here and there. So, for there to be a real apprenticeship, there needs to be ongoing classroom training, ongoing virtual, ongoing hands-on, and a career path. QUESTION: What are some suggestions you would give to a fixed ops leader that is trying to build his or her team and prevent turnover? ANSWER: Have an awareness that this pandemic afforded some of your staff to stay home for a bit. This is happening in an ongoing manner if someone gets exposed or becomes symptomatic. If you’ve ever heard the phrase, a rolling stone gathers no moss, then you’ll understand that it’s entirely normal for someone to return to work with a diminished energy level. They’ve been sitting around for a week or two not doing much and this takes a toll on most people’s energy and focus. Consider making a big deal about it when someone comes back to work. Celebrate their return with the team. If they are in a performance role, consider a “fast start” bonus to incentivize them to get back to 100% of their normal production right out of the gate. This will help them feel welcomed and help them refocus. Keep a pulse on what your competitors are paying and be willing to compete. Don’t wait for your employees to ask for a raise or worse yet give you notice to leave for a better offer. If you find that the market wage is above your staff wage, give your staff a raise. Find a way to do so while rewarding job performance and tenure. Raise your prices to afford this if you need to. Shop your competition to find out what they charge for common services, and make sure you don’t price yourself out of the market. Most manufacturers allow you to submit for a warranty labor rate increase every year. Engage in this process and understand how to maximize the outcome. There’s more to staff retention than good wages. Engage your team in regular one-on-ones. Your staff wants to be led. They want to know if they are doing a good job or not. They want to know they are working towards something. They want to know you care. They want to be a part of a team, so host team-building activities regularly and publicly recognize teammates with high performance. Recognize birthdays and work anniversaries. Keep a pulse on what job benefits your competitors are offering; many businesses now offer PTO starting at day 1. Other common benefits include health benefits after 30 days, which used to be 90. 4-day work weeks. Unlimited time off. When it comes to hiring staff, realize that there is more demand for staff than supply. So, think of ways to differentiate yourself. Wage, schedule, benefits, and culture are all important. Consider developing a deep and meaningful relationship with your local trade schools. Offer to serve on their board and give input on curriculum development. Arrange to speak to their student body on a schedule – at least quarterly. Attend their job fairs, or better yet, offer to host their job fairs at your store. When you retire a piece of equipment like a brake lathe or tire balancer, don’t take the Hunter trade-in value. Instead, donate it to the school. RELATED ARTICLES: 2022 ECONOMY AND THE EFFECT ON FIXED OPS (PART 1) - SUPPLY SHORTAGE ISSUES 2022 ECONOMY AND THE EFFECT ON FIXED OPS (PART 2) - LABOR ISSUES 2022 ECONOMY AND THE EFFECT ON FIXED OPS (PART 3) - INVENTORY ISSUES 2022 ECONOMY AND THE EFFECT ON FIXED OPS (PART 4) - CAR SALES TRICKLE-DOWN EFFECT TO FIXED OPS
Apr 22, 2022 | 8 minute read
2022 ECONOMY & FIXED OPS PT 1 - SUPPLY SHORTAGE
The supply shortage has a direct and indirect effect on fixed operations. From vehicle inventory to supply chain issues, fixed ops directors are seeing challenges in the service departments like never before. Ken Pletcher, TVI MarketPro3 Agent and long-time fixed ops professional, explains his observations and experiences with the current and past supply shortages. QUESTION: What are some of the supply shortage issues over 2021-2022? ANSWER: There were quite a few different ones that were along the time. There were wire harnesses that weren’t available for vehicles, and different plastic pieces, glass, windshields were really a challenge. But probably the biggest one that affected us was the microchips, and again that’s for new car sales, but it’s going to be affecting the service departments as well. QUESTION: How is the current state of the economy affecting these issues? ANSWER: It’s definitely driving up the prices for the new and used cars due to low inventory. It’s caused a delay in replacement parts and service departments, so it’s caused a lot of challenges just trying to do day-to-day business in a dealership. QUESTION: List some occurrences in 2021-2022 and their cause/effect relationship to supply shortage issues. ANSWER: Delays in having repair work done… parts can be an issue. Manufacturers are running out of specific parts. You might have to go to an after-market vendor or even wrecking yards to find a part to get a repair performed. QUESTION: Did you ever face similar issues in your time as an automotive leader? ANSWER: Yes, I certainly did. I had to be inventive to find parts, and we went as far as checking inventories in other dealerships out of state to see if they might have something, some one-off part that the manufacturer didn’t have. And then [we] worked with that dealership to get it shipped out. As I mentioned possibly aftermarket parts, possibly even rebuilding or resealing a specific part. It could be a power steering pump whose seal is bad. Normally you would replace the whole pump. It may not be available, so the seal might be available. And as I mentioned too, possibly going to wrecking yards for like a control arm or something like that that needs to be replaced as well. Those issues have come up in the past, but not as strong as they have in the 2021-2020 time frame. QUESTION: What are some suggestions you would give to a fixed ops leader that is trying to overcome these issues? ANSWER: Think outside the box when a part is necessary for repair. If it’s not available as new, can it be rebuilt? Aftermarket parts, or check with wrecking yards or with other dealerships in the area. What else can you do? It might even be something along the lines of letting the guest know, “hey there’s no part available right now. It’s not a safety concern. We can call you when the part comes in. Have the customer come back in as well. QUESTION: What effect have these supply shortage issues had on fixed ops? ANSWER: In 2021, due to the chip shortage, new vehicle availability was really low, and so, even though most dealerships did pretty well with it, the count was nowhere near what they were supposed to do, and that’s been more so the last half od 2021. 2022 January, the sales are down 9.8% compared to January of ’21, so you can see the trend is still going down. What that’s going to mean to us is there are going to be fewer cars in our dealerships in the next few years because of sales being down. Right now, it’s very important for dealerships to really work on their retention and work on VINs that have not been in their store before because if they can start grabbing those now as things start trickling down, it’ll help their business be a stronger model a year or two from now. For the VINs that have not been there because for someone who is looking for a specific Honda or a specific Chevy that’s not at their local dealership, they might actually purchase it from a surrounding dealer that might have that specific color. At that point, that service department will not know that that vehicle is serviceable in their area because they bought it outside of their PMA, so it’s really important to grab those vehicles that have not been in their store because they might have been purchased outside because of availability. I know because of the pandemic, people are driving less, so their driving habits across the board have really changed in the last two years. That prolongs it, and at that point, you have an opportunity to someone possibly leaving a dealership that might have been loyal just because of the time frame, and it’s not forefront in their mind to service at the dealership. RELATED ARTICLES: 2022 ECONOMY AND THE EFFECT ON FIXED OPS (PART 1) - SUPPLY SHORTAGE ISSUES 2022 ECONOMY AND THE EFFECT ON FIXED OPS (PART 2) - LABOR ISSUES 2022 ECONOMY AND THE EFFECT ON FIXED OPS (PART 3) - INVENTORY ISSUES 2022 ECONOMY AND THE EFFECT ON FIXED OPS (PART 4) - CAR SALES TRICKLE-DOWN EFFECT TO FIXED OPS
Apr 22, 2022 | 4 minute read
Automotive Marketing Company: Choosing the right one
Let’s face it, marketing in its most successful form is a full-time job. Business leaders must determine their preferred marketing solutions and then find the best way to implement them. With so much competition in the automotive industry, how do dealership leaders reach current and potential customers when it’s their full-time job to serve the customers at the dealership. So, what’s the solution? Every dealership should have a designated in-house marketing team. Or, better yet, they should employ an outside partner that will focus on bringing in new customers and keeping current customers returning. But even interviewing and partnering with an ad agency or marketing firm can be an overwhelming task in and of itself. Let’s break this down to a step-by-step process that will better enable you to wrap your mind around this daunting task. STEP #1 Create a Basic Marketing Strategy Creating basic marketing strategies starts with defining your goals. Are you striving to attract new sales customers, or is your focus more on growing your service department? Maybe your service lane is backed up with business, but you need a good retention plan to get your currently active and inactive customers to continue using your services. Once you’ve clarified your goals, you’ll need to decide which marketing tools you wish to use. These options seem endless, but you can narrow them down by thinking about your target customer. Automotive Digital Marketing Digital marketing is essential these days with the amount of time people spend glancing at their phones and perusing social media. Email Marketing and other digital marketing platforms are the quickest and most cost-effective ways to get things rolling. Digital media and social media marketing should be a top focus for any automotive sales or service digital marketing strategy. Your dealership must have a visually pleasing presentation on social media that includes clean, professional pictures and high-quality video production. Web Design Perhaps you want to improve your overall online presence. After all, your website is one of your most valuable marketing tools. If this is the goal, you’ll need a company that has a professional graphic design and web design team. Expect to see a portfolio of websites and graphics the company has designed and developed in the past. When viewing the work, put yourself in the place of a customer, and ask yourself the following questions: Are both the UX and UI up to par? In other words, is the website pleasing to the eye (UI - User Interface) and easy to navigate (UX - User Experience)?Is the branding clean and clear?Are the images high quality?Do the pages load quickly and answer questions right away? Search Engine Optimization It doesn’t matter how fancy your website design and graphics are if no one ever sees them. Therefore, when looking at a digital marketing agency’s website design portfolio, ask about their Search Engine Optimization or SEO services. Customers won’t come across your website based on its appearance alone. The use of keywords and other content deemed to be valuable by Google is what causes a website to pop up at the top of search engine results pages (SERP). There are SEO companies that focus only on achieving this goal. These companies will employ organic SEO and PPC (Pay Per Click) strategies. If you’re planning on using a marketing company for their web design work, they should also have an SEO expert to ensure the website is prominent on Google searches. Traditional Marketing A word of warning, do not underestimate the power of traditional marketing like radio, television, and print ads. Direct mail, when done right, is still a very effective way to reach customers. Marketers should be targeting a specific customer to get the most out of the dealership’s marketing dollars. TVI MarketPro3 implements what we call Intelligent Direct Mail. We utilize a database to identify customers at every stage of vehicle ownership and maintenance interval. We then ensure they receive the right service offer at just the right time. STEP #2 Determine the Agency Type Now that you have a better idea of your strategy and the different marketing tools you’d like to use, it’s time to find the right marketing company. Use your clearly defined goals to help narrow down your options. You’ll need to determine if a full-service agency. In the Loop notes that “a full-service agency could gather data and put that to use in every department of your company’s online marketing, be it in the content or the design.” You could even partner with a full-service digital marketing firm if that would better meet your digital strategies. Some companies focus on a niche industry like automotive marketing agencies. These companies better understand the industry and might be more able to represent your brand. In the Loop touches on this point by stating, “A niche agency knows how to gather data in their field of work and will apply those to your online marketing to help in one specific area.” Whichever direction you decide to go, narrow it down to 3 or 4 options, and let their presentation help you with the final choice. STEP #3 Look at Company Track Record Anytime you’re making a B2B commitment, you’ll want to learn as much as possible about the company’s history. Is it a data-driven company that executes thorough market research? Their presentation should make this very apparent, and they should have done thorough research about your dealership before walking through your door. The company should show proof of strategic marketing and have a strong track record as a marketing and branding agency. The candidates should offer frequent reporting and feedback and be willing to put their money where their mouth is. You should beware of long-term contracts that lock you in for an unreasonable amount of time. A company that is confident in its results should not feel the need to lock a dealer into a contract for more than six months to a year. STEP #4 Make a Call If you’ve been careful to walk through the detailed selection process outlined above, then it is likely whichever company you choose will produce a good ROI. No matter which company you select, it is your job to hold the company accountable. Don’t let your new marketing partner slide on follow-up reporting, but give it a little time. While some marketing efforts magically produce results in a month, the long game often wins out. So as long as you’re seeing steady results in a positive direction, you will eventually see even better results down the line.
Dec 9, 2021 | 5 minute read
Setting Up Your Dealership PPC Advertising
Advertisers are spending millions of dollars every day to compete for the attention of the consumer. TV commercials, outdoor billboards, and radio are all examples of trying to attract consumer attention. After seeing all these advertisements, consumers turn to google to make their decision. Will you be found when the consumers are working to narrow down their choices? PPC Advertising or Pay Per Click Advertising gives you the extra spotlight your dealership needs in order to be found on a google search. We explained this form of advertising in a previous article entitled Automotive PPC Advertising for Your Marketing Arsenal. This would be a great resource if you're still scratching your head to understand PPC Advertising. Once you better understand what PPC advertising is and how it can benefit you, it's time to shift your focus to setting up a campaign. Things to Consider for an Automotive PPC Campaign. Ian Favre is the Digital Marketing Director at TVI MarketPro3. Before physically creating dealer ads, he first determines how this paid search campaign will help the dealer? TVI MarketPro3 starts with an onboarding phone call in which our team digs to learn more about the specific goals and pain points of the dealer service department. The dealer may be struggling to get people through express lanes, or they may need more traffic for tire sales. The more specific we can be in goal setting with a customer, the more likely we are to find success for them. Everyone wants more leads, but what specific things, on your service drive, can we help with to make an immediate impact for you? Budgeting for Dealer PPC Ads TVI MarketPro3 designs all paid search campaigns with an overarching budget for fixed operations. We then create groups with topic-specific ads. For example, we might have an oil change, brakes, or other categories that meet specific dealer goals. Once we have a budget and each group is created, we assign that budget to all groups. We tell Google these groups are all of equal importance, so spend where these searches are. At TVI we do not assign "individual budgets [to] spend this much money on brakes, this much money on oil changes. It is telling Google, you have X amount of money to spend per day, say $50, $75, $100, whatever the investment is... go spend that money where the searches are,” says Favre. Plan for Patience When auto dealerships develop a PPC strategy, they must realize it takes time to reach maximum performance. Once you get data inside Google Ad Words and Google Analytics, you can start making adjustments in the campaign for best performance. Pay-per-click advertising requires continual monitoring and daily adjustments. Any company or digital marketer expecting to do a "set it and forget it" paid search campaign will not achieve the desired success. Keyword Research for PPC Keyword research is a pillar of paid search success. At TVI MarketPro3, we use several third-party tools in our keyword research. Programs like SEMrush and Google Keyword Planner give great insight into valuable keywords. We also have DMS integration with dealers allowing us to pull all the customer comments in the repair orders. We then scrape all the keywords that could be from those customer comments. Negative Keywords Using Negative Keyword lists in Google Ads helps advertisers prevent serving impressions or generating ad clicks on keywords unrelated to the business. These negative keyword lists can vary from dealership to dealership, but the dealership name can drive a need for these negative terms. Negative keywords are those words on which you do not want to bid. A lot of it is going to be word association to elements of your business. For example, let us imagine a dealership named Broom Stick Chevrolet. Using negative keywords will prevent an ad from appearing in searches related to brooms or sticks irrelevant to the business. Quality traffic is the driving force of paid search, and digital marketers have to find a good balance in generating clicks and leads for dealers but making sure that those are quality clicks and leads. DIY or Hire a pro? Can all of this paid search work be done in-house by someone on staff? An internet or BDC Manager, perhaps? Yes, it is entirely possible, and many dealerships have elected to go this route. But ask yourself this; has your internet manager been managing automotive paid search campaigns for 15+ years? Does your BDC manager have all of their Google certifications? So dealerships have the option to hire somebody and bring it all in-house. However, it will probably be more cost-effective with a more skilled individual at an agency that does this professionally for hundreds of automotive dealers. Visit our website for more information on TVI MarketPro3's Paid Search program.
Sep 29, 2021 | 4 minute read
Auto Dealer BDC for Sales and Service
It can be difficult for a service or sales manager to give each customer their undivided attention. When finalizing a sale or handling daily challenges of the service department, it’s easy to miss important incoming calls. Unfortunately, these calls may even get lost because they’re on hold for too long. It might also be a challenge to do customer outreach via phone calls or emails. After all, these professionals are also trying to get through all the other tasks their job requires. Therefore, each dealership should have a team dedicated to taking care of customer communication. The Business Development Center (BDC) is this dedicated team. Purpose of a Dealership Business Development Center Automotive BDC or Business Development Center provides customer outreach and customer acquisition for both sales and service. Many think the primary goal of the BDC team is to schedule appointments, but it’s more than that. Modern technology has allowed robots to schedule appointments over the phone, and people can easily schedule online. It’s all about positive interactions and staying ahead of a customer’s needs. Whether a customer calls or reaches out via email, the first impression is everything. Treating this moment with the TLC it deserves will get the customer off the phone or computer and into your dealership. When your phone and internet leads make the first contact, what will their initial experience be? Dealers must stay ahead of Google and the possibility of a customer walking into an independent repair shop. BDC teams answer inbound calls and make outbound calls for your dealership, and therefore, are the customers’ initial point of contact. Sales BDC Your BDC team is an extension of your automotive sales team. It should be striving to acquire sales appointments. The team should go beyond an availability request and get a customer in for a test drive. The phone call or email is the initial part of the sales process. So your BDC representatives need to complement outstanding customer service with appropriate sales techniques. Sales managers must work closely with the BDC manager to ensure goals align. The customer experience should be seamless from the phone call through to the purchase and follow-up call. Service BDC Service departments should have a portion of the BDC dedicated to getting current and new customers in for service. Or, there should be an equal amount of BDC energy spent on both the service department and the sales department. Service directors and managers are busy serving the daily flow of customers and vehicles. It is still necessary for these individuals to create strong customer relationships. But it can be tough to balance the needs of the in-person customer and the phone or email customers. For this reason, BDC representatives should be the ones focused on fielding incoming calls and scheduling appointments. They should also be placing outgoing calls and emails, both of which ensure a top-notch customer experience. A dealership’s BDC agents have more focused time to get the appointment as they are not dealing with incoming traffic. Service advisors often overlook this as they are busy taking care of their current customer’s needs. And it may be that the next service is too far out for the customer to consider at that moment. The BDC team can reach out at the right time to offer an appointment. Having a team dedicated to calling customers closer to their needed service takes the pressure off the service advisor. It allows the customer to feel served rather than sold when interacting with the dealership leading to greater customer satisfaction. And appointments set closer to the date are less likely to have a no-show. Does your dealership need a BDC? The cost may seem high, but a well-managed BDC can yield a solid return for a dealership. The key phrase here is well-managed. A strong BDC manager will know how to create systems of accountability and professionalism to ensure every customer interaction is excellent. Motivation, proper training, and performance-based pay plans can make a BDC team a great addition to any dealership. See more automotive insights at TVI MarketPro3.
Aug 11, 2021 | 3 minute read
How to grow a service department
Have you recently taken over a service department, or has your repair order count been stagnant for longer than you would like to admit? Either way, step back and take a birds-eye view of the big picture to ensure you address the areas that have the most impact on growth in your service drive: marketing, customer service, and quality work. Inspecting team performance in these areas might give you the jump-start you need. Marketing It is a simple idea; get the word out to the ideal customer, and entice them to visit your service drive for maintenance or repair. But without an effective strategy and a marketing team that knows how to bring this idea to fruition, it often remains just that, an idea. You must know your customers, reach your customers, and then work to keep your customers. Define your customer TVI MarketPro3 has four distinctions when it comes to defining a customer. Active Customers, Inactive Customers, Lost Customers, and New VINS. Each of these customer types requires a unique marketing strategy. Active Customers Active Customers are existing customers who have done business with you in the past year. These customers need a solid retention marketing strategy. Customer retention is key to building the base of your business. Inactive Customers Inactive Customers have let some time go by since their last visit, roughly 13-24 months. They are familiar with your service department, but they need an offer to get them into your drive and back to active status. Lost Customers Lost Customers have not paid you a visit in 25-42 months. You need to get back on their radar if you want them to return to your service drive. New VIN Customers New VIN Customers live in your service area but have never stepped foot in your dealership. You read that right! They are right in your backyard. They drive your dealership make, and yet they have not brought their vehicle to you for service. You do not want to miss out on this growth opportunity. New customers allow you to build upon the customer base you have worked so hard to retain. Reach your customer Gear your marketing to increase customer counts through several platforms, including email, social media, and direct mail. Data from multiple sources (DMS, Change of Address, and Recall databases) will allow you to target customers according to their status and customer type. Be sure to send timely emails and direct mail pieces, so they think of your services at just the right time. Retain your customer Retention is imperative if you are looking to grow, so while you must bring in new customers, your goal should be to keep them coming back until they are ready to buy their next car. Be crystal clear on how you measure your retention rate and set monthly goals to ensure you are on track. Strive to provide a five-star customer experience to keep your customers returning, and remember to include your current customers in your marketing strategies. Do not assume because they came to you once for service (even if it was outstanding service) that you will be top of mind for their next service. Customer Service Once you attract customers, the challenge is keeping them, and the customer experience is a number one determining factor on whether or not a customer will return. You can have a state-of-the-art facility with all the bells and whistles, but if your team fails to connect with its customers, they likely will not return. Make it personable, but keep it professional. See your customers as human beings first and not just another vehicle. Be empathetic to their situation as expensive car repairs can be life-changing events on the financial front for most people. However, you have to remain professional at all times. TVI MarketPro3’s Eric Hawkes addresses this in the Grow Your RO video series. “The professional is to deliver them the information that is pertinent to the car. It is the customer’s decision what they can afford and how they can afford it,” says Hawkes. Finding that balance between empathy and professionalism will go a long way in building a trusting relationship with your client. Earn the customer’s trust When leaving their vehicle with you, a customer wants to know it is in good hands. A thorough walk-around with customers is one way to earn their trust. Listen to their concerns, and review these with them before they leave. You must also follow through on what you say you will do. If you say you will call them at a specific time, do so even if you don’t have all the information for them. Communication is essential to creating trust between you and your customers. A friendly farewell In the Grow Your RO video series, TVI MarketPro3’s Nick Shaffer addresses the need to walk the customer to the car and answer any remaining questions they may have when delivering the vehicle. "[The transaction] should not end at your desk. It should not end in the service drive. It should not end in the lounge. It should end at their car with you opening the door for them and thanking them for their business,” urges Shaffer. Outstanding experience Make sure your customers rave about the experience they have in working with your dealership. Everything from the walk-around to the delivery should instill confidence and be as hassle-free as possible. Customer satisfaction is a must if a service manager wants to enjoy long-term success. Quality Work No matter how effective your marketing and how connected you are to your customers, you must get the job done right the first time. Nobody wants to pay for a car repair, and nobody wants to take on the inconvenience of being without a ride for multiple days. So service teams must have checks and balances in place to ensure they complete repairs efficiently and correctly. Skilled professionals Technicians must be knowledgeable, so they can quickly identify the issue and make the needed repairs. Assign technicians to the appropriate services and repairs according to their abilities. Doing this ensures you are not paying a high dollar rate for a low-dollar repair. The service team must be well-trained for the work they are assigned. Fix it right the first time The proper checks and balances ensure the work is completed correctly on the first attempt. Customers have no patience for bringing their car in multiple times when the techs failed to get it right or made the wrong repair; a huge reason for the lack of trust in the car repair industry overall. Conclusion Consistently monitoring all of these areas and holding your team accountable for meeting these standards is how you will see the growth you are hoping for in your service department. As Shaffer says, “it all comes down to people and processes.” Learn more on how a partnership with TVI MarketPro3 can help you grow your service department.
Jun 15, 2021 | 5 minute read
Increase Profit in the Service Department
The Fixed Operations Department has a significant impact on dealership success. Throughout the automotive industry, dealerships rely on these areas to increase the bottom line company-wide. Vehicle service and parts sales are two of the main fixed ops segments of the dealership. Therefore, examining how to increase profit in these areas will help determine what tweaks to make in a service drive. Understanding company financial statements A statement will most often reveal the gross profit in the top few line items. Gross Profit is the income a business has left after paying all direct expenses (cost of sale) related to the manufacturing of a product or the costs associated with providing its services. Scroll down to the “bottom line” of the statement, also known as net profit. After deducting all other expenses, the dealer gets to keep what is left over. These expenses are broken into three categories: Variable, Semi-Fixed, and Fixed. Variable cost examples are commissions, manager’s pay, and policy expenses. Semi-fixed expenses include uniforms, computers, and IT support. Rent, insurance, and depreciation of tools, lifts, and the facility all fall under fixed expenses. Fixed expenses remain more or less consistent over time. The profit margin is a percentage rate based on the gap between profit and revenue. The net profit margin is an indicator of overall company success. Gross profit margin indicates how well a department maximizes revenue while minimizes the cost of sale. Generally, service and parts departments should monitor and manage both to create the best overall result. Financial statements are like the scoreboard in a football game. Coaches make decisions and call plays based on the score. Without a doubt, service managers can use their financial statements to make similar game plans. Alter price, not quality of service To increase the profit margin, raise the price or lower the cost of sale. However, do so without losing the service quality. Focus on increasing repair orders and reducing costs wherever possible. Examine how you can reduce your break-even point. The break-even point is the total expense it takes to operate the business for a month. TVI MarketPro3 agent, Nick Shaffer, has years of experience in fixed operations. When discussing the break-even point he gave us an example from when he managed Acura of Pleasanton. "My nut was $200k, so I knew I needed to earn $200k in gross profit to break even." Shaffer goes on to say, "knowing your break-even point, working to lower that total expense, and always knowing how your gross profit is trending for the month in relation to the ‘nut’ are good stats for a manager to keep an eye on." Monitor the labor rate Labor costs and labor sales are always easy to let slide, but this is a mistake if you are looking to increase your profit margin. Shop operators must calculate their facility’s effective labor rate regularly. They should then consider how to improve the situation. In addition, consider dispatching your repair orders to align the skill level required with the skill level of the technician. Ensure you’re not paying an unnecessarily high wage for a particular repair. Increase incoming dollars We’ve examined some of the cost-cutting areas, but the other half of the profit equation is revenue increases. Look at how you can maximize the hours and parts sold on each repair order. Increasing revenue starts with increased lead generation followed by successful lead conversion practices. So, boost your revenue by increasing the number of transactions or repair orders. Customer acquisition and customer retention need to be at the top of the list when discussing increased revenue. Create referral programs to make it easy for your happy customer to spread the word because customer satisfaction is a must for retaining customers. If you can’t keep returning customers coming through the door, you’ll be spinning your wheels trying to keep your service bay full and prevent lost revenue. View more fixed ops insights.
Jun 7, 2021 | 3 minute read
Social Media for Automotive Service Departments
2020 undoubtedly highlighted the reliance people have on social media to get their news, information, shopping, and more. Car dealerships were forced to step up their digital marketing game to reach and attract car buyers, but how are dealers performing when it comes to their service drive social media game? A strong social media strategy is a must for a service department. But dealerships generally miss the mark in their service department's social media presence. Absorption Rate Goals The challenge is that dealers are looking to the service department to reach a high absorption rate. A dealership with a high absorption rate is better able to weather the slumps of car sales. One would think that with this lofty goal set before them, the dealership's social media marketing strategy would align. However, as we perused a handful of dealership Facebook Pages, they all seem to send the same message. Sales are the shiny, exciting part of our dealership, while the service department may, or may not, make an appearance on the dealership's social media platforms. The Social Media Balancing Act for Dealerships With so many social media channels available, how do you know where to prioritize? Determining the best social platform to use can be an overwhelming task, but research shows that Facebook is the most popular social media platform for dealer marketing. Therefore, we started by looking at five different dealership Facebook Pages. We included dealerships with different makes located in various parts of the country. We didn’t use dealership names as our goal is not to pick on specific dealers but instead highlight the impression each dealer leaves with its followers. Marketing must align with dealership goals. If a robust service lane is one of those goals, the strategy should match. Unfortunately, we found this is not a common practice in the automotive industry's Facebook strategies. Review of 5 Different Dealership Facebook Pages: Ford Dealership (Springfield, Illinois) October 2020 Posts48 Total Posts - 28 Sales | 4 Service | 16 General Interest8.33% Service PostsSeptember 2020 Posts55 Total Posts - 34 Sales | 4 Service | 17 General Interest7.27% Service PostsTotal Service Post % for two-month Span7.77% Toyota Dealership (Houston, Texas) October 2020 Posts70 Total Posts - 55 Sales | 5 Service | 10 General Interest7.14% Service PostsSeptember 2020 Posts25 Total Posts - 21 Sales | 2 Service | 2 General Interests8.00% Service PostsTotal Service Post % for two-month Span7.37% Chevrolet Dealership (New York, New York) October 2020 Posts31 Total Posts - 23 Sales | 0 Service | 8 General Interest0.00% Service PostsSeptember 2020 Posts20 Total Posts - 20 Sales | 0 Service | 0 General Interest0.00% Service PostsTotal Service Post % for two-month Span0.00% Honda Dealership (San Jose, California) October 2020 Posts12 Total Posts - 9 Sales | 3 Service | 0 General Interest25% Service PostsSeptember 2020 Posts9 Total Posts - 6 Sales | 2 Service | 1 General Interest22% Service PostsTotal Service Post % for two-month Span23.81% Volkswagen Dealership (Jacksonville, FL) October 2020 Posts30 Total Posts - 25 Sales | 1 Service | 4 General Interest3.33% Service PostsSeptember 2020 Posts22 Total Posts - 19 Sales | 1 Service | 2 General Interest4.55% Service PostsTotal Service Post % for two-month Span3.85% These dealerships each vary in the number of posts they had per month, week, and day. Some seemed very consistent and methodical in their master posting plan, while others seemed sporadic and disjointed. Some had dozens of posts with customers and their new vehicles, while others seem to have no human element at all. But the one thing each of these dealerships had in common is the sales department was feasting at the Facebook table while the service department got the leftover social media morsels. These five dealerships combined averaged 8.56% posts that pointed to their service department. Why the Oversight? Dealers can often be more sales-focused, thereby influencing the dealership's marketing focus. The result is a Facebook page that reaches and attracts car buyers only. It is important to note that service customers are not necessarily the same as car buyers. The ideal service customer has an older vehicle that needs more involved maintenance or repairs. Many aren’t interested in car buying, and even if they are, they still need to take care of the car they are driving. Marketing to these two different customer types takes planning and management. The right marketing team will understand the role the service department plays in the dealership’s bottom line. They will also realize the service department gets customers on the lot, potentially leading to future sales. Increasing Brand Awareness to Potential Service Customers? Let’s use Facebook’s tips for business and customize these specifically to the car dealer's service department. Capture Video The quickest and easiest way to make a statement is to capture a quick pic or create a short slideshow or video. Build trust by introducing your service team and showing them in action. Ask a team member what they are working on and how they are solving a customer’s problem? Show off your new service app or your beautiful waiting area. These visuals go a long way in painting the experience for service customers. Engage Engage with your audience with a vehicle service quiz with a prize for the winner. For example, “What mileage should you have a transmission flush? Get the closest answer without going over and receive $10 off your next oil change.” Story Time Another great way to attract followers is to tell a story. A service department has many unique customers, each with unique stories. And while they are in your service department, you are a part of their story. Publish a quick post telling the story of a mom who had two children with her when she arrived at your car dealership. Explain how happy you were to provide her with a loaner vehicle, and she didn’t have to spend half the day wrangling her little ones in your lobby. Or tell the story of a gentleman who came in for an oil change, and your team noticed his tires were looking worn. After discussing this matter with the customer, your team installed a new set of tires and had him off to work quickly. You know what your stories are, and you know how your team’s service makes a difference in your customer’s lives. Take a quick minute to share these stories. Pro Tip It is important to remember that not all posts need to be about your business. You can also provide helpful, useful, and interesting content that is unrelated to your service department. For example, share the morning rush hour traffic link. People will slow their scroll to view this, and they will see your logo in the process. You can occasionally add a call to action with this type of post like, “Don’t sit in traffic! Instead, enjoy a cup of coffee and an oil change while you wait for traffic to pass.” Spread the Word You should also encourage happy customers to jump on Facebook to submit an online review. Make it easy for them by sending the link in a follow-up email. Be sure you've done all you can do to satisfy the customer before sending this follow-up email. Nothing's worse than being asked to submit a review when you weren't happy with your service. Blog that Benefits Share your blog posts, but be sure these posts are high-quality posts and are of interest to the audience you’re trying to attract. They should be written to provide useful information to the reader and to set your dealership apart as an expert in the industry. Add an Ad Facebook Ads are another way to spread the word about your services. Facebook will guide you through this process and help you to target the right customer. Grow your social media reach all while keeping within your marketing budget. Bonus: Facebook is not a "fix it and forget it" form of marketing. The goal is to get people to engage. If your content is successful in this, the expectation is that someone will be there to answer questions and keep the conversations going. A service department cannot obtain a social media presence by riding the coattails of the sales department. It must have its own digital marketing strategy that is not necessarily independent of the sales department. Instead, it should complement the sales department and create marketing magic to attract both sales and service customers to the dealership. Visit TVI MarketPro3 for more automotive marketing tips.
May 24, 2021 | 6 minute read
Successful Sales to Service Handoff Process
To be successful, an automotive dealership must sell more than just vehicles. It must sell the entire dealership. After all, vehicle sales alone do not keep a dealership afloat. Mastering the sales to service handoff process is imperative to dealership success. Other departments play a huge role in financially safeguarding the dealer. This is especially true in times of declining car sales. The service department takes the lead in this area and is the true profit machine for a dealership. Therefore dealers should not ignore the service drive in the car buying and selling process. When purchasing a car, the salesperson should see their sales customer as a future service customer. The customer should get the impression that sales teams and service teams are one and the same, and they work together as an overall customer success team. To achieve this in the short amount of time a customer is present in the dealership, the service and sales teams must be a well-oiled machine (pardon the pun) when it comes to a good handoff. 7 Important Steps to a Smooth Sales to Service Handoff Process #1 Plan, Coordinate, Educate Customer success does not come without a well-coordinated plan. This plan should be detailed and choreographed in the sales and service playbooks. Each member of each side of the team should know the expectations of new customer interactions and handoffs. Customer success managers and other leaders should sell their team on why this process is so important to the dealership and that each team member is crucial to its success. #2 Rehearse for your time in the spotlight A successful handoff will not occur if it feels robotic or forced. Your team must literally rehearse the entire process; script and all. The dealership is your stage, and your team members are the performers. Practice running the whole process with one team member playing the role of the customer. The more times your crew can walk through the process the more comfortable they’ll be when working with actual customers. #3 The sales team tees it up The sales process sets the tone for the entire onboarding process. If the customer’s experience isn’t positive from the moment they step out of their car, it’ll be difficult to get them on board for the rest of the ride. Sales and service teams must maintain a symbiotic relationship. A sales rep should focus on the sale of the vehicle but should also sell the customer on how the dealership can best serve them in the future. The thought process should not be “how can I best sell a customer?” Instead, it should be “how can I best serve a customer?” This approach usually sells itself, and it sets the rest of the team up for success in the delivery process. #4 Give the five-star tour As with any tour guide, the sales reps should be enthusiastic and passionate. They should educate the customer about what the dealership provides in all its departments and facilities. As the tour moves on, all team members must do their part to create a pleasant and inviting experience. The culture of the dealership is revealed here. It can either encourage or discourage the customer's return for maintenance and repairs. #5 Meet the service team This is a big moment! Customers might return for their future car buying needs, but this moment will help them decide if they’ll return for their vehicle’s service needs. Introduce them to a service team leader. This team leader should be on cue with their reception of this introduction. Remember, a customer’s time and attention span are limited, so this encounter should be brief but shouldn’t feel rushed. #6 Sell the why As we’ve discussed in other posts, consumers have 3 main objections to using dealerships for their vehicle services. Dealership services are too expensiveDealerships are not close enough to their home or officeThey’ve had a poor experience with a dealership in the past. Take this opportunity to address these objections and sell them on the value they’ll get by using the dealership over an aftermarket option. #7 Schedule their first appointment Make their decision to return an easy one. Offer to schedule the appointment before guiding the customer out of the service department. Follow this up with reminder phone calls, or even better, an app that automates maintenance scheduling and reminders. If your company offers such an app, take the time to walk the customer through downloading and using it. This will increase the chances they will use it going forward. Conclusion A dealer’s long-term success is dependent on a coordinated effort by all sales and service team members in the handoff process. This process is made easier by planning and practicing. But once this process is complete, there is still work to do. Every time a customer enters your service line, the service should feel like the day they first entered. This is what keeps them coming back again and again. This is what keeps your dealer top of mind for the customer's next car purchase. Visit TVI MarketPro3 for more info and automotive marketing resources.
May 10, 2021 | 4 minute read
Guide to Dealership Service Department KPI
Measuring success is imperative to any business. And within each business, the individual parts or departments must know what their definition of success is to obtain it. These measurements and definitions are the dealership service department KPI or Key Performance Indicators. The questions automotive service advisors must answer are: What is a KPI? What are dealership service departments KPIs? How often should they be measured? What should you do once you meet them? By consistently working to answer each one of these questions, you can use them as a road map to set and meet your company’s goals. What is a KPI? Balanced Scorecard Institute, a Strategy Management Group, sponsors KPI.org; an online resource for KPI practitioners. The website defines KPIs as the critical (key) indicators of progress toward an intended result. KPIs provide a focus for strategic and operational improvement and create an analytical basis for decision-making. They also help focus attention on what matters most. What are dealership service departments' KPIs? We further review KPIs in an article entitled "Automotive Service Department KPI Defined." Here we review how effective labor rate or hours sold per repair order are the most widely used KPIs. Customer pay types are important indicators. When we are talking about the shop, the biggest KPI would be shop efficiency and proficiency. Highly trained service technicians with adequate skill levels for the repairs they perform have an enormous impact on total labor sales. Dealers also focus on customer pay repair count, total repair order count, and retention metrics. The parts department is a critical part of fixed operations. The parts department would be tracking gross profit percentage, phase in and phase out metrics, and inventory turn times. The customer satisfaction index (CSI) reflects customer retention and is the main KPI for service departments. Every manufacturer calls the CSI something different. We call these CFC or OLP. They are all different acronyms to describe the same thing. Did we give the client a pleasant experience? Retention is key Retention is also a dealership service department KPI. New customers are key to any business but keeping your current customers gives you a base on which to grow your business. Dealerships lose 80% of their customers to independents. Consider what keeps them from coming back. Did they have an excellent customer experience? Measure this by how many 5 star organic reviews received.Is the customer’s perception that prices are too high? With price transparency, the customer must be educated that in many cases, independents are more expensive.Is the service team involved in the car sale? Are they meeting the new sales customer and working to transition them to a service customer?Provide the very best customer service. The entire transaction should be smooth and easy for the customer. A service manager should also recognize technician value and work to keep good techs. You do this by treating them like true team members and recruiting techs that add value to your team. How often should they be measured? Service advisors should paint the picture of success for their team. Just as they need a clear road map to success, so does their rest of their crew. Everyone from the techs to the customer service reps needs to know the vision of success for the department overall as well as It is imperative to set goals if your team is going to succeed. Break goals down into time increments like monthly, weekly, and daily. Perform this for the individual as well as for the whole team. Ensure each person knows what their individual production goals are and the steps they need to accomplish them. Measure goals on the deadline set when creating the goals. Measure daily goals daily, weekly goals weekly, and so on. What should you do once you meet the dealership service department KPI? Now here’s the fun part. Meeting the dealership service department KPI is a huge achievement that deserves celebration. There must be some acknowledgment and congratulations when a service team meets his or her own KPIs. Motivate them to strive for the next KPI with enthusiasm and passion. For more tips and resources visit TVI MarketPro3.
Apr 26, 2021 | 3 minute read
Fixed Operations Best Practices for the Phone
Customer acquisition is imperative to all businesses, and so is customer retention. The automotive industry is no exception, so service leaders must know the best practices to implement throughout their department. Fixed operations best practices start with your first interaction with a customer. Many times this interaction occurs over the phone. However, many service departments are lacking customer service when it comes to their phones. The phone call experience for the sales department tends to be terrific. The customer service representative connects the customer immediately to a sales agent. And from the start, the agent works the sales magic. People in sales make their living this way. They work hard to find what the customer needs as quickly and efficiently as possible because their livelihood depends on it. They also work very hard to get the customer in the building as there is a greater chance of making a sale if a customer can see it, smell it, and drive it. News Flash... Service Sells! Jerry Thibeau is the CEO and founder of Phone Ninjas, Recon Ninjas, and Talk Options. He hosted a 2017 webinar entitled “How to Fix Your Fixed Operations.” Here he notes service departments are selling more frequently than the sales departments. The phone service in the service department must reflect this. Customers are often passed around from the initial call to the service department to the parts department to hold and then cycled through again. They begrudgingly have to restate their problem multiple times. Many calls go by without an effort to answer the question or get the customer in for the needed service or repair. The customer can become frustrated, and it can create a negative experience. Missing the mark on phones equals dealership losses Here is an overview of what the dealership misses out on by not making the most of their incoming calls. First of all, they miss a customer pay repair order. One minor repair may not make a huge dent. However, if you look further, it is so much more than one repair. Service teams miss an opportunity to get a customer in to experience the excellent service they provide. They also miss being able to show the customer what might be an incredible facility. Anytime you have an RO, there is an opportunity to win a customer over. They will get to experience your service, and you can present special offers for future service. If the experience is positive, they will likely return for future service. And the chain reaction continues. These customers could turn into loyal customers or even raving fans. They will tell their friends about their experience or write great reviews on their service. This trickle-down effect leads to success in the service drive. A thriving service department leads to successful vehicle sales, and the customer feelings of honesty and transparency in the service department spill over to the entire dealership. On the contrary, lose a service customer and lose a potential future car sale. Create a fail proof system Creating standard phone practices in all departments is key to getting new customers through the door. Yet dealership service departments often overlook this one. Incoming calls are a simple, low-cost form of lead generation. Developing precise phone call systems helps those who answer the phone to be proficient and effective. Here are five areas dealerships can improve when helping a customer over-the-phone #1 Script it Write a script. Post the script. Learn the script. Not everyone on your team has the gift of gab, so having a script to follow when answering the phone is crucial. We are not talking Shakespeare here. It is just a standard way of answering the phone that your service customers will come to expect and appreciate. And everyone who might answer the phone should be expected to memorize it, recite it, and say it with a smile. The script does not end with the greeting. You must expand it to train team members on how to acknowledge the problem. Then give specific tracks to follow based on the customer situation. #2 Solve the problem A unique problem comes with each phone call. Your job is to go the extra mile to solve that problem, but be sure the customer knows what's going on. A long hold while looking up a part or seeking an answer can be frustrating, especially if the customer is in the dark. Preface a hold with a response like this: "I'm happy to help you with (insert problem). Give me just one second while I look up that part." Now the customer knows you are serving them while they wait. If the hold time gets lengthy, pick up the phone and touch base with the customer. Let them know why it is taking a little longer than expected. Full communication with a phone customer creates confidence. It shows the customer that they are the primary focus of your attention. #3 Create the experience Every phone call answered is an opportunity to paint the customer experience with your service department. Ask them how their day has been before diving into the solution, a simple way to drop a little nugget of joy. Let them know they are talking to a caring human being and not a robot. #4 Get the appointment Follow-through is key to successful phone practices. Your customer may not always need a service when they call. However, your goal should always be to schedule an appointment. Thibeau emphasized this in his webinar. He performed mystery calls to dealerships and reviewed the strengths and weaknesses of each call. He stressed the importance of getting that appointment. The obvious way of doing this is to schedule a time to address the problem they called on. Even if they do not require a visit, you should still offer to get their next maintenance service on the books. Relax! We are not talking about high-pressure sales. Instead, you are offering something they may need and just have not taken the time to schedule. You must capitalize on every incoming call. And if you have handled the call correctly leading up to this point, it will likely feel helpful rather than pushy. #5 Follow up If you need to call a customer back, give a specific time, and then call them at that time. Even if you lack the answer, call them to let them know you are still working on it. Make it a practice to place follow-up calls after repairs. This call enhances what was hopefully a positive experience in your service drive. It shows you care, and it increases the likelihood of a return for future service. This call is also a great time to discuss future needs and offers. Conclusion Fixed operations best practices start with a successful phone call process for your fixed ops team. Planning, training, and practicing can help you achieve this goal. As a service leader, you might even make a few mystery calls yourself to put your service team to the test. Make this a priority for you and your team, and keep your phones and your service department buzzing. Subscribe today to the TVI MarketPro3 blog for more articles on Fixed Operations best practices.
Apr 12, 2021 | 5 minute read
FIXED OPERATIONS PRICE TRANSPARENCY
Fixed operations price transparency is a hurdle dealerships must overcome to grow their repair orders. It's important to move past a customer's objections, and one of those objections will almost always be price. Consumers turn to Kelley Blue Book (KBB) for an assessment when purchasing or selling a vehicle. The KBB website draws about 20 million visitors per month. These visitors are all looking for the value of a vehicle. But, what about those customers that are not in the market to buy or sell a car? They own a car, and they want an easy way to price services for maintenance and repairs. KBB Upgrade KBB now has a new feature for car owners that helps increase consumer awareness of the cost of service and repairs. Car owners will now have a whole new direction when scheduling service visits with dealership service departments. It’s called Kelley Blue Book Car Repair Pricing, and it is making great strides in creating fixed operations price transparency. This easy to use feature readily answers four basic questions: What do I need?When do I need to do it?Who’s qualified to do it?How much, within a range, should I expect to pay? As if that wasn’t easy enough, the user can also easily schedule a service appointment with one of the featured auto repair centers. National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) presented this new feature in 2020 in Las Vegas. It highlighted that dealers have an awareness problem in their service marketing. There is also a trust problem in fixed operations, and 4 out of 5 customers attribute these problems to pricing when servicing their vehicle. They feel dealership service centers are more expensive, but this isn’t necessarily true. This is where the KBB Car Repair Pricing feature is helping to bridge the trust and transparency gap. Here’s how it works: Visit KBB’s Service & Repair Pricing Guide. Recall, Maintenance & Repair Price Estimator. A consumer will enter all the details of their vehicle in the drop-down menus at the top of the page. Details include the year, make, model, style, and mileage. They should enter the correct zip code to receive pricing for their specific market. Once they input the vehicle information, they select the needed repair from a drop-down menu with dozens of repairs to choose from. Then the price generating machine instantly spits out a price range based off 200 million dealer repair orders. KBB accumulated and analyzed this data from real sales around the country to be able to calculate an accurate price range for a specific market. This empowers the consumer with both the knowledge and confidence needed to make informed decisions for their vehicle. It also encourages dealership repairs by informing the customer of the specialized training the dealer mechanics receive. KBB reviews the dealer’s loaner car policy as well as its collision repairs expertise. The car repair pricing tool emphasizes the high quality that dealership service departments provide. Building Trust and Price Transparency KBB’s new feature has helped bypass many consumer objections to using a dealership. However, the dealerships still need to make greater strides regarding Fixed Ops. They must build trust by ensuring positive customer experiences throughout the repair process. While KBBs car repair pricing feature helps with price transparency, the dealers need to do their part. Dealerships must ensure their prices are competitive in the market and include as many repair prices as possible on the website. This allows the customer to know what to expect before getting a quote. Service advisors should know the published prices on the website so they can stay true to these prices. There also needs to be an efficient system in place to update the website when price changes occur. According to autoalert.com, “transparency is at the core of great relationships between businesses and consumers.” While they are referencing car sales here, the same is true for the service department. Infomedia.com supports this claim and expands on it with the presentation of the Multi-Point Inspection (MPI). Many dealerships are moving from paper to digital customer presentations to add transparency to the vehicle inspection process. In doing so, they can add pictures and/or videos which has had a significant impact on service sales. Fixed Operations Price Transparency online Today, consumers prefer the visual aspect of online shopping. They jump online at a moment's notice to see a product. They can price compare and even do further research on a product or service. This is the modern-day consumer. And the automotive service industry should no longer ask customers to pay for something they’ve never laid eyes on. An educated customer is more confident in going forward with a costly repair. If a dealership can overcome fixed operations price transparency, it will gain customer trust. More customers will frequent the dealership for service. This makes them more likely to purchase their next vehicle from this same dealer. This hurdle is huge to creating a top-of-the-line service department. For more resources, visit TVI MarketPro3
Mar 29, 2021 | 4 minute read
Dealership and Automotive Service Marketing
When brainstorming automotive service marketing ideas, there is an array of options from which to choose. Dealerships may select from multiple platforms and multiple strategies. All businesses navigate this marketing mountain, and auto repair shops are no exception. In a car dealership, car sales are visual superstars. So they generally get the majority of the marketing focus. But with auto parts and service being a sustaining force for the dealership, it should take a more prominent position in a dealership’s marketing masterplan. The first step in creating the marketing plan is to determine which methods and platforms to use. The goal is to get the company brand and message in front of potential customers, and many marketing strategies achieve this. Traditional Marketing Methods for Automotive Service Marketing We live in a digital world. But that doesn’t mean the proven marketing approaches of the past no longer have a place at the table. Calling, print marketing, and paid media advertising are still effective marketing methods. Phone calls Reach out and call a customer. Phone calls to current and potential customers don’t need to be forced or uncomfortable. The goal is not to push a sale. It should simply be a friendly reminder and to share any great offers for the service department. Phone conversations should include pleasantries and the latest specials. This kind of outreach has a personal touch that will remind a customer that you’re there and ready to serve them. Print There are multiple options when it comes to print marketing. You can advertise in newspapers and magazines. The cost of these ads usually depends on the location and circulation size of the publication. The size and color option of the ad itself also has an impact on cost. Black and white ads are less expensive than full-color ads. These ads should be local and relevant to your market. The services offered in colder regions may not apply to the warmer, southern parts of the country. Therefore, placing an ad for a Winter Prep Service Package in a national publication may not apply to a large portion of the publication recipients. For a more individual reach, send letters or direct mail coupon offers through the mail. Even if these offers end up in the wastebasket, there’s a great chance someone will set momentary eyes on it. At the very least, this increases overall brand awareness. But existing customers, as well as potential customers, might need the services offered. Paid Media Advertising We see and hear car sales advertisements just about every time we turn on the television or radio. A dealership could use these ads to showcase a dealership’s service department but are more often used to promote the sales department. Radio and TV spots can cast a bit of a wide net compared to direct mail marketing. Television and radio stations cover a vast area, so much of the audience to hear or see a dealership’s ad lives too far to drive for the dealer’s services. Point-of-Purchase Marketing (POP) Checking out at a grocery store is always a great example of point-of-purchase (POP) marketing. Brilliant marketers have positioned some enticing products right at the eye level of your five-year-old. They are hoping your child will whine and beg for the fun and colorfully packaged products. Service managers can use a similar approach (minus the whining 5-year-old). Car sales customers are there, on the lot, with their current vehicle and possibly a new vehicle on their mind. Reach these shoppers with a coupon for a discounted oil change or some other offer that will get them to your service drive. Digital Marketing for Automotive Service Marketing There are plenty of digital marketing tools to choose from as well. Internet marketing combines web and emails to advertise. These are all powerful tools to drive sales to the service department. Having an online presence can be an effective method of lead generation. The goal here is to capture contact information whenever possible, allowing future marketing outreach for emails and other digital marketing efforts. Use web and email in conjunction with the above traditional advertising formats. Email Once a customer has given you their email, you now have the easy ability to stay top of mind. You can achieve this by sending monthly email newsletters and periodically sending service offers. But remember that not every email needs to be a marketing email. Send some emails with the goal of furthering customer relations and showing customer appreciation. Social Media Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, social media marketing is a cost-effective way to extend your brand’s reach. Paid social media ads get your services in front of a very targeted audience, and engagement with your followers goes a long way to building a positive social presence. Website Interaction Website developers can integrate chat features into a company’s website. These allow service teams to reach out to a customer in real-time while they scroll through the website. However, a team member should consistently monitor this feature should you choose to implement it. Google Presence There are many ways to increase a website’s search engine optimization (SEO). SEO ensures that browsers like google allow potential customers to find your website. A website should include SEO-rich content. Google reviews and google maps also help websites hit the top search results. Word of mouth is a huge influencer when people are deciding which company to use for a service. Businesses heavily rely on Google reviews to increase SEO. Local SEO is also important as people use the search phrase “mechanic near me” when looking for automotive service. Remind them your dealership provides this service by ensuring you appear on this search engine results page and google maps. Automotive Service Marketing Plan You can choose from dozens of automotive service marketing methods to promote your dealership. An auto service department must take these methods into account when creating the service marketing master plan. Use a spreadsheet or another type of marketing checklist to schedule and plan your marketing. Your plan should answer the following questions: WHICH methods you’ll useWHEN you’ll use themHOW you’ll use themHOW OFTEN you’ll use them Schedule all forms of marketing well in advance to provide consistent content to your audience for better brand awareness. For more resources visit TVI MarketPro3
Mar 15, 2021 | 5 minute read
Automotive Industry Absorption Rate and Lost Customers
You thought you did everything right; you have top-notch customer service, great technicians, and a beautiful facility. But you still have customers defecting to aftermarket options for their vehicle maintenance and repairs. The automotive industry absorption rate has a huge impact on dealerships' bottom lines, but this is tough to accomplish if the service department fails to keep customers coming back. What is a lost customer in the automotive industry? A lost or lapsed customer is an individual that hasn’t used a specific service department in more than twelve months or another period of time set by the manufacturer. It’s important to determine why and how it affects the bottom line. Here are three contributing factors: There’s a perception that service prices are too high at dealerships. Independent automotive service businesses are often more conveniently located than a dealership.The customer had a negative experience with the dealership in the service department or with vehicle sales. Protesting the Price Dealerships have done a lot over the last decade to address competitive pricing transparency. But they still need to focus on communication and education. Dealerships have advantages over the aftermarket service providers, but customers are simply unaware. Dealerships should educate their customers on the value of OE (Original Equipment) compared to the aftermarket options. The service team should also review the benefits of certified technicians’ expertise and experience. Location Convenience How does a dealer prevail over a quick lube’s swift service? Ensure when customers make the drive to your dealership, their day can continue with as little interruption as possible. Provide your customers with amenities such as a fresh cup of coffee and free wifi connection, and get them out quickly. For bigger repairs, many dealerships have turned to pick up and drop off options with a loaner vehicle. This is a huge selling point that many of the aftermarket service centers aren’t able to offer. Negative Experiences It’s difficult for any business to overcome bad customer experiences. But this is especially so when it comes to expensive services like car repair. However, a customer can be forgiving when a problem is met with sincerity and an urgency to find a solution. Impact of lost customers on the automotive industry absorption rate The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) provides the formula for calculating absorption rate. Gross Profit (Parts Department + Service Department + Body Shop) ÷ Adjusted Dealership Overhead Expense = Absorption Percentage NADA research shows that with a 70% customer retention level one can expect 90% or better fixed absorption. This highlights the need to retain the customers you have and to win back lost customers. A Win Back Strategy They’re out there. Customers left, but they are waiting for their next oil change or tire replacement. The question is, will they think of you and your dealership when it comes time to schedule this service? Customer loyalty is key to success in the parts and service department. Lost customers aren’t lost because they no longer need a service. They simply don’t see the benefit of a company’s products or services. Or they didn’t have a great customer experience. Dealers must target these customers through strategic marketing. Addressing recalls is a cost effective way to attract potential customers to your service drive. Recalls have increased immensely over the past decade. When these customers come in for the recall repair they get to experience your dealership’s outstanding service team. They might take this opportunity to have other work completed which of course contributes to an increase in fixed operations profit. By focusing on these areas service managers can climb closer and closer to the desired automotive industry absorption rate. Check out TVI MarketPro3 for more marketing information.
Mar 1, 2021 | 3 minute read
Fixed operations best practices emerged from 2020
Covid19 has brought many challenges to the automotive industry. This is particularly true to dealership service departments. Like so many other business leaders, service managers have pivoted to meet these challenges. In doing so, we got a glimpse of some of the future fixed operations best practices. While we look forward to ditching certain pandemic practices, several of these will change how fixed operations perform going forward. Digital systems will certainly be one of these. And although digital solutions have many benefits, the upcoming challenge will be to find a balance moving forward. Digital Solutions Digital marketing and social media were already powerful tools for selling vehicles and increasing traffic in a service bay. These tools made it easier to get special offers and calls to action to the right customer. Automotive news sources are reporting the increased use of digital tools. These tools are creating a touch-free experience in the service and parts departments. A New Challenge While digital solutions often improve the customer experience, it eliminates face to face interaction from the transaction. This makes it more challenging to form customer relationships. Good business leaders know that relationships are key to a successful service department. So how do fixed ops leaders merry these two important parts of their business, digital and personal contact, for fixed operations best practices in 2021? New Processes Processes such as online appointment scheduling and check-in/check-out systems have been automated. Vehicle inspections or report card processes have been digitized as well. This makes for more efficient processes and a positive impact on the bottom line. It can even make for a more positive customer experience like so many other automated services. But if all service departments move to such processes, what will make them stand out from one another? Some of us aren’t old enough to remember full-service gas stations, but it’s easy to imagine the reason a customer would return to one of these establishments time and time again. They enjoyed the person who greeted them, pumped the gas, and went the extra mile to clean the windshield. Today, the two big reasons for choosing where we fill up include price and location. Rarely does the person in the store running the cash register determine where we get our gas. Out of sight. Out of mind. Let’s mirror that to our dealership service departments as we shift into greater reliance on our new digital tools. How does a dealership remain a service customer’s first choice if they have no personal connection to us? The bigger question is, why does it have to be one or the other? Service Managers Feedback We reached out to some of our dealership partners to see what solutions they’ve implemented since Covid19. Dealers all had several physical solutions in common including masks, gloves, and plexiglass when interacting with a customer. Service departments are disinfecting vehicles before and after service. They’re often complimenting this practice with plastic coverings for the interior of the vehicle. Dealers have also found a way to implement a delivery service where they pick-up and drop-off the vehicle being repaired. It’s safe to say, in some ways, we have been very spoiled with new services put forth during the shut down. The vehicles are not the only thing being cleaned and disinfected. Office cleaning and sanitizing throughout the day has also become a major priority. And dealers are providing systems that accommodate for social distancing in the waiting area. Digital tools are also making social distancing easier to accomplish. Online appointment scheduling and automated appointment reminders allow dealerships to operate with fewer staff at one time. Digital repair estimates are protecting both the customers and the service team members from face to face contact. And when checking out, customers are now getting the option to pay online or to use a text-to-pay feature. Looking to the Future The service managers say it is likely dealerships will continue all of these practices. Dealers will continue to offer concierge services and digital communications with clients. Some even mentioned increasing the use of video to assist with repair consultations. This will give the customer a visual of the service being performed which will give them confidence in the service provider. All of our partners surveyed agree that consistent and constant customer communication is key to achieve fixed operations best practices. No matter the digital processes or contactless solutions, nothing will take the place of staying in touch with the customer. This interaction will stand out when the customer is deciding where to go for their next service, and people always have the ability to influence this decision. Subscribe today to get valuable fixed ops related content to your inbox.
Feb 15, 2021 | 4 minute read
Dealership absorption rate and 2021 Repair Order Goals
Dealerships established 2021 goals hoping every car sold goes straight to the bottom line. As you likely already know, vehicle sales alone are not enough to achieve such a dealer’s delight. This 100% dealership absorption rate goal is achievable, but it can only happen with a robust parts and service department. What’s your dealership absorption rate number? First you need to determine your goal rate. You’ll use this rate to set a magic number that paints a picture for your team. Follow this by creating corresponding goals for each team member. Here's the National Automobile Dealers Association calculation for absorption rate. Time to break out your financial statements and a calculator. Determine your total fixed operations gross profit (parts + Service + Body Shop). Figure out your total overhead expense (dealership expenses – new and used variable selling expenses). To calculate your rate, simply divide gross profits by the overhead expenses. You have your rate, but now what? The rate is similar to a mythical unicorn floating in the sky that no one knows what to do with. The absorption rate is important, but it can be difficult to set specific goals from a percentage rate. CEO of DealerPro, Don Reed, presented at the 2017 Massachusetts Automobile Dealers Association Profit Builders Workshop. He points out that you should look at the dollar amount. When you have less than a 100% absorption rate, you’ll subtract gross profit from expenses. This shows how many dollars short you are from achieving this goal. Divide this number by the number of months in your financial statement to determine your monthly shortage. This is your number! This is the dollar amount you need each month in your service department to achieve that big, beautiful 100% absorption rate. Be a number enthusiast What do you do with this magic number? Send it out in smoke signals. Have an airplane fly it on a banner over the dealership. Serve donuts to your team in the shape of the number. Do whatever it takes to help your team keep this number in mind throughout their daily activities. Plan for success How different would each day in your service department look if you broke this number down for your team? Where would you be in 2022 if each member knew what their individual goals were in order to hit this monthly number? Even better, what if they knew what tasks (big or small) they could do to reach their individual goals? The annual dollar amount needed and even the monthly number can often be too big a bite to digest. Lay out a detailed plan for the service department’s customer care, customer retention, and customer acquisition. You will see a steady growth in your absorption rate as the year progresses. Don’t forget to celebrate the small wins Your team now knows their number, and each team member now knows his or her personal goals that will help the team achieve this number. Service department leaders must continuously review these goals. Dish out high fives and congratulations upon meeting goals. Or better yet, offer your team true incentives for meeting these smaller goals. Keep everyone motivated by rewarding the smaller achievements. NADA Formula for calculating Service Absorption Rate: Gross Profit (Parts Department + Service Department + Body Shop) ÷ Adjusted Dealership Overhead Expense = Absorption Percentage Check out TVI MarketPro3 for more automotive marketing insights.
Feb 1, 2021 | 3 minute read
Automotive Service Marketing Ideas for Dealerships
As a dealership leader, you likely find yourself scratching your head for automotive service marketing ideas to increase your RO. Dealerships have countless options when it comes to enticing potential customers to frequent their auto repair service department. Auto shop marketing strategies can be as simple as getting “word of mouth” recommendations. Or it can be the more involved digital and print marketing campaigns. Your dealership may not have an in-house, dedicated automotive service marketing team. If it does have in-house marketing, it likely puts the focus mostly on the sales department. This leaves the service department feeling a little like the middle child. As a service manager, you might be wondering how to shine the marketing spotlight on your service drive. How can this be done when you may have very little to no marketing experience at all? Don’t sell yourself short. You have the ability to get the word out and capture new customers. With a focused marketing plan, it can be simple tasks that you work into your daily, weekly, and monthly routine. Let’s look at 5 basic and budget friendly automotive service marketing ideas that work for any business including auto services. #1 Word of mouth Existing customers are your most valuable form of marketing. People love to talk about their great experiences. Ken Blanchard discusses this in his book Raving Fans. The book claims that making your customers raving fans is the competitive edge today. We all have friends that do it. They passionately sell you a product or service they love without even knowing they’re selling. So how do we put our current customers to work for us? First you must give them something to rave about. Ensure their experience is outstanding and that they leave your service drive feeling like they were treated with fairness and respect. Pay attention to your Facebook feed next time someone asks for a recommendation. People come out of the woodwork to throw their favorite businesses in the mix of comments. If their experience with your service team was top-notch, there’s no reason they won’t throw your name in the hat when the question is asked. Secondly, ask them to spread the word. When encountering a satisfied customer, ask them to tell all their friends. Ask them to submit a Google or Facebook review. You can hand them a referral card that gives them credit towards service for every referral. Keep in mind raving fans will often do this without incentive. They want to boast about the outstanding service they just had, but in case it doesn’t occur to them, you’ll need to ask. #2 A Winning Website When potential customers are visiting your website, what are they seeing? Is it all about car sales with the service department tucked neatly into the navigation menu? Is there clear messaging about the service department? Does the homepage have a clear call to action that encourages them to click through to the service page? These are questions you should ask your website developers. You also need to ensure the website is search engine optimized for the service department. Too often dealership websites are focused on sales and completely overlook the need to attract customers who are googling where to get their next oil change. #3 Google Maps Take just a minute, and google “oil change near me”. Chances are you’ll see every quick lube and independent auto repair shop within a 10 mile radius. It is very unlikely that you’ll see a dealership in the mix. Oil changes may not bring in the big bucks, but it’s not about the oil change transaction itself. It’s more about the long game. David Boyle wrote an article that covered oil changes and tire sales in the September/October issue of Fixed Ops Magazine. He explains that dealers price oil changes very competitively, perhaps at a loss, with a greater goal in mind. The goal is to earn a customer’s trust. It’s also to encourage them to return for future services. If it is worth losing a little profit to get a customer in for an oil change, why are dealers not popping up on maps with a google search for a nearby oil change? Prioritize this as it is marketing on cruise control once it is in place. #4 Email Newsletter Email is an automotive service marketing must for dealerships. As you’re gathering your customer's contact information, you can ask them to opt into your email newsletters. Be sure they know what’s in it for them other than another email that will see its way to the junk folder. Explain the offers they’ll receive when the newsletter hits their inbox. Discounts on oil changes and free carwashes with certain services are always good reasons to click open an email. Once they’ve entrusted you with their precious email address, make it worth their while. Not only should you include the great offers you promised, but the other content in your newsletter should draw their interest too. Include articles on maintenance, and always spotlight a team member. This allows your audience to get to know your team better. Don’t forget to write a compelling subject line. Why should they open your email? How will it benefit them to click? This is what the subject line should answer. It can be as simple as a “$20 off coupon inside.” If they know a $20 discount is sitting in there, you can bet that’ll be worth the open. #5 Social Media Marketing Ideas There are so many social media platforms out there, so which one is best for auto repair marketing? The simple answer is the one you use. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… the list goes on and on. To get a start on social media marketing and to be able to remain consistent with it, you need to find the one you’re most comfortable with, and learn to use it well. Create interesting content for your followers. Sure, you’ll need to post offers and invite them in from time to time, but most importantly, you need to keep them engaged. Once they’re engaged, you need to interact. If they comment on a post you shared about car maintenance, respond to that comment without jumping right into the ask. Answer questions about their vehicle if they have them, and then sum up the chat with “we’ll be happy to schedule you for an oil change or a (fill in the blank) service.” You should also look into paid social media ads. You can set your budget, select your target audience, and hone into a specific area. Conclusion Auto parts and service departments must market themselves independent from car sales in order to be effective. Create a routine that puts the simple steps into practice, so your service drive gets just as much (or more) traffic than the sales lot. Connect with TVI MarketPro3 for more automotive marketing info.
Jan 18, 2021 | 5 minute read
5 Ways to Increase Fixed Ops Market Share
Every successful dealership must be driven in a constant quest to increase fixed ops market share. Here are a few processes you can put into place that will not break the bank but will assist in accomplishing the goal of owning your backyard. Remain Relevant The best way to grow market share and take business from your competitors is to make sure you are up to date on how to stay relevant to the ever-changing customer. The struggle to consistently find new ways to engage your current or prospective customers is REAL. Mobile phones, email, social media, and SMS texting allow dealerships to communicate with their customers quickly and effectively. Make sure you do not get lost in the clutter and that the message to your clients will help in maintaining a positive relationship. Respond to customers Just a few years ago, customers would call dealerships and get a voicemail telling them that they would return the call within 24 hours. This practice was acceptable. NOT NOW! Customers today want instant replies. You must be quick in your responses, or they will move on to your competitor. Shoppers are increasingly loyal to the company that can fix their problem right now. Shop your competition and see how long it takes for them to respond, and make sure you are faster. Get Customer Feedback in Reviews According to a post by Bright Local, 86% of consumers look at online review sites of local businesses. 95% of those between the ages of 18-34 will check out your reviews. To maintain and ultimately gain market share, you will want to make sure that all your review sites are up to date and that customers are actively leaving 5-star reviews. Offer coupon incentives Think that coupons are a thing of the past? Think again. In a recent study, Inmar’s 2018 shopper behavior study found that 90% of consumers use coupons, and 83% say these types of incentives are a driver for changes in purchasing behavior. A successful coupon strategy is the best way to stay in front of your current customers while at the same time targeting your competitors. Be flexible With the ever-changing and busy society that we live in today, it is essential for automotive dealerships, especially the service departments, to be flexible. For example, most service drives close between 5-6 pm during the week. This can make it difficult for people who work a full-time job to visit you. Think about having one or two days a week where you keep the drive open later. This could differentiate you from your competitor and, at the same time, show customers that you are flexible. The process of trying to increase fixed ops market share is a continuous one. You can never stop trying to win new customers. After all, your competitors are probably trying to win your customers over right now. Visit TVI MarketPro3 for marketing tips and resources
Feb 4, 2020 | 2 minute read
Urban Legends about Dealership Service Departments
Customers get a better deal at quick lube shops. A "deal" in and of itself is open to interpretation. You get what you pay for, right? Regular oil changes are vital to maintaining the longevity of your vehicle, so why pass up dealership service departments? Why would you put your precious asset in the hands of people who are NOT guaranteed to have any automotive experience? Is it worth it just to save a few bucks? I say "hopes" of saving a few bucks because this is a misconception. Most of the time, dealerships offer amazing oil change specials. Or they even price match to their customers to get them to keep coming back. To learn about this type of special, make sure you visit the dealership's website. Continuously look in the mail for coupons that the service department sends out monthly. You can also visit Kelley Blue Book and click on Car Repair Pricing to get a good idea of dealership repair pricing near you. Going to the dealership takes longer than a quick lube shop. This used to be the case, but dealerships have evolved over the years. They now realize that their customers are busy. Customers don't have time to wait around while their car is being repaired. To accommodate the busy lives of their customers, most dealerships now provide loaner cars, shuttles, or even valet service. The best way to make sure you are not wasting time at the dealership is to set an appointment in advance and ask about loaner or valet services. Dealerships are going to try to sell me something that I do not need. Not every service advisor at the dealership is ethical. Dealerships hold their advisors to a much higher standard than those at a quick lube center. Generally, the manufacturers train the service advisors. These dealership professionals spent time and money vehicle education and the types of maintenance necessary to keep it operational. These automotive professionals answer to their customers, but they also answer to the general managers, owners of the dealership, and to the manufacturer. Their reward comes from providing exceptional customer service. Quick lube advisors do not have to be trained on specifics vehicles. Therefore, more times than not they will recommend unnecessary parts and services. Some quick lube chains have had to pay out fines for recommending unnecessary services to customers. Conclusion So, we debunked a few misconceptions about the dealership service departments. The bottom line is trust. If you trust the dealership to sell you a vehicle, then it is fair to say that you should trust those same people to keep it running smoothly. For dealership marketing information visit TVI MarketPro3.
Jan 29, 2020 | 2 minute read
Coupons Differentiate Dealers and Incentivize Consumers
All business owners, especially those in the automotive industry, are consistently trying to find new and innovative ways of attracting and retaining customers. This is critical to the success of any business. However, it’s very difficult at times to determine which marketing plan will reach the largest audience and at the same time generate the best results. While you may be worried that discounting your products or services will negatively impact your profits, the right incentives can help you increase sales while building a reliable customer base. In fact, a recent study by Valassis found that 90% of consumers use coupons. And 83% say coupons are a driver for changes in purchasing behavior. If you’re searching for ways to advertise and grow your business, a successful coupon strategy would be beneficial. Like all other forms of dealership marketing plans, the key is to make sure that your offers resonate with your audience. Recently, we discussed this topic with TVI-MarketPro3’s National Sales and Marketing Director, James Ayers. Read the transcript below for some great takeaways on what type of coupons work best for the Fixed Operations Department. What is the best offer for a service department print coupon? I would say that the coupons that drive customers in are those that offer something of value for free. For example, customers love free tire rotations. This service does not take a lot of time for the technicians. But it's a great value for the consumer. What’s going to drive a customer from their home to your service lane? You need to make sure the offer is desirable and not confusing. Offer services that anyone can understand, no matter the demographic. Oil changes and tire rotations are great fixes to include in your offers. And don't forget windshield wiper replacements and free car washes. These are all significant drivers to the service departments at dealerships. What is the most requested coupon for those that are searching digitally? Consumers who are searching for digital coupons are not that different from those who are using print. They all want the oil change, tire, and free loaner specials. What type of service offers would you suggest dealers avoid? Fixed operations departments should avoid coupons that customers cannot relate to. An example of this is a cooling system, brake system, or power steering flush. A typical customer cannot tell if they need a coolant flush, so avoid complex maintenance offers. What is the best service package a dealership should advertise? It truly depends on the make and model of the vehicle. Packages are hard to sell to consumers because one size does not fit all regarding automotive maintenance. If the offer is for a truck that has 70,000 miles, this might include an oil change, tire rotation, power steering flush, and replacement of the front and rear differential fluid. And not all trucks use conventional oil. Some trucks require more oil than others. Some trucks have directional tires, which are more of a challenge to rotate, and not all vehicles need differential service. This shows that packaging services together can sometimes be a difficult challenge. A TVI MarketPro3 Campaign Success Story I work with dealers all over the country. One time I was visiting a store in Florida that had just joined us. Two customers arrived while I was having a conversation with the the dealership team. Each had coupons in hand asking for service. These types of interactions are why I love doing what I do every day. You have many advertising sources available to you that will be successful in growing your business. Coupons are often an effective way to attract new business and increase your repeat customer base. But you should weigh the pros and cons and consider all your options before deciding on the best approach. Learn how TVI-MarketPro3 can help your fixed operations department. Schedule an appointment today.
Oct 29, 2019 | 3 minute read
Are you a VENDOR or PARTNER?
Have your clients ever referred to you as their vendor? Makes you feel a bit taken aback as you feel you are worthy of a much better title? This is an issue that plagues most salespeople or account executives who utilize a consultative approach to gaining business. The term "vendor" has a negative connotation for those who feel they go above and beyond. They provide the best product and/or service for clients, so it's sort of a double-edged sword. A salesperson promotes a product or service that customers need to grow their business. But they also have a financial interest in making sure they purchase from them and not the competitor. It's difficult to bridge the gap between selling something and being a consultant that provides much more than product knowledge. Be more than a salesperson Salespeople who work to provide a solid return for their clients, think of themselves as partners. If a business wants to be successful, they should seek out this type of salesperson and utilize their knowledge to gain even more insight into a specific industry. It's naïve to think of yourself as a partner if you only inform your clients about your products and services. A real partner provides clients with a wealth of knowledge about the industry. They keep them updated on their competition and their market, and they display exceptional customer service beyond the sale. Go beyond the sale A partner will not only provide clients with information, but they also develop an equal business stature with their customers. This type of relationship could take months or even years to build. It is a trusted working relationship that has many layers. If you desire to be more than just a "vendor" to your customers, then you must spend time doing research. You need product as well as industry knowledge to create that equal business stature. Building the relationship To build a lasting and impressive relationship, make sure you are attending industry functions locally as well as nationally. Learn about the competition. Gain knowledge about what makes them different than their competitors, and communicate effectively with your clients. Vast knowledge about your product or service will make you a vital part of your client's success. They will no longer consider you just a vendor. Connect with TVI-MarketPro3 to learn more about our partner relationships.
Oct 7, 2019 | 2 minute read
Sports Prepares Kids for the Business World
Whether football, volleyball, baseball, or any other sport, parents believe that participating in organized sports helps get the family out of the house, exercising, and socializing. Let's not forget that sports also prepare kids for the business world. Sports, in general, have many positive effects on children. Organized team sports provide them with skills that will aid them in all aspects of their adult lives. Let's talk about how sports prepares kids for the business world. Teamwork No team has ever been successful without collaborating, cooperating, and working together at achieving the goal. Each member must put aside some strengths they possess or dial back strong personalities for the betterment of the team. This can be difficult for kids, but learning how to navigate this at a young age creates success as adults. Being a team player in the business world requires that employees learn to collaborate and compromise with their co-workers. These people will most likely not have the same personality types. While it might be difficult at times, they learn that cooperation and compromise ultimately lead to team success. Healthy Competition A child will not win every competition or always be the best athlete on the team. But by experiencing loss and being exposed to other high-level athletes, a child will develop a healthy attitude towards competition. Conflict Resolution Phys.org studied two girls' soccer teams. They found that the girls' participation in soccer developed conflict resolution skills that they had not experienced previously. The girls learned how to effectively confront issues with other players and how to diffuse situations. Professor Holt said, "it's about encouraging the girls to deal with conflicts when they arise because those are growth experiences. Those things will transfer outside sports because that's what you've got to do when you start working." Self Confidence The CDC has reported that simply being physically active builds self-esteem. We are physical beings who are not meant to sit in front of a video game for several consecutive hours. If you're a physically active adult, you feel that sense of accomplishment in outdoing your last performance at the gym. Kids feel a similar way when they are learning new skills and succeed as a team during a game. Having high self-esteem and being self-confident is extremely important when entering the workforce. Self Discipline It's essential in life to learn how to train yourself to know your limits and goals. Then you must develop the self-discipline to put in the time needed to meet those goals. Multiple studies prove kids who participate in sports develop the self-discipline that translates to the classroom. If a young child is taught to set and achieve goals, the transition into the business world will be smooth sailing. There are countless other ways that team sports teach children the skills necessary in the business world. Hard work, determination, team bonding, or even accepting defeat, to name a few. The next time you are in the stands watching your child, remember what the game is teaching them about life.
Sep 20, 2019 | 3 minute read
Testaments from a TVI-MarketPro3 Team Member
Nick Shaffer, TVI MarketPro3 West Region Sales Director It's time for another edition of Testaments from a TVI-MarketPro3 Team Member. With the increase of job growth across the country, it is vital for small businesses to properly measure employee engagement in order to retain hard-working, driven, and positive employees. TVI-MarketPro3 is committed to creating a positive work environment for all team members. At the same time, TVI provides our partners with the best minds in the industry. Today we would like to introduce to you our Regional Sales Director, Nick Shaffer. What motivates you to come to work every day? I come to work every day, not only to provide for my family, but because I am blessed to love what I do, who I do it with, and who I work for. What do you do on your time off? I love to spend my free time mountain biking, cooking, working out and golfing. What is your favorite Movie? Book? Musician? And Superhero? I love the movie “Avenger's Endgame”, the book “A Farewell to Arms”, Metallica, and Captain America. Who is your role model and why? My role model is my future self in 10 years. I regularly try to envision exactly who I want to be 10 years from now as a husband, father, professional, and individual. As often as I can, I try to "zoom-out" from my day to day micro view and ensure that I'm working towards becoming that person. What is your favorite part about working at TVI MarketPro3? Everyone likes the feeling of doing something they are good at. In fact, Gallup studies show that this is the #1 driver of job satisfaction. Feeling authentically appreciated for the work you do comes in at #2. TVI-MarketPro3 meets both factors in a big way. What are your future personal goals? Play a big role in getting TVI over the 10m revenue benchmark in 2020. Personally, I want to enable my wife to achieve her goals, coach my sons to continued success in football and develop the fitness level needed to compete in mountain bike racing. What do you think makes you different than your co-workers? Easy, I am OCD. What do you spend most of your time doing every day and is it fulfilling? I spend 50% of my time analyzing the Fixed Ops business growth results for dealers I personally serve to make sure they are getting the very best ROI from our unique marketing strategies. Often, I learn of or develop an idea or strategy that I believe can move the needle. It doesn’t matter to me if it will move the needle 0.1% or 10%, I pursue it with equal determination. The other 50% of my time is spent bringing along my teammates, so they can perform at a level that exceeds mine. I try to surround myself with highly talented, highly compassionate, highly driven folks who want to take my job someday. Teaching them is both fulfilling for me, and it drives me to continuously improve. Nick Shaffer is a respected Fixed Ops marketing professional who prides himself on his continuous successes in the industry. Follow us now to keep seeing Testaments from a TVI-MarketPro3 Team Member. TVI Marketpro3 is an exciting and ever-changing company that focuses on teamwork and providing the best fixed ops marketing plans for our partners.
Sep 17, 2019 | 3 minute read
ChatGPT in the Service Drive: Are You On Board?
Do you ever feel like you need to clone yourself to manage the daily operations of your service department? Well, fear not! The future of the automotive industry is here, and it comes in the form of an AI-powered assistant that doesn't need a lunch break, a bathroom break, or a vacation. Introducing ChatGPT, your new best friend in the service department. This generative AI-powered assistant can handle all sorts of tasks that will make your life easier, giving you more time to enjoy a cup of coffee without interruptions. The Future of Appointment Management ChatGPT can automate appointment scheduling and reminders, so you no longer have to worry about forgetting to remind customers about their appointments. ChatGPT will take care of it for you! And if customers have any questions about their appointments or services, ChatGPT can answer them promptly and accurately. How to Integrate ChatGPT Integrating ChatGPT with your scheduler requires a few steps, but it can be relatively straightforward with the right tools and resources. Here are some general steps to consider: Determine your scheduling needs. Before integrating ChatGPT with your scheduler, you must define your scheduling needs, including the types of appointments you need to schedule, the scheduling rules you want to follow, and any other special requirements or considerations. Choose a chatbot platform. To integrate ChatGPT with your scheduler, you'll need to choose a chatbot platform that supports integrations with third-party scheduling software. Several options are available, including Dialogflow, Botpress, and Rasa. Be sure to choose a platform that aligns with your business needs and technical requirements. Connect your scheduler to the chatbot platform. Once you've selected a chatbot platform, connect it to your scheduler. This process involves integrating the chatbot platform and your scheduling software using an API or webhook. Your chatbot platform should provide documentation or tutorials on how to set up the integration. Create custom dialogues. Once you connect your chatbot platform to your scheduler, create custom dialogues that allow customers to schedule appointments. You will develop prompts, questions, and responses that guide customers through scheduling. You'll also need to ensure the chatbot collects all necessary information, such as the appointment date and time, customer contact information, and additional details. Test and refine the integration. Once you've created custom dialogues, you must test the integration to ensure everything works correctly. Be sure to test different scenarios, such as rescheduling or canceling appointments, to ensure the integration is robust and reliable. You will continue refining your dialogues and making adjustments based on customer feedback. Optimize Your Service Capacity But that's not all! ChatGPT can also optimize service capacity by analyzing historical data on appointment scheduling and service utilization. By analyzing this data, ChatGPT can identify patterns in customer demand and service utilization. For example, ChatGPT can analyze historical data on the number of appointments scheduled for each day of the week and at different times. Based on this analysis, ChatGPT can identify peak demand periods and adjust the service capacity accordingly. This analysis can help service departments avoid overbooking during peak periods and underutilization during slower periods. ChatGPT can also analyze data on service utilization to identify opportunities to boost service capacity. For example, if data shows that certain services are underutilized, ChatGPT can recommend promoting those services or adjusting the pricing to incentivize more customers to use them. Bonus! If all that isn't enough to convince you, ChatGPT can also enhance the customer service experience by providing instant answers to queries and offering personalized recommendations for additional services. It's like having a customer service superhero on your team! This technology's ability to analyze historical data and identify patterns in customer demand and service utilization can help service departments improve their efficiency and profitability. Inventory Management ChatGPT can be a game-changer regarding inventory management in the parts department. By leveraging its AI capabilities, ChatGPT can analyze historical data, customer demand, and other relevant factors to optimize inventory levels and ensure the availability of necessary parts. With its ability to understand and process natural language, ChatGPT can handle inquiries from technicians and service managers regarding part availability, pricing, and ordering processes. It can provide real-time updates on stock levels, lead times, and alternative part options, helping the parts department streamline operations and enhance customer satisfaction. Moreover, ChatGPT can automate parts ordering and replenishment tasks, reducing the manual effort and potential errors associated with traditional inventory management methods. By integrating with suppliers' systems and utilizing predictive algorithms, ChatGPT can generate accurate forecasts for parts demand, enabling proactive ordering and minimizing the risk of stockouts or excess inventory. This predictive capability optimizes inventory levels and contributes to cost savings and improved cash flow for the dealership. Additionally, ChatGPT can assist in tracking and monitoring parts usage, identifying patterns of high-demand items, and suggesting adjustments to stocking strategies to align with changing customer needs. With ChatGPT as a virtual assistant, the parts department can efficiently manage inventory, reduce waste, and ensure that the correct parts are available at the right time, ultimately enhancing operational efficiency and customer service. The Human Touch If you're worried AI is coming for your job, take a deep breath. People still crave positive human interaction, something AI cannot and hopefully will never be able to emulate. It doesn't have feelings, empathy, or human experience. It can't truly relate to your customer's pain points, even though it seems that way sometimes. People will never stop needing people, so rather than stiff-arming AI technology altogether, embrace it! Be the fixed ops leader that utilizes all tools to make face-to-face interaction a personal and invaluable experience when the customer brings their car in. Looking for more ideas to boost your service business? Visit TVI MarketPro3.
Service & Parts Loyalty Programs: Helpful or Headache?
Fixed operations leaders generally have mixed feelings about automotive loyalty programs. Loyalty metrics can provide valuable insights into customer behavior and help dealerships better understand their customer base. They can also help dealerships track their loyalty programs' success and identify improvement areas. However, some individuals may feel that manufacturer loyalty metrics can be overly simplistic, not providing a complete picture of customer loyalty. Loyalty metrics may not consider customer satisfaction, service quality, and pricing factors, which all have an impact on customer loyalty. TVI MarketPro3 agents have the pleasure of sitting down with fixed operations leaders from all over the country. TVI's Fixed Ops Marketing Director, Kurt Hankey, says the general sentiment is frustration. "For the most part, [ fixed ops leaders'] feelings on this range from strong dislike to moderate dislike," says Hankey. "Some are indifferent because their GM or owner takes the position of ‘do the best job you can, focus on taking good care of the customer, and generate revenue.’ If they also get high marks from the manufacturer for retention, that is a secondary benefit." Frustrated for Good Reason Hankey stresses that "any good service manager understands the basics of retention and how it plays into the long-term growth and profitability." However, there are several reasons for fixed ops leaders’ aversion to some manufacturer programs: -The general feeling is that the manufacturer's expectations must align with how customers think of the frequency and timing of their service visits and many of the programs fall short.-They feel the program sets them up to fail.-The programs add complications to their daily business routine.-The objectives are not realistic.-The programs add anxiety and stress to individual fixed ops leaders and their teams.-They don't fully trust the manufacturer's data or reporting. Hankey recently spoke with a dealership leader in Florida who expressed his outright disdain for Toyota's TLE program, asking why he should worry about something so "unattainable." Many dealers feel forced to adopt and pay for a program they don't believe in. As a fixed ops professional with decades of experience in the service department, TVI's Ken Pletcher worked under such programs. He says, "loyalty programs and CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) surveys are great diagnostic tools, but once a payment plan is attached, the information is no longer valid." Many stores base pay or continued employment on the program's results, which breeds an undesirable work atmosphere. Factors that Affect Feelings TVI MarketPro3's Western Regional Sales Director, Nick Shaffer, says that a fixed ops manager's feelings on these metrics vary between OEMs. For example, Shaffer says, "as a general rule, fixed ops managers at Honda, Toyota, and Subaru feel that the OEMs put a lot of thought into how their retention metrics are calculated (TLE, DSE, and OSR respectively)." The way these manufacturers calculate the metrics "makes sense, keeps the playing field even, and doesn't change over time," says Shaffer. Leaders in these stores don't tend to view KPIs in a "like/dislike manner." Instead, Shaffer says, "They simply understand how to drive the KPI and embrace the challenge." On the flip side, Shaffer says "as another general rule Fixed Ops Managers at other OEMs like Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, CDJR, are consistently disengaged with OEM retention metrics." Several variables contribute to the disengagement, such as calculations that are not as thought out, change frequently, or don't make logical sense. The managers feel they are challenged to reach goals with inconsistent measures. Additionally, fixed operations leaders may see loyalty metrics as too focused on transactional data, such as service visits and parts purchases. Therefore, they fail to provide enough insight into the customer experience. Loyalty metrics may not capture the full range of customer interactions with the dealership and may overlook areas such as communication with service advisors or sales staff. While the feelings vary on manufacturer loyalty programs, sometimes the best approach is to face the challenge head-on: -Understand the manufacturer's program clearly, including its benefits and requirements, to determine how it can benefit your dealership.-Identify your customers' needs and preferences, and learn how they align with the loyalty program's rewards.-Determine how the manufacturer's loyalty program can help you achieve your dealership's goals. -Develop a strategy for implementing the loyalty program, including a plan to promote the program to your customers and track and measure its success.-Train your staff to be well-versed on the manufacturer's loyalty program and on how to promote it to customers. -Monitor the effectiveness of the loyalty program and make adjustments as needed. Overall, some fixed operations leaders see value in manufacturer loyalty metrics as a tool for tracking customer behavior and measuring the success of loyalty programs. However, many feel that loyalty metrics could be more comprehensive in capturing the full range of factors contributing to customer loyalty. Regardless of the fixed ops leader's position, finding a way to work with the program is the most effective approach. However, some individuals may feel that manufacturer loyalty metrics can be overly simplistic, not providing a complete picture of customer loyalty. Loyalty metrics may not consider customer satisfaction, service quality, and pricing factors, which all have an impact on customer loyalty. TVI MarketPro3 agents have the pleasure of sitting down with fixed operations leaders from all over the country. TVI's Fixed Ops Marketing Director, Kurt Hankey, says the general sentiment is frustration. "For the most part, [ fixed ops leaders'] feelings on this range from strong dislike to moderate dislike," says Hankey. "Some are indifferent because their GM or owner takes the position of ‘do the best job you can, focus on taking good care of the customer, and generate revenue.’ If they also get high marks from the manufacturer for retention, that is a secondary benefit." Frustrated for Good Reason Hankey stresses that "any good service manager understands the basics of retention and how it plays into the long-term growth and profitability." However, there are several reasons for fixed ops leaders’ aversion to some manufacturer programs: -The general feeling is that the manufacturer's expectations must align with how customers think of the frequency and timing of their service visits and many of the programs fall short.-They feel the program sets them up to fail.-The programs add complications to their daily business routine.-The objectives are not realistic.-The programs add anxiety and stress to individual fixed ops leaders and their teams.-They don't fully trust the manufacturer's data or reporting. Hankey recently spoke with a dealership leader in Florida who expressed his outright disdain for Toyota's TLE program, asking why he should worry about something so "unattainable." Many dealers feel forced to adopt and pay for a program they don't believe in. As a fixed ops professional with decades of experience in the service department, TVI's Ken Pletcher worked under such programs. He says, "loyalty programs and CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) surveys are great diagnostic tools, but once a payment plan is attached, the information is no longer valid." Many stores base pay or continued employment on the program's results, which breeds an undesirable work atmosphere. Factors that Affect Feelings TVI MarketPro3's Western Regional Sales Director, Nick Shaffer, says that a fixed ops manager's feelings on these metrics vary between OEMs. For example, Shaffer says, "Honda, Toyota, and Subaru are top shelf [and] put a lot of thought into how their retention metrics are calculated (TLE, DSE, and OSR respectively)." The way these manufacturers calculate the metrics "makes sense, keeps the playing field even, and doesn't change over time," says Shaffer. Leaders in these stores don't tend to view KPIs in a "like/dislike manner." Instead, Shaffer says, "They simply understand how to drive the KPI and embrace the challenge." On the flip side, Shaffer says the "lower shelf OEMs like Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, CDJR, are genuinely disliked," causing disengagement between the fixed ops managers and the KPIs. Several variables contribute to the disengagement, such as calculations that are not as thought out and don't make logical sense. The managers feel they are challenged to reach goals with inconsistent measures. Additionally, fixed operations leaders may see loyalty metrics as too focused on transactional data, such as service visits and parts purchases. Therefore, they fail to provide enough insight into the customer experience. Loyalty metrics may not capture the full range of customer interactions with the dealership and may overlook areas such as communication with service advisors or sales staff. While the feelings vary on manufacturer loyalty programs, sometimes the best approach is to face the challenge head-on: -Understand the manufacturer's program clearly, including its benefits and requirements, to determine how it can benefit your dealership.-Identify your customers' needs and preferences, and learn how they align with the loyalty program's rewards.-Determine how the manufacturer's loyalty program can help you achieve your dealership's goals. -Develop a strategy for implementing the loyalty program, including a plan to promote the program to your customers and track and measure its success.-Train your staff to be well-versed on the manufacturer's loyalty program and on how to promote it to customers. -Monitor the effectiveness of the loyalty program and make adjustments as needed. Overall, some fixed operations leaders see value in manufacturer loyalty metrics as a tool for tracking customer behavior and measuring the success of loyalty programs. However, many feel that loyalty metrics could be more comprehensive in capturing the full range of factors contributing to customer loyalty. Regardless of the fixed ops leader's position, finding a way to work with the program is the most effective approach. Check out the TVI MarketPro3 website for more insights and interesting industry reads.
Automotive Social Media: What’s Your Plan?
It’s no secret that social media is a vital component of any solid marketing strategy, but there are so many social media channels. It’s sometimes difficult to determine which one is most effective for each campaign. Your dealership is likely using social media to some extent, but without an in-depth plan that maps out all the different avenues to reach your target customer, you are most certainly missing the mark. Inversely, when you create and follow a plan derived from an end goal, you will grow your audience, keep your followers engaged, and ultimately influence them to frequent your dealership for their car buying and servicing needs. Know Your Customers Digital marketing, like all marketing, starts with your audience. You must know your audience to reach your audience. The best way to know your audience is to ask. A survey to current customers asking for anonymous answers to a quick survey will help you understand (in general) what type of customer does business with your dealership. Hubspot outlines ten steps to creating a customer profile and focuses on three main categories: demographics, psychographics, and behavior. Essentially, you want to give your target customer a face, name, home, career, hobby, and personality. This customer profile won’t be the same across the automotive industry. Instead, it will be unique to the dealer’s location and the different makes of vehicles on the lot. By surveying your current customers, you will better learn who your average customers are and the marketing language and design elements that will best reach them. Types of Car Buyers Because nearly everyone needs a vehicle, car buyers are as varied as the cars they purchase. For example, your average luxury car buyer in California will likely have a higher income and enjoy the finer things in life, such as upscale hotels and five-star dining. In contrast, your domestic car buyer in a small town in Oklahoma might prefer a more casual approach to life. These are just two examples, but the variety of car-buying customer types should dictate how and where you communicate on social media platforms. Types of Service Customers If you’re planning a service drive social media campaign, you need to define your customers similarly to sales. But, you’ll need to profile the vehicle they drive as well. Identifying the car your customers drive (make, model, and age) will tell you a lot about your customer and the most effective way to reach out to them. Social Media Marketing Strategy Once you have a solid customer profile, you’ll need to develop a strong social media strategy. The questions you need to address are: What social media channel does my target customer utilize the most? How will I best be able to convey the dealership’s message? What day and time am I most likely to get in front of them? Social Media Users Sprout Social outlines the demographics in this March 2022 blog post. They report that Facebook has 2.91 billion monthly users, most between the ages of 35-44. Instagram follows with 2 billion monthly users, but the largest age group here is younger than Facebook, ranging from 25-34 years of age. TikTok has only a billion monthly users, but has seen the most growth since 2020. The platform hones in on a younger age range, with ages 10-19 being the largest group of Tik Tok users, not a likely target for the automotive industry, but these younger social media users are just around the corner from making big life moves and finding a reliable establishment to service their car. Twitter has over two million daily users, with its most active age group between 18 and 29. Sprout Social points out that most Twitter users are college-educated and make over $75K a year, making it an ideal space for automotive advertisement. No matter which platform you use in your marketing efforts, each social media page must speak the language of that platform. For example, Twitter is all about quick, short messages and ongoing conversations, while Instagram remains a visual platform that grabs the attention with graphics, photos, and videos. If you’re using social media scheduling software, avoid posting the same content on all your social media channels. Social Media channels If you want your social media marketing campaigns to be effective, you must have a presence on multiple channels. Instagram business profiles and Facebook pages are great places to get your social media foothold. As we mentioned earlier, these two platforms have billions of users. You can grow an organic following by engaging with customers through contests, shared testimonials, team member profiles, blog posts, and educational videos. Be sure you consistently post valuable content to help your followers know what to expect. You can also boost your reach with paid Instagram or Facebook Ad campaigns. Campaigns for Service and Sales An auto dealership’s social media can be a challenging balance to strike. Essentially you have two businesses under one roof: sales and service. When creating content for car dealers, be sure to cover all departments. You may target Facebook users hoping to buy a car or Twitter users ready for an oil change. But, you must represent the entire dealership across all social media sites. You might successfully attract customers for a test drive, but they may never know to bring their vehicle back. You must consistently remind them with a solid service drive social media campaign.
DMS Data Migration… Embrace the Process
Moving from one home to another will make you wish you had kept things a little more organized. The same sentiment is true when a dealership decides to move all their dealer and customer information from one system to another. Dealers who have experienced the process might tell you to turn and run the other way. DMS data migration is daunting, but most dealership leaders will inevitably face this task at some point in their careers. Fortunately, the process can be made easier with the proper management and maintenance of your current Dealer Management System (DMS) and a detailed plan. What is DMS data migration? When a dealer changes from one DMS provider to another, the new vendor must transfer all data from the old vendor. The process is not as seamless as one might hope. The new program is rarely designed the same way as the current one. Often, the new vendor has a different user interface, and while it may contain many of the same fields, these fields are likely not in the same order. Suffice it to say it’s not an apples-to-apples transfer. Why would a dealer need data migration? Dealerships conduct data migrations for a variety of reasons. Sometimes a dealer wants to upgrade their DMS to a provider that offers more features or is more user-friendly. For example, a dealer may be using Reynolds & Reynolds but has decided to move to CDK. Other times, data migration needs to happen when one dealership purchases another. Migration is straightforward if the two dealers use the same provider, but it can be quite an undertaking if each uses different systems. Sometimes, data migration is needed if the dealer authorizes third-party access or utilization of customer data on its behalf. What is the most efficient method of data migration? Data migration can be complex depending on the separate vendors' abilities to communicate with each other from a technological standpoint. The new and the current DMS providers are responsible for transferring data, so there is not much for the dealer to do. However, your team should have all hands on deck on the first business day after the migration. Service providers should also be present to guarantee all data is accurately transferred and catch any issues that may arise. How can a dealership maintain its data to make migration smoother? Dealerships must ensure their data is as clean and as current as possible. The dealer should confirm the DMS provider backs up the requested historical files before the migration begins. The backup should not be restricted or prevent the dealer from successfully importing all the history they have paid for into the new DMS. If a third-party vendor is utilizing the DMS, it must be alerted well before the migration. Give them sufficient time and resources to align themselves with the new DMS. Frequent data cleansing and updates allow for a smoother transfer. Tech Target defines data cleansing as "the process of fixing incorrect, incomplete, duplicate or otherwise erroneous data in a data set.” The best advice is to plan ahead! Create backups or downloads of the data to secure it, and set up enough technical support to cover any issues. How can a dealer ensure the data will be secure? A dealer wants assurance that the migration process will be quick and secure. Both DMS providers must have ‘Use and Disclosure’ statements in their contracts. Current FTC rulings require both vendors to provide the proper documentation to the dealer that outlines their compliance. The dealer should check that both DMS providers, as well as any third-party vendors, have insurance to cover the dealer. How much downtime should a dealer expect during this process? Ideally, a dealer wants the database migration service to cause minimal downtime. After all, a dealer cannot afford to disrupt business for too long. It’s a good idea to execute the migration starting on a Saturday at closing time and into Sunday. Depending on the size of the dealer, this process can even carry on into Monday. The new DMS vendor should provide support throughout the migration, and even more so for the training following the migration. Expect to see a period of adjustment as your team acclimates to the new system. All processes can take up to ninety days to get back on pace, but a dealer can shorten the learning curve with extra training. Therefore, a dealer should purchase as much training support as possible when signing on with a new vendor. Time to migrate! When it comes time for a dealer to move to a new DMS provider, the dealer must transfer the data with care. The process can be easier and more secure if the data is clean and current. By partnering and planning with your new DMS provider, you can make the migration as smooth as possible. Thank you to our TVI MarketPro3 pros, David Willard, Kurt Hankey, Robert Morris, and Steve Coad for your professional insight on this topic. Click here for more fixed ops insights.
Digital Fixed Ops for Customer Reach and Experience
Although most dealerships bumped their digital fixed ops game to the next level in the last couple of years, many dealers still aren’t hitting the digital sweet spot when it comes to their fixed operations. Sales departments continue to steal the spotlight while fixed ops peek around the curtain, trying to get the customers’ attention. To get this attention, fixed ops leaders must ensure both their marketing and customer experience have the digital edge, even shared with the rest of the dealership. You must ensure the following three areas are polished up if you want to improve your digital master plan: FIRST - The customer must be able to find you. SECOND - You must be able to find the customer. THIRD - You must be able to keep the customer. The Customer Must Be Able to Find You Having a digital presence boils down to two main factors, search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertisement. Both of these start with knowing which keywords your customers are looking for when needing a repair. Strong SEO focuses on the value websites offer to users through long-tail keywords, the quantity and quality of website content, and images relative to the content. Dealership websites must have a clearly defined portion of their site dedicated to the service bays, and the information on your website must be up to date. Websites are not the only place you can boost your dealership’s SEO. Larry Hourcle, a NADA Academy Instructor, reminds us that Google My Business Pages can increase your local SEO. “More than 50% of online searchers will stop on a dealership Google My Business page [if they think you aren’t open] and never make it to your dealership website,” Hourcle insisted at his 2020 NADA Webinar, Proven Fixed Ops Strategies During COVID-19. He stresses, in the webinar, the importance of keeping a dealer’s Google My Business Page Up to Date. You Must Be Able to Find the Customer Once your service department has strong SEO, you need to create a strategy to find your customer. You must know where they are through targeted service marketing. Digital marketing encompasses a multitude of platforms beyond paid search. Digital ads are available on many social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, and will effectively drive service business to your dealership. Not only should you be advertising on social media, but you should also be engaged and interactive on social media. Your followers are looking for valuable content to like and follow, so this must be your priority with social media. Once you provide such content and have an attentive audience, you can announce your next promotion or big sales event. You Must Be Able to Keep the Customer If you cover all the above goals, you should have a good customer base with which to work. While it’s imperative to continue attracting new customers, you must also keep customers through digital strategies. Retaining customers depends primarily on the customer experience. The customer must have a smooth, transparent service if you want to keep them coming back. Many different digital tools can help service department leaders meet this goal. Tools you can implement right away are automated emails and texts or even a service customer app that integrates both email and texts notifications. These tools allow a customer to track their service history, view service pricing, and easily make future service appointments from the convenience of their smartphone or computer. Many of the apps allow for video and photo uploads of their vehicle’s issues. Digital tools create convenience, but they, more importantly, create transparency which in turn earns trust. Trust and transparency are the keys to ongoing customer relationships. Learn more about digital channels for your service drive.
Automotive PPC Advertising for Your Marketing Arsenal
Does your dealership's website appear on page one of a car buyer's Google search results? If your answer to that question is yes, congratulations! Now, think about your service drive for a minute. Does your dealership show up on search engines when someone searches for oil changes near me or car repair near me? You might be shaking your head no. You are not alone. Many dealerships get lost in the sea of search engine results as they are not participating in paid search activities or are struggling with competition from other dealerships and independents. Paid search campaigns bridge the gap in your digital marketing strategies, providing the right message at the right time to the right consumer. Pay-per-click or PPC ads are an ideal strategy to ensure your dealership owns as much real estate as possible on the first search engine results page (SERP), but you want to be sure you understand PPC and have a solid plan before jumping in. Why paid search campaigns? Paid search campaigns offer qualified leads. We are only generating leads off of terms specifically designed for the dealerships’ benefit. There is a branding aspect, but that is a secondary benefit. Our main objective is to target a specific set of keywords that will convert customers and get them to a dealership’s service drive. We strive to increase click-through rates to car dealers’ websites and of course more phone calls for the service drive. But all of this relies on targeted PPC campaigns with enticing ad copy. These days, most people are going to do online research. 76% of new and used vehicle shoppers run a search before buying. Automotive consumers overwhelmingly turn to search engines to find dealerships and get answers to their questions. (Source: LSA)Car buyers spend an average of nearly 14 hours online during their search. To appeal to the “always connected” shopper, you must optimize the car-shopping experience across all devices. (Source: Cox Automotive)Nearly 25% of all automotive searches are parts, services, and maintenance related. (Google 2017) It’s all about getting in front of customers as often as possible when they make a qualified search. There is an aspect of owning the first page and pushing your competition down that page. At the most fundamental structure, paid search is designed to generate leads for dealerships, be it front end or fixed ops and it is a component of the complete strategy. Paid search for automotive parts and services has extremely measurable results, especially for what we are doing. It’s about fishing where the fish are first. Paid search versus organic search Paid Search campaigns allow a business to participate in an auction, per se, to serve their ad when someone does a qualified search. Organic search listings are the free results that appear based on a web page’s relevancy to a specific search query. For a dealership’s fixed operations department, the more space they can take up on that search results pages the better. Push competitors down in the search results and increase their chances of generating an ad click. Paid search and organic search are two completely different things. In organic search, we are not paying for clicks the way we are with paid search, and organic search is a very long-term effort in the sense that you cannot impact organic search results overnight. Organic search results come from quality content and search engine optimization of your website. Conclusion All dealerships should consider utilizing PPC advertising as a valuable marketing channel not only for sales but specifically for fixed ops as well. It will complement and extend your branding and increase customer retention. And it has measurable results to help get the best ROI from your marketing efforts. Learn how TVI MarketPro3’s Paid Search program can help you meet your fixed ops goals.
Balanced Approach: Car Dealership Instagram Marketing
Follow any car dealership on social media, and you will notice a lop-sidedness to their digital marketing strategy. The majority of dealerships are almost all, if not entirely, car sales focused. It is especially true when scrolling through Instagram. Most posts target car buyers rather than potential service customers. It is understandable how a dealership might keep the shiny objects upfront and center on Instagram. After all, Instagram is primarily a visual platform. The pretty stuff gets the likes and attracts the followers. But once you have earned these followers, you must consistently remind them of your entire dealership, especially the service drive. After all, customers who do business in your service department regularly are more likely to purchase their next car from your dealership. When utilizing Instagram, auto dealerships should focus on both the sales and the fixed operations sectors of the dealership. Balance both these departments in your Instagram strategy to ensure you are branding your entire dealership. Setting up an Instagram Account If you have not already set up your account, download the Instagram app from the App Store or Google Play Store, or you can use a computer to get started. If you use a computer to set up your account, remember that many Instagram features are only accessible in the app, so you will need to download this either way. Create a username and password, then complete the dealership's profile information. Since this is a company account, be sure the email is a neutral email that will allow multiple people access. You never know when an employee will depart, so it would be a mistake to have everything under an individual's account. Auto Dealer's Instagram Profile Once you set up your account, create a profile. Your profile should reflect your brand, so you are easily recognized, and potential followers can trust that it is your dealership. Your logo should be here, but you must ensure it fits properly. If you do not already have one, have your graphics team create a logo image that is 320 x 320 pixels. Be sure you thoroughly complete the other profile information. Your bio should be similar to a mission statement. And, it should tell potential customers how they will benefit from following your page. Remember to cover both your sales and service departments in your bio. Never pass up an opportunity to remind your customer that you both service and sell cars. Instagram Feed It is always best to create a plan for Instagram posting. Your feed should include regular postings mixed with photos and videos. Think about the impression you want to make, how often you would like to post, and what days and times you will post. Hubspot shows the highest engagement to be between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm. And Hootsuite recommends posting to your Instagram feed 2-3 times per week and no more than 1x per day. You may post stories more frequently. Regardless of the days/time, you choose to post, create a consistent schedule. Once you have created a posting routine, you can tweak the posting schedule to test engagement rates. Instagram Stories According to Social Insider, Instagram stories should be a prominent part of a business Instagram strategy. Stories offer many benefits beyond your everyday feed, and they allow you to promote your brand, products, or services as much as you want throughout the day. Some benefits of Instagram stories are improved brand visibility and lead generation. Stories also offer high engagement that results in instant feedback to improve the interaction with your audience. You can repurpose your blog content by creating videos of someone highlighting the bullet points from the blog. Or you can put your blog highlights into a graphics slideshow. Instagram stories allow for real-time marketing and advertisement to a target audience. Remind potential customers that you have a tire sale coming up or a special on an oil change that ends today. This messaging allows your service drive to stay top of mind even if Instagram users pass on the promotion at the moment. Hash it Out Hashtags are are the secret to Instagram marketing success. They expand business reach and help grow its audience. However, many people do not know how to use them properly and might even question whether or not they work. When you use a hashtag, you show up on that hashtag page. So when people search for topics related to a specific hashtag, there is a better chance you will catch their attention. You can use up to 30 hashtags in the comment of your post and three hashtags in video descriptions and stories. A general rule of thumb is to use 15-20 hashtags per post, but you can do more as long as you use them strategically. You must use relevant hashtags for your particular post or business. For example, if you post about your service drive, you might include #carrepair, #oilchange, or #mechanic. These terms all represent your business, and a user might search for them when looking for automotive services. Conclusion The bottom line is your dealership should have a strong presence on Instagram, and it should evenly distribute the spotlight between sales and service. After all, if both customer types matter, then your Instagram and all other social platforms should reflect that. For more fixed ops marketing tips, visit TVI MarketPro3’s Solutions page.
Leveraging VIN Info for Car Service Data
Are you using all of your car service data when implementing marketing strategies? The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) can be a powerful tool for a vehicle service department. But just having this information is not enough. It is how this information is leveraged that will make an impact on a dealer service drive. What the VIN tells us The VIN is assigned by a vehicle manufacturer when it comes off the production line. We capture a lot of information by just dissecting the VIN. That information includes year, model, make, trim, and even engine type. Therefore, a dealership service department can leverage this data to ensure it provides the right marketing message to the right vehicle owner. The VIN helps a service adviser determine engine type. He can tell if it is a vehicle with a diesel engine needing a particular oil or if it is an electric vehicle that needs no oil at all. The variances within that VIN allow us to understand what marketing messages to communicate. Collecting VIN Data We capture VIN information within an automotive dealership management system. It is no different than an individual Social Security number here in the United States. The 17-digit key is unique to a single vehicle as it comes off the production line. The VIN tracks transactional history and change of ownership of a vehicle. It does not capture any transactions performed for repair service at a dealer or an independent facility. To gain further information from the VIN, you would use services like CARFAX and other vendors. These vendors provide a vehicle history report using the VIN as a way to track it. The VIN allows the dealership service department to determine vehicle health and repair costs. Combining and Cleaning data This clean key in a database is easily trackable. It is a much better way to track information than just a name, address, or email. Home and email addresses can change, become obsolete, and have typing errors. Typically VINs are mostly accurate within database systems. The last seven digits on 90% of the VINS processed are unique in and of themselves. Marketing companies can dedupe this data when there are multiple transactions for one VIN. The analysts narrow data down to the most accurate data point for all transactions during the life of a vehicle. Leveraging VIN data to market effectively With the VIN’s valuable information, one can identify open recalls and engine types to help make marketing strategy decisions. Without this information, marketers may unintentionally waste money or a customer’s time. They ultimately market to the masses in a given area rather than specific customers in need of certain services. This vehicle data allows a dealership the necessary information to deliver the best offer to the right vehicle owner. It is vital to the success of all dealership service departments when making marketing strategy decisions. Visit TVI MarketPro3 for more pro marketing information.
Fixed Ops Digital Map for an Enhanced Experience
When’s the last time you thought about your service department’s customer experience? We’re not just talking about dropping off and picking up, but the experience from the very beginning. How is the customer repair journey from the very first time your dealership’s name popped into the customer’s mind? How did they come across you, and what was the entire experience from that point? As you envision this, think about the digital tools that played a role in enhancing this experience. Are there enough tools, and if not, what more could you add? Here we explore where and how digital tools can take your customer’s car repair journey to the next level. Let technology take the wheel. Technology should drive your service solution decisions. There should be digital tools for each leg of the journey, a digital map to guide customers through the processes of the fixed ops department. The map starts at the acquisition phase and goes all the way through to the customer satisfaction survey. You should complement each leg of the journey with digital tools. Enhance with email AWeber’s 2020 Small Business Email Marketing Statistics reflects a survey of a thousand small businesses. The report shows that “60% of small businesses say their email marketing strategy is effective or very effective.” Effective email should be personal and targeted and should carry the customer throughout the entire repair or service process. When marketing with email, be sure to create emails that address the readers’ objectives and overcome their objections. Strong content will encourage the reader to open future emails as they will find the content valuable. The more often customers open your emails, the more likely they are to schedule an appointment with your dealership. Email is also a great way to remind customers about their appointments and can also be used to deliver inspection results and costs of recommended services. Email your customer when the service is complete, and of course, follow up with a customer satisfaction survey. Service drive social media There are many social media platforms dealerships can utilize to stay engaged with their customers. The key is to figure out which platforms your target audience frequents and set up camp. Learn the language of your preferred social media platforms. Not all social media outlets speak in the same style or format. The more you peruse and engage, the more you’ll understand how your audience receives messages from each site. Utilize all tools available on social media. Paid ads are a great way to target an audience by a specific age, gender, and location. Platforms like Facebook provide great analytics for their ads allowing you to measure the effectiveness of each ad posted. Woo them with your website Your website is the face of your business and should be maintained as frequently as the dealership facilities. Websites allow dealerships to boost transparency with their service customers. Keep service pricing up to date on your website and allow customers to determine how competitive your dealership is in the market. Include a detailed description of each service as well as any warranties included. A customer can use this information to compare apples to apples from your dealer to other dealers and independent shops. What’s the point of a website if it doesn’t show up when your target customer searches for “car repair near me”? Use strong search keywords throughout your site to ensure your website shows up in search engine results pages (SERP). Search engine optimization (SEO) requires keyword research and the ability to weave the keywords seamlessly into your website content. Applicable applications Spending time on car maintenance or repairs is an unwelcomed challenge for most car owners. Make the process easier by giving them the ability to schedule online through an app. The customer should also have the ability to check in using the same software. Keep the customer informed with automated notifications for confirmed appointments, pending payments, job approvals, and upcoming services. Moreover, use the same app to communicate with the customer during the service. An inspection could include videos, pictures, and a checklist of recommendations and pricing, all uploaded to the app for the customer’s review. Signing off on the work and making the payment digitally should all be integrated. Top off a service customer’s experience with a “thank you” message, and request their feedback all through the app. Some top apps or software used by the car repair industry include Shopmonkey, Auto Repair Cloud, and Tekmetric, to name a few. Find the software that is the best fit for your service department, learn how to use all of its features, and prepare to teach your customers to do the same. It won’t take long for your service team and your customer base to get on board once they see how much easier life is with these digital tools. Conclusion Increased digital tools will mean increased service business for your dealership. You will see an increase in customer-pay repair orders when utilizing digital tools to enhance the car repair journey. You will also get the added benefit of more time to get more vehicles through your service drive. Click here for more industry insights.
Automotive Marketing by Area: Fixed Ops Focused
Online marketing is constantly evolving for all businesses, including those in the automotive industry. Auto marketers have a unique challenge when it comes to marketing for a dealership. There are several entities under one umbrella, and they each have target customers they need to reach using unique strategies. Fixed operations departments have an even heftier challenge as they are not only competing with other dealers for repair service customers, but they must also stand out amongst the droves of independent repair shops and quick lubes in their market. Therefore, dealership service departments should not rely solely on the overall dealership marketing to increase their repair order counts. They must have a customized strategy that targets their specific customers. Local marketing should take precedence rather than attempting to reach a large geographical area. Fixed Operations Marketing Prep Before committing to marketing services or strategies, a dealership should explore a few areas about its target audience. What is a complete customer lifecycle? Effective marketing goes beyond acquiring a customer. Dealers must ensure the customer experience encourages return visits, and customer retention increases when marketers know the right time to extend an offer. And marketers must present coupons and other promotions that will attract the customer back to the dealership. Who is your fixed operations customer? Car owners come from all walks of life and a wide range of ages and economic circumstances. So it can be a challenge to define a car repair customer. But breaking these customers into segments is a great place to start. Did they recently purchase a brand new car or a used vehicle? Did they come in for a costly repair or regular maintenance? Do they have multiple children and need their minivan to continue running safely for as long as possible, or are they single and trade in their vehicles regularly? Knowing these details about your customers not only tells you how to treat them in your service drive, but it also reveals what offers to extend to them for future service. Take a Data-Driven Marketing Approach With Dealership Management Systems (DMS), we have a lot of information about the customers and their vehicles. But go beyond this to ensure you’re reaching the right customer at the right time with the right offer. TVI MarketPro3 extracts data from multiple databases and merges this information with a dealership’s DMS. TVI uses this information to create an automotive marketing strategy that pinpoints where customers are and where they are in their vehicle ownership. It also allows us to find those customers that may have never entered a particular dealership. What social media platforms do your customers frequent? Do you shy away from social media marketing? Maybe you dabble in some platforms but aren’t interested in a social media deep dive. You might want to reconsider as Facebook alone touts more than 3 billion users. You can bet a good chunk of these users consists of your current potential customers. Ensure your dealership has the right social media business pages set up and that each of these pages produces effective and relevant content regularly. Post stories and news events your followers will like, comment on, and share. These posts will not always be about your business. Balance the content between sharing other compelling posts, behind the scene videos, and attractive products or offers. Email marketing is still an effective and direct way to remind your current customers that you are there for vehicle maintenance and repairs. Provide valuable email content and follow it with irresistible offers to get more vehicles to your service drive. Use your website as an online compass. Keep your customers in mind when designing your website for both personal computers and mobile devices. Ensure your fixed operations have a bold presence on your dealership website. Also, be sure to publish the dealer address in the header and footer of the site. Let’s Get Local! Now that you’ve defined your basic customer approach, it’s time to get local. Car dealership marketing must establish a local presence. Think about how potential customers find you and meet them there. Search engines are the number one way customers seek out car repair services, so why is it when we google “car repair near me” dealerships are not popping up? The search engine results pages (SERP) are full of independent mechanics and other car care providers, but dealerships rarely land at the top of the list. It even seems as though many car dealers aren’t even reaching the top SERPs when someone searches “for car sales near me.” How does a customer know that local car dealers provide car repairs and car sales when they don’t appear in their online search? This challenge is due in part to the dealerships having multiple departments that provide different services. Ensuring a dealership’s online optimization is locally focused will attract the customer for a test drive or a vehicle repair. Google My Business (GMB) for the Auto Industry Dealerships must be one with google, and there is no better way to accomplish this marriage than to claim and optimize your Google My Business Profile. Google My Business puts your dealership in a prime position on search results pages. But more importantly, it puts your dealership on the map, the Google Map. Your company or organization information appears in the 3-pack (the top 3 locations) on local search results. These come just below the cost-per-click (CPC) ads that appear at the top of a search results page. Some companies spend thousands of dollars to show up with CPC ads. These ads are one of the best ways to ensure you're found on Google. However, with a highly optimized GMB profile, your business can appear near the top of search results for nothing. These results also have a more organic feel than CPC ads. Take a minute to search for your dealership anonymously. Use an incognito window or tab in Google Chrome or other browsers to prevent your search history from being a factor in your search results. Try several different key phrases to see where your dealership falls in SERPs. You might be surprised that you have to dig through several pages to find where your dealership is parked. If this is the case, you know your marketing focus should be to optimize your local SEO. Discuss these goals with your marketing team.Learn more on how to be found on search engines; visit TVI MarketPro3.
Automotive Marketing Services Expectations
Car dealerships have a multitude of choices when it comes to selecting the right marketing company. You must know what you’re looking for before you start interviewing for the company that best fits your dealership’s marketing needs. Before you shop The first step is to define your dealership’s marketing challenges. Then determine the marketing solutions that fit your budget. No two dealers are alike, so specifying your goals before reaching out to marketing companies will help you get through the weeds a lot faster. Are you a destination dealership located off the beaten path? You likely want to convince your target customers that your dealer is worth the long drive. Perhaps you have a newly established dealership just getting off the ground. Your focus will be on acquiring new customers in the area. Are you a long-standing established dealer with a full-service drive? Your outreach will be very different in this case. Defining your needs is key to communicating with a marketing team, so they can best serve you. Understanding the industry The automotive industry has unique challenges apart from other industries. The marketing company you bring on board must be knowledgeable about these intricacies. They also need to be aware of the different nature between the sales and the service departments. Marketing these two departments with the same broad brush typically fails to attract business to the service department. Choosing the method and platform Marketing agencies also vary when it comes to the tools and platforms they use to market. Print-focused marketing agencies design and print mailers, magazines, or newspapers. Some companies will send these out to a wide area, and others will hone in on specific targets. Digital marketing companies focus on web services and design and search engine optimization (SEO). They also email offers and promote them across some or all social media platforms. Again, some will cover a large and unspecified audience while others target defined customers. A full-service marketing company is just that. They serve all industries and use a wide array of tools and platforms. While this is convenient, a dealer should ask questions about the company structure. For example, who oversees each strategy or platform? Learn what systems and marketing strategies the company has to ensure nothing slips through the marketing cracks. Look at each area of the company for its successes as well as the company’s success overall. Conclusion Dealerships spend a great deal of money on marketing, so it’s imperative they get a positive return on their investment. Regardless of what type of company you partner with, you must review the company’s track record. Ask to see results from specific campaigns, testimonials from past clients, and references to call. These actions will give you peace of mind that the company will represent your dealership as though it were their own. Click here for more automotive marketing resources.
Recall Marketing for Dealership Service Departments
As of January 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 70,900,000 current recalls in the automotive industry. Hence, there are millions of vehicles on the road that are unsafe and needing repair. It also means that customers are out there waiting for a notice about a recall. After all, this manufacturer-paid repair is a no-brainer, and if you reach these customers at the right time, they’ll likely choose your services for this repair. What is recall marketing? Recall marketing uses vehicle data to reach out to drivers who have active recalls on their vehicles and invite them into your service drive for the repair. It is an often-overlooked automotive marketing strategy, but dealers miss out on a great opportunity when they fail to reach these vehicle owners. Safety recalls are a top priority for drivers. Take these recalls, for example, NHTSA reports that tens of millions of vehicles with Takata airbags are under recall because long-term exposure to high heat and humidity can cause these airbags to explode when deployed. There’s also a recall for the hood on certain 2013-2018 Nissan Altimas. The hood could unexpectedly open while the vehicle is moving because of an issue with a secondary hood latch. These are safety concerns, so a dealership is providing a much-needed service when making drivers aware of these recalls. If the information to call and schedule an appointment is right there on the notice, and the customers see the repair is of no cost to them, why would they not call? Where do you find recall information? The Recall Management Division (RMD) of the NHTSA maintains the administrative records for all safety recalls. But there are other data sources. The NHTSA database provides information such as the vehicle owner, the vehicle identification number, and open recalls. At TVI MarketPro3, we merge this data with other sources to reach the current owner at the correct address. Why you should use recalls as a marketing tool Getting customers through the door is the primary goal when marketing for the service drive. Dealers do this through a discounted oil change, a free tire rotation, and many other promotions and discounts. So why not try to rein in guaranteed paid repairs? Dealers should not underestimate the value of getting the customer in, so they can experience outstanding service. Some people never consider using a dealer to service their vehicle. Service advisors must show them what they have been missing out on and entice them to return for future service. How to reach the recall customers Vehicle owners receive recall notices from manufacturers. But the manufacturer is limited in what they know about who currently owns the vehicle and where they live. People sell or trade in their cars, and people move to a new home on a fairly regular basis. So the manufacturer may be sending the notice to an incorrect address. Dealers can be the recall heroes. Merging and scrubbing data from multiple sources allows a dealer to reach the current owner at their current address. The physical address is the most useful information gathered. So sending a postcard or a letter with this news about their vehicle is the most direct way to reach these customers. Go to TVI MarketPro3 for more automotive service marketing solutions.
Vehicle Dealership Management System: A Marketer's Tool
The automotive industry takes in a lot of information with each transaction. Organizing and storing this data is critical for any car dealership. Dealers rely on the vehicle dealership management system (DMS) to best serve and market to their customers. A DMS is a single, cloud-based, platform that dealers use for inventory management, car sales, customer information, credit reports, and printing paperwork. Dealer management software solutions allow dealers to manage their entire business in real time from a single login platform. A DMS is the control center for the whole dealership. These systems walk the customer’s information from lead generation through the sales process and then on to the service department. The core applications of a DMS are accounting, payroll, accounts payable, parts inventory and invoicing, service merchandising and invoicing, vehicle management, and F&I. These come standard with most systems. What information do dealers extract from the Dealer Management System (DMS)? The data found in a DMS reveals every time a client visited the dealership to spend money. You can filter clients by the type of service work they ordered, parts they bought, vehicles they purchased, and many other areas. For example, if you wanted to look at repair orders for everybody who spent over a thousand dollars in customer-pay labor, you could extract this data from the DMS. How can a dealership get the most out of its DMS? To maximize your DMS capabilities once you have all the necessary tools and add-ons, you must be sure to enter information consistently and accurately. Input is critical to a successful DMS, as you can only get out of the system what you put into it. Like duplicate customer entries, oversights can cause dealers to market to the same customer multiple times. The service advisor will have difficulty determining past repairs if there are data-entry mistakes. It helps to search the system by customer name, telephone number, and VIN. However, telephone numbers change occasionally, and customers often arrive with a new or different vehicle than the one they previously had serviced. Cross-checking data before inputting a new customer will prevent duplicate entries. Ensuring Accurate Data Entry On the service drive, systems today scan the VIN. It is one of the most foolproof methods for the service department, but you still need to review all the other information with the customer to be sure they don’t have two separate accounts in your system. A dealer’s leadership needs training and accountability to ensure the entire team handles customer input similarly. It should be set up in writing as a step-by-step process to follow. Getting everybody into the CRM system and then getting your salespeople to adhere to your follow-up schedule are also important uses of the DMS. Dealers also use a DMS to track inventory by the number of days a car has been on the lot. Marketers should make decisions specifically accounting for these factors. DMS Use in the Parts Department The parts department is probably the most cut-and-dry regarding DMS use. The parts department uses the computer more than any other department in the dealership. You may have 250,000 part numbers. Manual processing of parts inventory would be a massive task. A DMS tracks the monthly parts in stock. Using an automated parts system helps determine lost sales within the department. Learn more on how TVI MarketPro3 extracts and uses valuable DMS data.
Automotive Direct Mail Marketing
The automotive industry has a vast array of options when it comes to marketing. Marketing campaigns include emails, social media, radio, and tv ads. However, do not overlook the power of the printed word. Direct mail is still a viable and cost-effective tool for targeting customers. What is Direct Mail Marketing? Direct mail marketing is a printed piece that is sent and delivered to a home or business. There are many types of direct mail pieces that you can send, and there are various mail services. United States Postal Service is the most common and frequently used among marketing agencies in the United States. Effectiveness of Direct Mail Marketing A customer.com case study for a large regional bank revealed direct mail is a viable source of acquiring accounts. The right combination of components in the campaign could improve response rates above 25 percent. The results can also occur in automotive marketing. Checking mail is something most people do daily, and many companies continue to send bills through the mail. Therefore, it is likely your mailed pieces will reach the hands and eyes of your customer. When it does, it will allow them to see your brand and your contact information. Therefore, your marketing messages must be well-planned to get the most out of your mail campaign. Direct Mail Design To make your mail piece stand out from the bundle of mail people receive regularly, there are a few things you need to consider. First, think about what typically catches your attention as you are filtering through your mail. What do you put aside? What do you throw something away, and what makes you stop and look? Size matters, so you want to make sure that you avoid mail pieces that are too small or too big. If it is too small, it might get caught between a magazine or folded grocery offers. If it is too big, the consumer may not want it taking up counter space, so it will quickly find its way to the circular file. Another thing to keep in mind is that you don't want to overwhelm the potential customer with too much text. Your messaging should be short, concise, and properly spaced from the other elements on the mailer. Mailing allows the sender to use bright and bold colors that are more forgiving in print advertising. Using vivid colors on an email tends to strain the viewer's eyes, but this is not the case for printed pieces. Any images and logos you use must be sharp and clear to make a good impression. Make sure that you're purchasing and using stock images that are high resolution. A blurry photo, or an image that is not scaled proportionally, can jeopardize the legitimacy of your mailer. If you have a folded mail piece or an enclosed piece, make sure the outside gives your recipient a clue as to what is inside. Add a message to the outside that will encourage the recipient to open your delivery? Targeted Solutions While direct mail is highly effective, it can often cast a wide net onto an undefined audience. Targeted direct mail will always bear more results as you are mailing the right message to the right customer at the right time. It ensures the mailer money goes to the intended customer. Learn more about targeting automotive customers.
Automotive Retention Rate for Dealers
The customer retention rate is a measurement all dealerships pay close attention to. Retention reflects the customer experience and ultimately affects the bottom line for the dealership. Both the sales and service departments seek high customer retention rates. Calculating Customer Retention Rate There are no standard calculations for dealership retention. Every manufacturer has a specific method for calculating retention, so dealership leaders focus on these metrics. It is imperative that fixed ops leaders consistently review their performance and work to find ways to improve their scores. Finding Retention Rate Data for Sales Finding the dealership’s sales retention rate depends on the manufacturer they represent. Some manufacturers may not even measure retention. When manufacturers measure retention, they provide this information on the internal dashboard within the dealer network. Finding Retention Rate Data for Service Every manufacturer measures retention rates for the service department. The district parts and service manager will often provide these reports directly to the dealership service manager via email. Typically, they're available monthly in the dashboard that the manufacturer provides the dealers. Calculating the Retention Rate for Dealerships The retention rate is automatically calculated for dealers in the metric from the manufacturer. Calculations vary from one manufacturer to another. Typically dealerships track customers that have one customer-pay repair or warranty repair order in a rolling 12 months. Some also track customers that have two or more customer-pay or warranty repair orders in this same period. What is Considered a Good Retention Rate? A good retention rate depends on the type of car line, which can be segmented into three categories. Category number one covers all domestic lines of cars. Category number two is the import car line, while category number three includes highline cars. Surveys of various dealers show that domestic stores define a successful retention rate as retaining 55% of their service clients. These are clients who have been in one or more times within the last 12 months. For import carlines, the threshold would be 60% or better. Highline cars would need 65% or better to be declared a success. There are a handful of reasons for these differences. One reason is that certain carlines have done a better job branding themselves to help customers identify with the brand. This influences a customer to return to the dealership to have their car serviced. Another aspect of it is the maintenance intervals. Domestic vehicles often have the shortest maintenance interval between minor services. Import vehicles tend to have slightly longer maintenance intervals. Luxury cars like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audis have the longest maintenance intervals in between minor services. Domestic vehicles might need service every 5,000 to 7,000 miles, while imported vehicles need service every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. Some of the highline vehicles can go 12,000 to 15,000 miles in between maintenance intervals. Conclusion A winning dealership relies heavily on returning customers, especially in the service department, but knowing your customer retention rate will help you set goals for your dealership in both the sales and the service departments. Meeting these goals can have a great impact on the success of the dealership as a whole, so it’s imperative to review and analyze these numbers regularly, allowing for adjustments to be made throughout the year. Learn more about measuring your marketing success.
Car Dealership Marketing: The Digital Basics
Car dealership marketing strategies need to focus on targeting potential customers. However, dealerships have multiple customer types that range anywhere from car buyers to parts and service customers. Marketing to this range of customers must be specific to customer needs for it to be effective. Not only must you define and customize your marketing to a specific customer, but you must also customize your marketing according to your platform. This is particularly so when using digital marketing platforms. The Right Message for the Right Customer A customer going through the buying process is different than one who needs repair or maintenance. Car dealers need to recognize these differences and ensure they are speaking their customer’s language. A customer who is not in the market for a new car still needs service, but they tend to overlook dealerships for their service needs. It’s no surprise, however, as dealerships tend to focus more on car sales when marketing. Auto dealerships must have a focused strategy for their service department that is independent of their sales department. And both departments must use multiple platforms to get the message out to these target customers. Automotive Digital Marketing Strategies In the automotive industry, both the service and sales departments must utilize the many platforms offered in the digital realm to reach their target audience. There are many platforms to choose from, but you can sort them into four categories: website, online reviews, emails, and social media. Website Design Dealership websites must be designed and optimized for both PC and mobile devices. It should be easy to navigate, and the messaging should be clear and concise. Ensure the site is segmented and organized so that the user knows exactly where to go to get answers and learn more about your dealership and its services. Website Content The website content is just as important as the design. A beautifully designed website with weak content is like a fancy car with no engine. Ensure your website is full of information your target customer would be seeking. Help them find your site easily by adding enough SEO keywords on every page. Website SEO Search engine optimization (SEO) is imperative if you want your dealership to show up on the search results page. It should be optimized for sales, but also for service if the goal is to gain traffic in your service drive. Don’t overlook your local SEO. This is how customers find your dealership by location on applications like google maps. Glowing Reviews Ensure your online reviews represent you in a positive light. Reviews are huge for the automotive industry, as customers are very wary of incompetence and fraud. Word of mouth is very influential, and online reviews are the digital word of mouth. Increase your positive reviews by asking a satisfied customer to leave a quick review. Make it easy for them by dropping the link in an email or even a text if you have a texting system. A happy customer is generally delighted to leave a review when it’s only a click away. Email Essentials Add email to your marketing “to-do” list. Send emails consistently, and ensure the subject line and call to action lead the customer to open the email and click through to your website. The customer becomes more familiar and thereby more comfortable with your dealership through well-written and designed emails. Provide a variety of emails that include welcome messages, value offers, and promotions. Changing the emails up will increase the likelihood they will be opened and maybe even enjoyed by your customers. If you send the same type of email over and over again, you are telling the customer it’s okay to send your emails straight to the trash. Welcome Emails Welcome emails are just that; you’re taking a minute to welcome a customer to your facility and thank them for allowing you to serve them. Go easy on the graphics on this one, so it feels as close to a handwritten letter as possible. It should make the customer feel like the sales or service manager took the time to reach out personally. Value Emails Value emails provide information the customer needs and will find valuable. Maintenance schedules that show what services to plan and budget for are gold for a service customer. Reminders to schedule that next service will also keep the customer clicking. For your past sales customers, entice them to open their emails by letting them know what deals you have coming up and any exclusive service events that might benefit them. Promotional Emails Yes, the promotional emails are at the bottom of the list for a reason. They are not less important, but it does keep your customer from feeling bombarded by promotions. A customer’s inbox is already overwhelmed with these types of emails. To stand out, encourage your customer to open and enjoy your emails before asking them for something. Social Settings Social media is a must if you want to stay in front of your target audience. The most popular social media platforms are Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, so be sure you or a team member is comfortable and competent in using these communication applications. Conclusion Auto dealers cannot overlook the marketing capabilities that are right at their fingertips. A thorough marketing plan and schedule for all marketing efforts will help dealers effectively reach the ideal customers. Click over to TVI MarketPro3 for more marketing tips and information.
Recall Data Management for Dealership Service Drives
The difference between recall versus an open recall A recall would be a defect that the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) has deemed a manufacturer must remedy, fix, or resolve for the customer. Hence manufacturers file recalls on vehicles and appliances throughout the United States. An open recall is a recall that has not been remedied or repaired by that manufacturer. So, any "open recall" means the recall repair still needs to be performed. Targeting open recalls The automotive industry finds open recalls by identifying VINs that still have recalls not yet repaired. You can do so by sourcing the data through multiple vendors, checking manufacturer websites, and the NHTSA website. There are multiple data points out there that allow various dealership service centers to verify completed repairs for an open recall. How recalls help the bottom line for fixed operations So the benefit from a financial perspective or the bottom line for a dealership is that recalls cost the consumer nothing. And the dealership is paid per their agreement with the manufacturer for flagged hours, parts, and those reimbursement rates set in place. A dealership targeting lucrative recalls can enhance its profits and bottom lines for fixed operations. Dealership focus on open recalls The focus on getting recall customers through the door is specific to each dealership. Some dealerships are very strong at making sure they have processes to identify every recall that comes into the drive. In addition to this, multiple states now require recalls for vehicle sales. Undoubtedly there is a strong focus in the automotive industry on resolving recalls. Attracting recall customers Dealerships have a lot of tools at their fingertips to help resolve these issues. First of all, your local marketing company or your preferred service marketing company should have access to recall data. Many dealerships source or file a list through Business Development Centers (BDC). This list can be provided by mining your Dealership Management System (DMS) data. Also, a dealership can have a marketing company or manufacturer produce a target list. The BDC can call this list, or the service advisors can utilize some downtime to reach out to these recall customers. Conclusion Attracting recall customers can be a valuable way to increase traffic in your service drive. Dealers can do this through direct mail and email marketing and making actual live phone calls through your BDC or advisor team. Once you get these customers in your drive, the goal will be to influence return visits for future maintenance and repair services. TVI MarketPro3 has a robust recall marketing strategy. Learn more.
Measuring Dealership Retention and Customer Loyalty
What is retention? In the automotive industry, retention defines the dealer's ability to generate real, authentic loyalty with its customers. Retention is a factor now more than ever. The industry has finally realized the CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) is not necessarily an indicator of business growth. Dealerships can have a fantastic CSI result and still have a decline in business. And conversely, you can have a dealership with atrocious customer satisfaction results, but their business continues to grow. Customer retention is a great equalizer because you cannot fake this measurement. Retention performance only comes when you service a customer multiple times within a certain period. Having good retention and customer loyalty is required for sustained growth. If you lose a customer for every customer gained, you break even. Is retention more of a factor in sales or service? Both are required for a dealership to prosper, but if you have to pick, it is more necessary to retain service customers than sales customers. Dealerships that sell a hundred new cars per month will service roughly 1500 vehicles in the same month. Keeping 70% of 1500 customers is much more impactful than retaining 70% of the hundred new sales customers. Measuring Dealership Retention Every manufacturer measures retention differently. Some manufacturers want one repair order in 12 months, and others look for two repair orders in 15 months. This difference in measuring retention carries over to sales as well. Manufacturers each have their methods of tracking retention, which is why TVI created a retention report that can be applied to every dealership, regardless of the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). This report is one of our foundational True Market Study reports. Marketing Strategy from Service to Sales The marketing strategy dealers use for sales department retention is vastly different than that of service department retention. Dealers should examine retention goals from an overall dealership standpoint as well as within each department. It has to be part of the store culture from the dealer principal down to the lot porter. Everybody has to care about retaining their clients. The dealership must have the right culture with the right people in place doing the right things. It is all about customer experience! Customer retention comes down to one main idea: the customer must have an overall fabulous experience. It is not enough to settle for a good experience anymore. To stand out in this vast market, you must earn customers that will continue to come back. Not only should they return, but they should also rave to their friends and family about their experience. The area to focus on for customer satisfaction is the timeliness of getting the customer in and completing the repair. A dealer also needs to ensure their pricing structure is competitive and transparent. A clean facility and a customer-friendly team also have an impact on retention. When it comes to retention, the ideas may seem simple, but it takes a good leader and lots of discipline to execute them. If a dealership leader can create the right culture, the customers will keep coming back time and time again. Click here for more valuable automotive marketing insights.
Increase Your Reach with Car Dealership Facebook Ads
Many if not most car dealers have a Facebook page for increasing brand awareness, but not all of these businesses utilize Facebook ads as part of their digital marketing strategy. With billions of monthly active Facebook users, how does a business owner know an advertisement will not get wasted on droves of users who could or would never use their products or services? One thing is for sure, a large segment of your dealership audience is on Facebook. And Facebook has tools to help you find and send the right message to this audience. These ads and messages will motivate them to visit. The first step to getting the most out of Facebook Ads is understanding the vast capabilities Facebook offers when it comes to delivering your marketing message. Setting your Facebook Ad Goals Facebook offers multiple advertising objectives, so dealers can customize ads to meet business goals. Selecting the right objectives will help reach these goals no matter if the goal is to increase engagement, encourage users to click through to the dealer website, or find new leads for car sales and services. Facebook Ad Basics There are four basic ways to advertise on Facebook. ~ Boost a post.~ Create a page ad.~ Create a website ad.~ Promote your call-to-action button. These are all great ways to reach and engage with your desired audience. Advanced Facebook Ad Options A dealer can use Ads Manager to create and manage the ads it pays for on Facebook. Ad creation will allow a dealer to access more ad types than are offered from their page. It is where one can find lead ads for lead generation as well as conversions and brand awareness. Ads for the overall dealership Trish Fleming of TVI MarketPro3 has spent years researching automotive Facebook Ads, and she says creating the right ad for a dealership “depends on the objective.” For example, some dealerships would like to use Facebook to brand their name and products. So ads with high impression objectives or high reach objectives are the perfect ads for those customers. Fleming personally finds the ads that produce leads are more beneficial in the long run. Whether you send the ads to Facebook Messenger or you send them to a lead form does not matter as much as producing the leads so that they can turn into a sale. Service Department Ads Lead generation ads work the best for the service department. Nothing is exciting about having to have your vehicle serviced or getting an oil change, so the offer must have a compelling message. Most surveys reveal a 93% use of coupons for those needing vehicle service. Having the ability to provide a customer with a coupon immediately when they engage with your ad on Facebook enables the dealership to convert that customer. Multiple Ad Creatives Facebook advertising offers you creatives like video ads, image ads, slideshows, and carousel ads. You can pick the elements that work best for your target audience. Using a variety of creatives throughout your ad campaigns allows you to reach a variety of Facebook users. Service Ads versus Sales Ads Everyone in the automotive industry knows that the fixed ops department pays the bills for the dealership, so the dealership must have a Facebook advertising campaign that produces a trackable ROI. Creating the proper budget allocations to service and sales has always been a tricky task. The dealership should first figure out what its goals are for the year. Service ads tend to drive immediate traffic. But the gross on the sale is low, and sales ads are a larger ticket item in the end. However, they do not convert as quickly. Most dealerships should allocate $1200-$2000 a month for effective service department ad campaigns to run on Facebook. Facebook Ad Budget Customize your budget within your ad account by setting Facebook Ad objectives. These objectives should reflect the needs and available budgeting dollars of your dealership. Most ad types have a minimum budget range of one to five dollars per day. Your budget can also be adjusted, put on hold, or stopped altogether as the dealership finances change. Setting up an account spending limit is a way to make sure you stay within your budget. Targeting Options As with all marketing, the more targeted your efforts, the better, and a dealer can customize their target Facebook audience by location, demographics, age, and gender. It can also target specified interests, behavior, and connections. More advanced targeting tools like Lookalike Audiences allow you to target people that appear to have the same interests as your ideal audience. Measured Success of Facebook Ads You can use the Facebook measurement tools to learn how often people engage with your ads. Each ad you create can be measured using Facebook insights, metrics, and tools. You gain better measurement tools, and you gain a better understanding of ad effectiveness and which creatives drive the best results. You can also access tools that help you find your audience and reach more of the right customers. A Facebook Meta Pixel measures activity on your website. It might be when someone views a particular service or product. Pixels get your ads shown to the right people or help find new customers. They also help to increase sales and measure the effectiveness of an ad. Facebook Dynamic Ads Facebook describes dynamic ads as “the use of machine learning to scale ads when there is a broad range of products or services.” This automatic delivery considers customer interests and actions to send relevant services and offers. It is the reason you see an ad pop up on Facebook that reflects a recent Facebook or Google search. Instant Ad Feedback There is nothing better than getting instant feedback from an ad you just posted. Facebook will notify you with ad approval, new reports, and low balances. These notifications will also let you know when people interact with your ad. Reciprocate with these interactions to capitalize on your Facebook Ad efforts. Facebook ads allow for some of the most targeted audience engagement of all marketing strategies. Dealerships must present a clear, attractive message that allows for customer interaction and must have someone assigned to respond to this interaction for the most impact. This system will help build an online following and get more sales and service customers to the dealership. For more dealership social media best practices, visit TVI MarketPro3.
Increase Service Department Sales with a Winning Team
As the dealership service department director, you have a huge responsibility to meet your sales goals. Not only do you need to keep the existing customers returning to your service drive, but you need to have a professional team of technicians that can get the work done in the most efficient manner possible. Dealership service centers must sell three things to be successful. First, they must educate a customer on why a service is needed. Then, they have to sell them on their establishment as the best facility to have the service done, with state-of-the-art equipment and a five-star lobby. And finally, they must sell their team of technicians as the best ones to perform the service. Spotting The Upsell You cannot meet your fixed ops sales goals alone, so you must teach your team how to recognize an opportunity to sell additional work. Upselling happens in our everyday life. The most notable upselling industry is fast-food restaurants. Many people say "no thank you" to that warm cookie or hot apple pie, but for some, the cashier presents the question at just the right time. Your technicians then need to know how to present additional repairs or maintenance to the customer with tact and professionalism. They can do this by educating the customer more than selling to them. Spending a little extra time to show someone their vehicle's issues in person, or through pictures and videos, can establish trust. Overcoming The Objection It is essential to train your team to overcome service customer objections without high-pressure sales tactics. If a customer declines a recommended service or repair, a tech needs to educate the customer on why they need it and exactly how urgent it is. Ensure your technicians know why things need to be done and empower them to communicate these needs to the customer. Be sure not to overload the customer with a dozen potential maintenance or repair needs. Prioritize these by necessity and present the top two or even just one if it is a pricey fix. There will not always be the opportunity to upsell on maintenance and repairs. Regardless of whether or not additional work must be done, offer to schedule their next oil change before they walk out the door. The Perfect Price Price transparency is critical with service department sales. Dealerships should have competitive prices, but not necessarily the lowest. List maintenance prices on the website, so there are no surprises when a customer arrives. Keep Up With The Finances Educate yourself on the dealership's financial statements, and review these consistently. Watch overhead expenses and labor rates in addition to gross profit and net profit. You can meet your sales goals all day long, but if your expenses and labor costs are too high, you will not see the desired profits. Visit TVI MarketPro3 for more automotive service marketing tips.
Getting the most of your car service data
With so many dealerships competing for vehicle owners to use their auto care services, choosing the right marketing strategies can be challenging. But regardless of which marketing strategies and platforms a dealer implements, there is no question that the more targeted your marketing, the better outcome you will have. Dealership marketers need to be as targeted as possible by knowing these three things: where to find the data, how to clean the data, and how to use the data. Collecting the data Dealers collect vehicle data from their DMS (dealership management system). Dealers should gather this information daily to track an individual customer’s interaction with a dealership. Some companies compile car data to track who owns the car in a specific area and what kind of car they own. They collect details from insurance companies and independent shops. These companies lease or sell the data to dealership marketers. And some websites offer vehicle recall information. A marketer can log on to these websites, check a VIN, and learn if it has an open recall. Cleaning your data When collecting data from multiple sources, there will most likely be duplicate data. To dedupe data, dealerships must cross-check names and addresses from outside sources with the DMS. The dealer data is almost always the most up-to-date and accurate data, so it should be the anchor, and it should take top priority when cleaning data. Dealers should compare VINs to see the last time a car was in for service. Vehicles serviced at a dealership often take top priority. A vehicle that received service at one dealership three years ago may have used another dealership more recently. The customer may have sold the car, or they may have moved. These are all factors that need to be merged and scrubbed to create a target contact list. Review the addresses on the list to see if the customer is still in the dealership’s area. The radius from the dealership is one way of looking at this. But you can also narrow the data down by drive time. Automated or Manual Data Processing Perform this type of data collection and analysis manually. However, an automated program allows this information to be as up-to-date as possible. TVI MarketPro3 has a program that does all of this automatically. TVI gathers around a million records a day from DMS and other sources. These records come in overnight and are converted to a standardized format. The database is cleaned, new records are added, and updates are made. The Right Customer The goal of all data manipulation is to pinpoint your marketing by several metrics. But the most common metrics used are the make, model, and age of the vehicle. We also gather vehicle services needed and the customer’s drive time from the dealership. The message you send using this data must be to a specific customer and about their vehicle’s health. For more on automotive data for marketing, visit TVI MarketPro3.
Fixed Ops Marketing to Increase Your Repair Orders
A major goal in a dealership service department is to increase the number of repair orders coming through the service drive. To make this happen, service managers must have a solid plan specifically for service marketing. This marketing is unique from that of the rest of the automotive industry. After all, car sales customers look for a very different experience than a customer who needs vehicle maintenance or repair. Solutions Marketing Solutions for the service department should cover both print and digital platforms to get your brand in front of the right customer. Direct mail and local magazine and newspaper ads are all ways of getting your brand in front of an audience. The question is, what audience will you reach with print marketing? Direct mail is one of the only print options that can be narrowed down and sent to a targeted audience. Digital marketing allows for several targeted approaches. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram enable you to place business ads that will reach a customer-defined by age, gender, and a specific physical location or radius. Ensuring you have a strong online presence is important when potential customers are browsing for car services. An SEO-friendly website design in conjunction with tools like Google My Business can help your dealership land at the top of the results pages. Fixed operations marketing tools are the same as those used across many industries. However, you should customize the message to the needs of your service customers. Educating the customer When marketing for the service department, the goal is to educate the customer and address potential objections. Your customer must understand why it’s important to schedule certain services, why they should use a dealership over an independent repair shop, and why they should use your dealership service department over your competitors. What are the common problems these customers have, and what are your service solutions? In conclusion, dealerships can choose from many different marketing solutions, and we're only scratching the surface here. TVI MarketPro3 makes it easy to decide which platforms to use, which customers to target, and what message to send.
Fixed Ops Business Versus Variable Ops Business
Fixed Ops and Variable Ops are terms used in the car dealership industry. They uniquely identify two main parts of a dealership. Making this distinction defines what role each of these parts plays in dealership success. It also determines dealership marketing strategies for each of these entities. Definition of Fixed Ops Stability is what sets fixed operations apart in dealerships. Both the expenses and the revenue in parts and services tend to be more stable (or fixed) than in sales because these departments have fewer variables. Definition of Variable Ops The term "variable operations" usually refers to the area of a dealership with multiple variables that affect the expenses and the revenue. What part of the dealership is fixed ops? Fixed operations would be everything involved with repairing a car. The fixed ops department consists of the service and parts department and has a more consistent base for expenses and income. Customers still utilize a dealer service business even during the variables that impact car sales. So, the term fixed operations assumes that if you build it, they will come because there will always be a need for car service. If you have a repair facility and people know it, you can get a predictable amount of business. What part of the dealership is variable ops? The car sales department is the variable operations portion of the dealership. The variables in car sales can range anywhere from weather and holidays to advertising and promotions. Of course, market conditions and inventory also have an impact on car sales success. Importance of knowing the difference Over the years, dealerships have viewed variable operations or sales operations as the primary breadwinner compared to fixed operations. However, the thinking has shifted in recent times as more dealerships understand the unique impact each area has. It is imperative to know the profit of variable ops and fixed ops for any period. It allows a dealership to identify trends in each department. Marketing strategy differences between fixed and variable operations Marketing strategies differ between fixed and variable because you're selling two different things. So, it is necessary to market these separate parts of the business independently if you want overall success for the dealership. Variable ops and fixed ops must market with their competitors in mind. Variable ops or car sales competition is no longer just the dealer down the road. On the contrary, it now includes a wide range of online delivery options for car buyers. The dealer must convince its audience that the visit to the dealership will be worth it. And that competition for fixed ops has also expanded over the years: it now includes businesses from local independent garages to big chain quick lubes. Dealers must entice specific, targeted marketing customers to drive past these other options to create fixed ops success.
Facebook Automotive Dynamic Ads Overview
We’ve all seen the ads that pop up when we’re scrolling through Facebook. It’s like it’s reading our minds. Maybe you were browsing a website’s product catalog, and you flip over to Facebook to see a similar ad. While it may not be reading our minds, it is reading our searches and our behavior. Facebook pages for auto dealers already serve an important marketing purpose. Vehicles feed the majority of the content on a dealers’ page. Automotive inventory ads and vehicle detail pages capture their audience’s attention. But Facebook Dynamic Ads are important to the automotive industry to get the message to the exact right audience. What is a Facebook Dynamic Ad? Facebook dynamic ads are the same as other Facebook Ads in that they use the same creative design such as carousels, static single images, or video. But, dynamic ads also use the Facebook algorithms to feed the ads to people based on their search interests and actions. This targeted form of advertising is put in front of a specific group of customers; customers identified as leads or potentially interested consumers. How do Facebook Ads Work? This model allows you to reach consumers that are already interested in the products or services that you're selling within the Facebook platform. The Benefits of a Facebook Dynamic Ad Dynamic ads have several benefits, such as having the ability to send creative content to customers that have shown interest in your products or services but have not previously purchased from you. These ads are automated, which does not require a lot of time for maintenance. And dynamic ads allow you to retarget your website customers. Most importantly, they help the business to find new shoppers. Using Dynamic Ads to Market for Car Sales Using dynamic ads will allow a business to feed ads to people who have shown interest online for the products or services the business provides. The more new people that see your company, the more the sales will increase. Dynamic ads can be used as limited-time offers since you can set an end date when you publish the ad. That way, it is not still floating around Facebook once the offer has expired. This is especially important with sales. Best use of Dynamic Ads for the Service Department The benefits for sales and service are the same, new customers. The creative will be different for the service customer than a sales customer, but the objective remains the same. Service ads are going to be customized to fit a particular customer segment or vehicle. The offer could be whatever the dealer wants it to be, but traditionally, it's something like an oil change. Steps to Creating a Facebook Dynamic Ad First, you would start by understanding the objective. Do you want to increase your traffic or focus on conversions? Then you would work on the creative. Video tends to be the best form for catching the attention of potential buyers. To run dynamic Facebook ads, you need the Facebook pixel code on the backend of your website. This pixel code should have events and parameters installed. Facebook needs access to this code to accurately feed the ads to people who have shown interest in your products or services. And it also enables them to track back purchases made from the ads. Check out TVI MarketPro3 to see how we use Facebook Ads to help dealers grow their RO.
Elements of Effective Automotive Marketing Video
Video content is valuable as a form of digital marketing. It can help browsers find your content on search engines when it's done right. The challenge many dealers face when it comes to automotive video is the cost that goes into hiring a production team to create high-quality, professional videos. But this doesn’t have to be the case. You can now use your smart devices to create compelling and persuasive marketing videos. Easy video marketing for the service department Service teams are surrounded by great opportunities for a video every day. Here are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing: Capture the moment Capture the quick oil change, so customers feel confident your quick work doesn’t mean careless work. They can see the expertise that goes into this service. Share testimonials When a customer is gushing over the service they received, ask them to share that on video. Introduce your team Instill confidence in the customer by allowing them to meet your service team. These videos only take as long as it takes the techs to introduce themselves and share a little background. Give tips for maintenance This is where the Service Advisor gets to shine. This could be a 5-minute video that gives tips for car service and maintenance. The series can have a special name like “Five-minute Fridays with Fred.” That is if Fred is your Service Advisor’s name, but you get the point. Video Ads You may want to spend a little more time writing, storyboarding, videoing, and editing your ads. All elements must come together to send a specific message, especially if it's a paid ad. What types of videos should be produced for a dealership sales department? Creating videos for the sales department will be different from those you create for the service department. The shiny new car and the overall sales experience are the main focuses for the car shopper. These are great videos to include on a dealer website. Customers are expecting to watch a video when they land on a car dealership website. The sales manager can create videos specifically for social media that promote sales events and other sales-related information. Always keep in mind your specific audience when you’re creating a video. An auto dealership’s sales customers are different from the service customers. Customize your visual messaging to the needs of each of these customers. Capturing quality video Our devices capture incredible video these days, so the only thing you need to worry about is how and where you hold the camera. Hold it steady and hold it in the right direction. Shaky camera work can be very distracting, and it’s not fun to watch. Hold steady when recording, and if you have naturally shaky hands, consider getting a tripod specifically made for your particular device. Pay attention to your background. Shoot video in an area that is clean and represents your dealership in a positive light. Determine which platform you’ll be posting to and video in landscape or portrait mode according to what works best for that platform. A mobile editing app like Adobe Rush will help you quickly and easily format your video according to whichever social media platforms you prefer. Go to TVI MarketPro3 for more automotive marketing tips.
Digital Marketing Trends in Automotive
With the year 2020 serving up a pandemic, the automotive sector stepped up its digital game. Dealerships were all challenged to enhance the customer experience for car buying and servicing. All this while keeping their customers and employees safe and healthy. Digital innovation met many of the challenges and has improved the experience for many car dealerships. Artificial intelligence is reinventing the way many companies do business, and it is no different for the auto industry. A Whole New Way to Shop Online searches are becoming more and more like an in-person dealership experience. Things like voice search and augmented reality (AR) have taken center stage. They've made their way into the car buyer’s array of online options when shopping for cars. Vroom has a virtual reality showroom allowing customers to view car models from the comfort of their homes. Users wear an HTC Vive to explore and test drive the vehicles before buying. With all of these options available to their customer base, dealerships must use enhanced digital marketing strategies to reach new customers. Trends Leading Up to 2020 Other automotive marketing trends cover a multitude of digital marketing tools. Some of these tools are social media platforms, emails, texting, and online ads. Traditional marketing campaigns are still a great option, but dealers must be aware of the digital trends and tools needed to attract customers. These have all been tested over the years and proven effective in attracting customers to the automotive industry. Weathering the Pandemic These marketing methods thrived during the pandemic, and in most cases, it is a less expensive way to reach the consumer. These are less expensive than phone calls, television ads, print ads, and even a radio commercial. And most importantly, you’re able to reach a very targeted audience. Newer Marketing Trends There are newer forms of identifying clients for digital advertising purposes. Geofencing is a way to identify people using GPS or RFID technology to create a virtual geographic boundary. It enables software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves a particular area. Dealerships use antennas placed in front of the business. The dealership can pay for an ad to pop up while a potential customer in the area plays blackjack on their computer. There are also other apps out there that allow geofencing pop-up ads. Pay-per-click is also a newer form of advertising. An individual will type a designated keyword into a search engine, and a dealer’s ad will pop up ahead of any specific website. This is a great way to land at the top of search engine results pages. Trends That are Here to Stay Although email user interfaces and tools continue to change and improve, email marketing will never fizzle out. Email is such an efficient means of communication, and people have become accustomed to using it as a primary tool for communication. Social media is taking a big step forward in providing both company information and customer engagement. But this should not take the place of a website. This stresses the importance of keeping up with all new options for your website. All the bells and whistles aren't always necessary. But look out for any add-ons or plugins that will improve the customer experience. We must assume the consumer is educated and conditioned when it comes to finding information. Therefore, the pay-per-click option of marketing should be here as long as people are browsing the internet. Follow the Trends Ture or False? Following trends will help you find the most effective way to market to the masses. Maybe. If you're marketing to the masses. But a dealership should be targeting a select potential customer within a targeted area. Business owners often spend marketing dollars on the advertising they believe to be effective. Instead, dealers should look for proven trends that gain them access to the most targeted customer base possible. In the digital world, potential customers will be looking for more video content, VR, and Augmented Reality. The closer the consumer can get to experiencing the real deal without leaving their home, the better. Business 2 Community reports that Google Ads Smart Bidding will be a tool to utilize going forward. It enhances Google ad profitability by using machine learning and contextual signals to make smart recommendations. Voice search is accurate and convenient. It will continue to grow as consumers and marketers find ways of interacting more organically. Trends to Look Out for in 2021 Just when you think there couldn’t be any new ways to reach a customer, innovation comes knocking at the door. Forbes says that 2021 will bring about several trends like live interactions with virtual events and experiences. Marketing Insider Group lists marketing trends that will be prominent in 2021. These trends take into consideration customer experience, employee engagement, and content visualization. They emphasize that marketing has moved beyond branding and advertising as marketers work together with other business entities to create outstanding customer experiences. Social media will become a top channel for purchase rather than just discovery. Personal commerce will allow consumers to co-curate their experiences with brands. It reflects their preferences at any given moment while interacting with websites and social media. Forbes points out that companies should be culling their social media channels. By doing so, they can prioritize the most mainstream social media channels and hone in on these platforms to increase targeted customer reach. Click over to TVI MarketPro3 for more marketing methods.
Dealership marketing companies: How and if to pick just one
Like all business owners in the United States, auto dealerships seek the most effective and efficient marketing solutions. They can opt to develop in-house marketing or to outsource this enormous task to a marketing company. The first step is determining the marketing strategies to implement and the specific goals to reach. Following that is choosing a marketing company or determining if you should use one at all. If the decision is made to partner with a marketing agency, you will select the best company to meet the marketing needs o the dealership. There are digital marketing companies, ad agencies, and print marketing companies. Marketing companies or agencies may serve a variety of different industries or even specific niches within an industry. They may be limited in marketing channels, or they may be a full-service company serving all industries and utilizing multiple marketing platforms. Agency Specialists The most significant factor in selecting agency specialists is how their specialty aligns with your dealership marketing needs. You could have an automotive marketing agency specializing in the automotive industry, but their focus is on auto sales - not the service department. A dealership wanting to increase service drive traffic should seek a marketing partner specializing in growing repair orders. Using only a print marketing company or only a digital marketing agency may limit the channels used to market a dealership. But chances are they are very good at what they do since this is their only focus. Another option is to seek a marketing company using multiple platforms for increasing traffic and dealership awareness. Let’s get digital! Digital marketing agencies focus on search engine optimization (SEO). SEO gives the dealer a better chance of showing up on a google search. Digital marketing will also help gain a local SEO when customers search for nearby dealers or mechanics. Your dealership will be a top result within this search, ensuring an increase in website traffic. Another online boost is search engine marketing (SEM). SEO and SEM have a similar ring, but there is one big key difference, and that’s money. SEO focuses on organic searches through an optimized website, and SEM gains traffic from both organic and paid searches. Having an impactful website isn’t the only focus for a company that provides digital marketing services. These companies also cover email marketing and social media marketing which are both imperative to keeping your dealership sales and service department in the online spotlight. Print like a pro Print marketing has not lost its luster! Many dealers continue to purchase local newspaper and magazine advertisements. Direct mail is also a powerful form of marketing as there’s a likelihood that a potential customer will see the offer as they sort through their mail. Even if they don’t take you up on that offer, you still have increased brand awareness. The jack of all marketing trades Full-service advertising agencies have a lot to offer in both print and digital marketing strategies. They are typically a one-stop shop for all industries. While convenient for a dealership, it isn’t always the best course to take. These companies may have the capabilities to meet your marketing needs. However, they may not be experts in any one industry, especially the automotive industry. In-house marketing Some dealerships handle much of their marketing in-house. While this is a possible solution, it is not necessarily ideal. A dealer would need to hire a full-time digital marketer and a graphic designer at the very minimum and then outsource printing and mailing. In-house marketing may prove to be less effective than hiring a marketing company to handle a dealership's marketing campaigns. 2 Departments 2 Marketing Companies If you take a close look at a dealership, you will recognize that it’s two separate yet complementary businesses under one roof: sales and service. Should these two individual departments be marketed in the same way or even by the same marketing company? Marketing strategies and goals for sales could look quite different than that of service. It seems possible that two different marketing companies specializing in two separate dealership departments may yield the best return on a dealer's marketing investment. Go to TVI MarketPro3 for more automotive marketing suggestions and guidance.
Dealership Direct Mail for Service
Many traditional marketing methods have fallen by the wayside, but direct mail still takes up prominent real estate in customers' mailboxes. Business owners often forget the impact of direct mail in our increasingly digital world. But many are surprised to learn direct mail still packs a punch as a marketing tool. It even outperforms the many digital options businesses have when it comes to marketing response rates. Direct mail may not be the junk that many people presume it to be. Forbes reports that while there has been a decline in the response rate for direct mail over the last decade, it’s still a powerful marketing form. In its response rate report, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) analyzed direct mail marketing data. They found direct mail achieves a 4.4% response rate, an impressive outcome compared to 0.12% for email. A targeted approach Direct mail is only as valuable as the customer receiving it, so send your marketing to customers you believe will utilize your services. Mailing to the most targeted list possible is the most cost-effective way to attract customers through a mail marketing campaign. TVI MarketPro3 processes roughly 700,000 mailers per month. Companies deliver these mailers to a list of customers created by merging specific data sources. By using multiple data sources, the mail isn’t cast out blindly over a wide area. Instead, we narrow customer lists by vehicle type, customer type, location, and upcoming services needed. This way, companies know they are sending each piece to an audience that is more likely to respond. A stand-out flyer In the automotive industry, marketing can get overwhelming with the amount of information that dealerships include. They also like to use a lot of extra elements like call-outs, starbursts, and bright colors. All these added bits of design and information interfere with the offer dealers hope will entice their customers to visit. It also cheapens the overall look and makes it seem less professional and more gimmicky. These added design elements can often distract from your message. Customers are looking for a clear, easy-to-read message and the easiest way to reach your call center. Too many added elements can cause them to work too hard to get the info they need. Make sure the service meets the mail. If a mail piece is successful, it’ll be up to the dealership to ensure the customer has a great experience and wants to return. Once a customer walks into the service drive, the advisor takes the reins. They must cater to the customer and make them feel welcome. If it is their first time in the dealership, the advisor should take the time to show the amenities, offer them a beverage, and show them where the restrooms are. Be sure your dealership is providing five-star service. While the mailer gets them through the door, it is up to the service team to clinch the return visits. Conclusion Automotive dealerships should recognize direct mail’s effectiveness when working to attract sales customers, but this form of marketing can also produce a nice return on investment for dealership service departments. While direct mail campaigns may not be the top dog in marketing trends, they are still a marketing strategy dealerships should use to sell more cars and change more oil. Visit TVI MarketPro3 for more expert advice on dealership direct mail.
Customer Retention in the Automotive Industry
Customer acquisition and customer retention are both measurements of success for all businesses, particularly the automotive industry. Dealerships have two main customer bases: sales customers and service customers. We'll take a look at how a dealership earns and keeps customers and the role each department plays in accomplishing overall retention. Customer Retention in the Service Department One of the primary roles of the service department is to keep a customer interacting with the dealership. From the time they purchase a vehicle until it is time for them to buy another car, the customer's experience will determine whether or not they return. Based on those interactions over a two to five-year period, the dealer hopes the customer will return to purchase another vehicle. Customer Retention or Customer Acquisition: Which is More Important? In reality, both retention and acquisition are imperative for a dealer to continue growing a customer base. You have to keep or retain the existing customers you have, but you also have to go out and acquire new customers for your store. If you have to pick, retention takes priority over acquisition. If you are not retaining your customers over some time, your overall customer base is going to decrease. It will then be a challenge to produce enough revenue to pay the bills. Therefore, retention usually has the edge. However, there needs to be a balance between retention and acquisition for a dealer’s overall performance. Is It Different for the Sales Department? The existing dealership customer base is the very best prospect file for selling vehicles. Most dealerships have processes to sift through their existing customer base. They reach out to see if these customers are in the market for a new car. However, the acquisition is also important because the sales department's job is to get new customers into the store. An acquired customer moves into the market and buys a car from you. The processes in place should reflect the service department keeping them happy for the next few years, so the customer returns to purchase another vehicle. Ensure the Customer Returns The number one customer retention strategy is for the customer to have an excellent experience from every level. From the greeting on the sales floor to the sales and financing process, the customer experience is the key to getting them back. They must also have a good experience in the service department for a dealership to stay top of mind when they're ready to purchase a new car. Pricing is not the issue in most cases. It is more about the experience and how easy it is to do business with the dealership. It must take little effort to schedule an appointment and be convenient to get the vehicle in. The estimation must be transparent, and the wait as short as possible. Customer communication is key throughout the process, as it reduces stress and increases trust. The number two way to ensure customers return is to have a consistent presence in front of the customers. They get bombarded by marketing from independent repair shops, independent franchise chains, and other dealerships. All of these entities are marketing to the same people. Brand and customer loyalty today is not like it was 20 years ago. People typically will jump from one make to another, so you must use marketing strategies to keep your dealership’s name and available services in front of the customer. The Automotive Customer Retention Struggle Most dealerships that struggle with customer retention lack the ease and convenience when getting a vehicle in for service. Kurt Hankey, Director of Maintenance at TVI MarketPro3, says studies show that service taking too long is the number one complaint. It is also what he encounters when he talks to his clients. Customers are willing to pay more money for an oil change somewhere else because they can do it in 30 minutes, but it takes two hours for the dealership to do it. The number one thing dealers need to be working on is not price, but convenience and ease for the customer to get services done. Finding Success Successful dealers have a dedicated quick service department, and manufacturers are now promoting these solutions. When performing quick services, a tech may even uncover other repairs needed. Offering these services is not enough, as you must educate the customer about any recommended services. Social media and online advertising make it easier than ever before to get the word out. Another reason quick services are vital to a dealer is that vehicles today are much more reliable than ever before. Roughly 60% or more of all of the services performed at a service department are quick service-related. Heavy, complex repairs are becoming a much smaller percentage of the overall work. The balance between customer acquisition and customer retention should be a primary focus for dealerships, as both are vital to the success of the service department and the dealership as a whole.
Car Dealership Data Mining for the Service Department
Car dealerships have an overwhelming amount of data at their fingertips. Their dealership management systems (DMS) store data that answers many questions about their vehicle inventory, current deals, customer information, and credit reports. It’s so easy to access, and yet the thought of sifting through it can cause paralysis of the analysis. The sales department uses DMS programs to generate leads and manage car buyer information. But this data is an equally important tool for the service department as well. Data Mining Definition Through some well-planned and executed data mining, a service manager and its marketing team can learn a lot of important information about their customers. SAS.com defines data mining as the process of finding anomalies, patterns, and correlations within large data sets to predict outcomes. Using a broad range of techniques, you can use this information to increase revenues, cut costs, improve customer relationships, reduce risks, and more. For fixed ops, automotive data tells a different story than that of its sales counterpart. It answers multiple service customer questions if the data miner has a plan for extracting this data. This plan must address specific service customer questions that include their last visit and engine type. Dealers can also extract customer data from third-party sources such as Change of Address databases. Data Mining Tools A dealer may use a variety of data mining tools to merge and scrub this information. SAS Data Mining, Teradata, and R-Programming are just a few of these tools. Some systems are for expert data analysts, but other systems are for those who may not be as technically inclined. Data Provided Answers Once a user has the right tools in place for data mining, it’s all about asking the right questions: Who is the target service customer?What do they drive?Where do they live?When was their last service?What type of service are they currently needing? An example of the answers you might get once your data has been merged, filtered, and sorted is: Jane Doe drives a 2007 Toyota Sienna. She moved and is now closer to your dealership. Action Based on Data A dealership service department uses this valuable data to send personalized and relevant service offers that bring customers through the door: In January, the dealership will send Jane Doe an offer for an oil change. The details of the offer should be specific to her Toyota, Sienna's oil change requirements. Conclusion By sending the coupon offer a month ahead of time, the dealership has now positioned itself to be top of mind for Jane before she even considers an oil change. This targeted marketing intercepts customers before they can make their next car service decisions. But it requires a company to have a reliable system for accurate and efficient data mining. Learn how TVI MarketPro3's unique data mining processes are helping dealers grow their repair orders.
Car Dealer Service Marketing Strategies
Marketing for the automotive service department is a must if you expect your dealership’s fixed ops to have an impact on the bottom line. Dealership leaders must implement strong marketing campaigns using traditional and digital marketing methods to attract the right customers. Traditional marketing in the automotive industry Traditional marketing doesn’t mean obsolete. Dealers are still using many of these methods today. Traditional methods include print advertising, phone marketing, and radio/television ads. Print Print marketing platforms like local newspaper and magazine ads are still used by dealerships, even though many of these publications have moved to online distribution. Direct mail has also been a long-standing option for dealers. With direct mail, a dealer can target a specific audience at a specific time. Phone Telemarketing is a traditional method that isn’t as popular as it once was due to more restrictions and the National Do Not Call Registry. Caller ID and mobile devices allow people to avoid these calls, making this form of marketing less effective. Many people feel calling potential customers is an intimidating task. But, when used appropriately, it is a powerful tool for dealerships to attract new business and retain the customers they already have. Calls to current customers can be in the form of follow-up service or friendly reminders. Radio & Television These two traditional marketing platforms are still very much alive even if the audience isn’t as focused anymore. However, radio and television advertising is geared toward sales rather than service. These platforms cover huge areas that include customers that wouldn’t make the drive across town to have their car serviced. So, it isn’t practical to utilize these methods to market for the service department. Marketing with Digital Tools Digital marketing has taken the lead in how the automotive industry reaches customers. It allows the service department to reach a specific audience with a customized message. Email marketing Dealers can make an impact with email marketing. Email marketing is a direct tool, but it has to be well-executed for it to be effective. Everything from the right subject line to an easy-to-understand email body to an enticing call to action must be in place to keep your email from hitting the trash or spam folders. Social Media Engaging your audience with social media is an effective way to build trust with your community, but you can also place ads that reach a target audience. Facebook ads allow you to set a specific budget for a certain period. These ads reach the audience you select by age, gender, and location. Website Dealer websites are powerful tools. They do much of the work for the dealer, but they must be found with ease by potential customers. The dealership website designs must be easy on the eyes yet still answer common questions for the user. The website should have good search engine optimization (SEO) to find it when browsing. Know your customer Whether marketing for car sales or service, a car dealership must know its customers. Service customers are very different from car buyers who are in the market for a new car. Recognizing these differences allows for better communication and better offers for each of these customers. Car buyers are typically looking for a specific vehicle type and are generally excited about their next purchase. You get to add to this excitement with a great offer through effective advertising. For example, someone in the market for a new truck will scour the internet or even the local newspaper for dealership discounts on trucks. Expensive repairs are stressful and certainly not as exciting as a new car, so service customers are looking for good reviews, fair pricing, and efficient technicians. Today, online reviews are a version of word-of-mouth referrals. Having your car serviced or repaired is a need rather than a want. When marketing to these customers, remind them of that need and then follow up by letting them know your auto dealer is the best option for them to fill that need. Word of mouth only happens if the experience is superb. Most of the time, satisfied customers will market for you because you made their maintenance or repair such a smooth transaction. However, sometimes these customers need to be reminded to share the good news. Follow-up calls are a great way to get feedback from a customer, show you care about their experience and encourage them to refer a friend or write a review. Conclusion Auto dealerships are always working to find the most effective way to reach new and current customers. A detailed automotive marketing strategy is the first step to drawing in these customers. Once you get them through the door, you must provide an experience that will keep them coming back and inspire them to give you a shoutout to their friends and followers. Learn more about dealership marketing solutions at TVI MarketPro3.
Email Marketing for Car Dealerships
Over the past decade, digital marketing has changed how businesses reach their customers. Email marketing has taken center stage and is not going anywhere anytime soon. Car dealerships must utilize this valuable tool effectively and consistently to grow their business. What is email marketing? Email marketing is the process of sending an email to communicate a message and call a customer to action. It has become the fastest-growing marketing method in the past decade. Many online email marketing platforms provide contact management and email templates to make email marketing easy to implement. Constant Contact, Mailchimp, and HubSpot are just a few of the many options to choose from regarding online email marketing software. Be sure you know what features you are looking for when deciding which email management system is best for your business. Types of Email Marketing Campaigns There are multitudes of email campaigns a business can implement. Most commonly, email communicates promotions or special offers,but it is imperative to provide your customers with valuable or interesting content outside of promotional material to keep them from unsubscribing. Dealerships should consider a campaign that educates the customer on maintenance intervals. There is also seasonal maintenance needed in specific climates or regions that customers need to know. These types of emails provide value to your audience and will encourage them to open future emails. A dealer service department can also create campaigns to introduce their contacts to their highly trained technicians developing familiarity and building trust. Using a wide variety of emails that do not always ask for something keeps the customer engaged with your brand and keeps your business top-of-mind when your customer requires the services you offer. Dealership email marketing in practice Writing impactful emails starts with considering who is receiving the email. Segmenting email addresses into specific and defined lists ensures your message will hit the right target. You can have active customer lists, inactive customer lists, and lists for lost customers. The message you send to one list should differ from the message you send to another. A good email marketing plan will focus on frequency. An auto dealer service department could send between one to two promotional emails per month. We must realize that the service department functions differently from sales, and its marketing should reflect that. Car service is not necessarily needed two to three times per month. But you are sending emails this often to ensure your name stays in front of all potential customer bases. You are also growing positive customer relationships through email communications. However, when and how often to send emails is a calculated process. You do not want to overwhelm your consumer. You only want to send one email per day. Ideally, two or three emails per month are sufficient, but this will sometimes change depending on the dealer’s specific needs. Plan well ahead to schedule messages or offers throughout the month, or even create a quarterly, biannual, or annual schedule for some of your campaigns. This plan will also cover what content to include in each email. Email structure While email marketing is cost-effective, you must utilize your email real estate wisely. Plan and make sure you have a clear and concise message. There is a fine line between putting too much or too little information within an email. When a customer receives an email with too much info, it often intimidates and feels more like work. However, too little information can leave them frustrated with lots of questions. Getting people to open an email is half the battle. The subject line will have a significant impact on your email open rate. Be sure the subject encourages your recipients to click on the email. Once the email is open, remember that you only have a few seconds to get the point across. Short, clear sentences with a conversational tone make it easier for the reader to follow. And be sure to include a call to action that encourages high click-through rates. The layout of your email must be easily viewable on a PC as well as any mobile device. Preview the email in both these modes before sending it. Meeting goals for automotive email marketing Email marketing keeps your name in front of your customers. Your brand and messaging become familiar as your audience receives consistent, high-quality emails over time. Go to TVI MarketPro3 for more automotive marketing resources.
Benefits of Automotive Marketing Services
You dabbled in Facebook, you’ve mailed out special offers to a few zip codes, and you may have even struggled to come up with the right words for an email you’d like to send to your customers. Even if you are savvy with these marketing tools, you are busy running a car dealership or at least a department within the dealership. You have a million other challenges to meet, so why not entrust your marketing to a team that markets for a living? Why not an agency that can do it all? Marketing agencies are abundant, so it can be overwhelming to discern the marketing company that best fits your needs within the automotive industry. However, once you find the right marketing partner, you’ll wish you had made this move sooner. How do you find the right marketing solutions? The automotive business has a unique voice and specific needs. Full-service agencies are potentially the jack of all marketing trades. However, they may not capture the true essence of the automotive industry. Entrust your business to an automotive marketing service provider Automotive-specific marketing agencies understand the industry, and companies like TVI MarketPro3 have team members who have a vast amount of experience as automotive leaders. This deep understanding of the business and its customers makes these niche marketing companies highly attractive to dealerships. Automotive marketing strategies are based on two different areas of the dealerships and mostly two main customer types. Dealers want to reach car buyers and car service customers. A full-service marketing company may not fully understand this. They may put efforts into the obvious car sales and completely underestimate the value of each service customer. Understanding Customer Types You must have a team of marketers that understands and appreciates both departments and their prospective customer types. The team should also reach customer subtypes such as new car customers, used car customers, and lease customers. In the service department, there is also the current, lost, and conquest customer. Marketers should define and target these customers within all marketing efforts. Regardless if an agency utilizes digital marketing and social media or direct mail and other print marketing, reaching the right customer at the right time and with the right message is imperative to increase a dealer’s customer base. The right research to find the right customers Ensure the agency you select does an adequate amount of industry research. The research should leverage the data extracted from dealer management systems as well as external customer data sources. Look for customers in the market for a new vehicle or who are due for a car service. Who purchased a vehicle at your dealership and didn’t return for service? These are the customers a good marketing team will find and engage. Business leaders often have a hard time letting go and entrusting their business to an outside company. But the right company will save them stress and time, and hopefully, give them a great return on investment.
Automotive Servicing Research for Dealerships
The automotive industry is a force in the United States economy. According to Select USA, in 2018, the U.S. reached 17.2 million units for light vehicle sales. We see this in automotive marketing through radio and television commercials, direct mail, and online advertising. Car dealers put an enormous effort into researching their market for vehicle sales. But what about dealership service department research? This sector of the auto industry is just as important as the sales sector. And marketing research for service departments needs just as much of a focused approach as sales. The good news is, you should research the same way across the automotive market, but research for vehicle servicing will reveal a market that is unique within the industry. Research Capabilities Not every dealer has the same capabilities when it comes to hiring a research team. Some service managers might be left to their own devices when learning more about their specific market. A service manager must still perform the research even without an optimal approach. The more you know about your market, the more the fixed operations of a dealership succeed. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind as you determine what research methods you would like to pursue. Apply General Marketing Principles A dealer should follow the same strategies used for car sales when researching the automotive service market. In other words, the questions are the same, but the answers may be different. Constant and Consistent Research Research is not a one-and-done type project. Industry trends have ebbs and flow throughout the year, so researching one or two times per year will only give you a small peek of the big picture. To retrieve usable data, you must employ a consistent data collection system, organization, and analysis. Set Research Goals Before you begin your research, you must have a clearly defined objective or target. What question or questions are you trying to answer. These objectives should guide you in your research and help you better understand your market. Source Cross-checking We have an abundance of information at our fingertips. Be sure to confirm your findings with multiple reliable sources. Government agencies like the census are a great place to start, but this may not always be the most up-to-date and reliable data. The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) is chock-full of market reports and other great information. A Perfect Blend of Research Many researchers stick with the numbers by performing primarily quantitative research. While this black and white information gives us clear, measurable answers, it is not the only data we should consider. Human emotion has a powerful influence we must fully explore to understand the market. While quantitative research tells us the what, customer experience questionnaires and other satisfaction surveys help us better understand the why. Collective customer service experiences from past maintenance and repairs can give a lot of clues to certain behaviors. Factors in the community also impact customer behavior, but the magnitude of this impact is only revealed by reaching out to the customer. A Crystal Clear Report What good is the information if it is overwhelming and difficult to decipher? Once your data is collected, you must compile it into a report that is easy to understand for the entire team, not just your number crunchers. The market report includes the market size and potential customer type. You can review customer buying habits and how much they are willing to pay for certain services. Do not forget to research your competition and their struggles and achievements. Research-based Plan of Attack Research for the sake of doing research is not a viable strategy. The idea behind it is to use the information to help move the ball down the field. So you must develop a plan of action based on the information you collect. This plan can include who receives offers, how your procedures will change for a service visit, or how to streamline your fixed ops business. An Informal Approach If you do not have the means to employ a research team, you still need to work to learn as much about the market as possible. You can start by looking within the industry itself. A service manager can learn a lot by reaching out to other service managers in their same group. Dealers Groups & Forums Dealers participate in conferences such as a 20 group meeting. Here dealers from different, non-competing markets discuss what works and does not work in their market. They share with their peers the practices that are beneficial to their business. You can also search for online forums to engage with other like-minded service managers. Groups such as Fixed Ops Mastermind offer Facebook and online forums where an industry professional community interacts and provides information to the group. The information provided in these forums can be invaluable for service managers working to understand the market. Look for common themes in these online conversations instead of accepting the opinion of one individual. Also, take into consideration that not everyone in the forum is in your same market. Trends will vary from market to market, so you need to filter out information that does not apply to your specific market. Lean on Your Manufacturer The manufacturer also provides research tools to the dealership and can often recommend a couple of outside tools to use. Dealership management systems have a plethora of information on customers. Through this system, you can research customers that purchased a vehicle from your dealership but have never utilized your services. You can also see those customers that have not used your services in a certain time period. You are always looking to add service customers to your business. However, you want to be sure you’re paying attention to retention as well. Adding new customers will not help the bottom line if you are continuously losing customers. If you are left to perform informal research, remember to seek out the successful professionals around you. You’ll need to ask each of these individuals the same five to ten questions. While this may not provide you with a lot of data, you will be able to see the common themes in their answers. Lean on the successful leaders around you to keep from wasting marketing money, time, or effort. Conclusion Whether you take a formal approach to market research or a more relaxed approach, you must perform some method of educating yourself about your market. The more you know about the customers in your area and their behaviors, the better equipped you will be to provide excellent customer service. See how the TVI MarketPro3 marketing strategies are helping dealers all over the U.S.
Automotive Service and Sales Marketing
A car dealership should be working to attract two different customer types; sales customers and service customers. In doing so, it should take a well-balanced approach to the customer research, messaging, and platforms used. And the dealership marketing team must address the unique challenges on its hands if it wants to drive traffic for both sales and service. Challenges dealerships face when creating a marketing strategy for sales and service. There are a lot of factors that sales and service departments take into consideration when assessing which automotive marketing strategies to implement. For sales, inventory in both new and pre-owned impacts the promotions offered as well as the urgency to move cars off the lot. The time of the month is also a factor taken into consideration. This will affect the messaging of both print ads and social media campaigns. In the service department, the facility capability is one of these areas. In a newer facility, the service manager is looking to grow at all costs and by whatever means. The marketing strategy should accommodate these goals and processes. An established dealership’s service department might be bursting at the seams with business, but has limited space and ability to grow. This dealership probably should have a more retention-oriented marketing strategy. When a service department is creating a marketing strategy, it must have synergy with the dealership's goals. And these goals can change from year to year or even within the same year. A dealership needs a marketing vendor or a strategy that can be fluid and change as the dealership's situation changes. There are other areas to overcome for both sales and service including staffing, turnover, and reputation issues. Communication of these areas should also be part of the marketing strategy. Effective strategies dealerships should implement The strategy effectiveness has a lot to do with setting expectations and goals to make sure the strategies match them. Marketing methods for both sales and service should focus on acquisition (AKA conquest) and retention. And dealerships must use multiple channels to market. Some of these channels have not changed in 50-70 years. There are still dealerships out there that have lots of success in marketing with traditional media buys such as radio or television ads. There’s also still a lot of success in print, whether it be local newsletters or newspapers. But direct mail and printed materials should be as targeted as possible. Emails and social media are very successful tools as well. People are always on their phones checking emails and checking social media. Multiple platforms use pay-per-click (PPC) like social media and search engines. Make efforts to ensure your dealership’s online presence is search engine optimized (SEO), so you show up at the top of the first search engine results page (SERP). Marketing research differences between sales and service There are many different aspects to marketing efforts that go into vehicle sales versus vehicle service. The way data is mined and used is a lot different for each of these departments. For example, sales departments focus on the customer life cycles to see whether they are in an expiring lease or an equity position. In many cases, the amount of available data for service customer driving habits does not exist. However, we do know that customers who own older vehicles need oil changes more frequently than those who have newer vehicles. You also have cars on the road today with big engines and large amounts of oil in them that only need an oil change every year or even 18 months. Regular maintenance intervals vary. Being aware of these factors should drive the way you target, filter, and clean up data in fixed ops versus sales. Conclusion While the messaging and discounting should all be consistent from one channel and platform to the next, the way you target customers and clean up data is very different. Ensuring both these areas are considered when creating your marketing master plan will help dealerships get more sales customers on the lot and more service customers in the service drive. Visit TVI MarketPro3 for more marketing solutions.
5 Automotive Service Department KPIs
Service managers have an enormous responsibility not only for the success of the service department but the success of the entire dealership. National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) sums up the service manager’s responsibilities as running an “efficient and profitable service department” through several key areas that include staffing, retaining customers, and controlling costs. As leaders in the dealership, the service managers set goals and objectives for the department and continually strive to meet them. These department goals are derived from key performance indicators (KPIs). The most widely used KPIs for the automotive service industry Each service department has a way of measuring success, but five main KPIs are common across the industry. These include effective labor rate, hours sold per repair order, gross profit, client satisfaction & retention, and fixed coverage. A Service Manager must understand these metrics and how they impact the service department and the overall dealership. Effective Labor Rate Effective labor rate is a calculation that reveals the revenue produced per billed hour. To calculate the effective labor rate, divide total labor sales by total labor hours billed. Your effective labor rate is directly proportionate to revenue. Service managers must calculate their facility’s effective labor rate regularly and determine what improvements are needed. Hours Sold Per Repair Order Time is the product of the service department. Hours Sold Per Repair Order (RO) measures how well the service department makes the most of each opportunity. Like Effective Labor Rate, this KPI is also directly proportionate to revenue. Not only is this metric a good indicator of service department profitability, but by capitalizing on each RO, a service manager can be sure there is enough work for each technician. While profit is a prime motivator, seeing that each team member can put food on the table should be just as important to all service leaders. NADA recommends analyzing optimally 100 repair orders per service advisor each month to establish a game plan for improvements. Minimizing one-item ROs increases your hours per RO. Gross Profit Percent Gross Profit in a service department is the labor sales revenue for a RO minus what is paid out to the technician to do the job. For example, if a repair brings in $200 in labor revenue and the tech is paid $60 to do the job, the Gross Profit is $140. Divide $140 by $200 to get your Gross Profit Percentage which is 70% in this example. Gross Profit Percent is the percentage of revenue that is turned into gross profit. A Service Manager must handle the work distribution with efficiency and match the work required for the ROs to the technicians’ skill levels. A gross profit percentage benchmark in the service department is 76%. Client Satisfaction and Retention Keeping customers happy keeps them coming back, and returning customers is required for a service drive to prosper. Each OEM measures retention differently, and some incentivize dealerships to meet retention goals. Retention might be one of the more difficult areas to manage as it comes down to the people. A Service Manager must have systems in place that provide consistency from one team member to the next. Everyone should be on the same page in all areas of customer service. Answering the phone, communicating with the customer throughout the repair process, and providing quality work are all areas that must be ingrained into each team member to encourage customers to return for service. Fixed Coverage Fixed coverage is the ability of fixed operations (service and parts, and body shop if you have one) to cover the entire dealership adjusted overhead expense. The Service and Parts departments are considered the “fixed” sources of income (fixed operations) for a dealership. The more of the above KPIs achieved, the more likely your service drive is to meet 100% Fixed Coverage as it is a direct effect of each of these metrics. How do we use this information in making marketing strategy decisions? TVI MarketPro3 agent and longtime fixed operations leader, Nick Shaffer, says “it all comes back to understanding what the dealer objectives are.” Shaffer says marketers need to know on which of these KPIs to focus. Let us take, for example, a dealer that does a fabulous job with effective labor rate, hours per repair order, and shop efficiency but is down on RO volume and needs to increase the customer pay repair order count. Shaffer recommends a vastly different strategy for this dealer from a dealer that is at capacity and only wanting to bring in very fruitful cars. These dealerships might be able to handle only one more car per day, so they want to make sure that car is likely to be a high-dollar ticket. “This strategy is going to look different from a dealer that wants to drive volume,” Shaffer says. Conclusion: Understanding the dealer objectives and reverse-engineering the marketing strategy around driving these KPIs is the best and most effective way to reach service department success. Communicate these objectives and the expected processes to every team member who will impact achieving these goals. Without setting these specific goals and measurements in front of your team, you will have individuals creating their own missions that may or may not align with the dealership goals leading the dealership to miss the KPI mark. Shaffer emphasizes that “if the team is not involved in the discussion when objectives are discussed, processes are outlined, and expectations are set, then the team will not be committed to executing the defined process in pursuit of the objectives. Without involving them along the way, they will feel like this is happening to them instead of with them.” Not only do you need to be clear about how you measure performance, but you need to review these KPIs with the team on a regularly scheduled basis. Posting a KPI scoreboard where every associate can see it is a powerful tool. Keeping these numbers in front of the team will motivate them to continue meeting these KPIs throughout the year. Visit TVI MarketPro3 for more automotive service industry resources
Automotive Service Customer Retention for Dealerships
Importance of Dealership Service Customer Retention In 2021, dealerships have developed a renewed focus on retention efforts in both the sales and service departments. Manufacturers today have replaced the Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) surveys with a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) of retention. Retention is now the more utilized measurement of how a dealership is performing. The more customers return to a dealership for repeat business, the greater their lifetime value. Therefore, a single customer becomes a more profitable venture for a dealership. It is also important to mention that a customer who returns for multiple service visits throughout owning a vehicle is much more likely to purchase their next car from that dealership. Identifying the Customer First of all, a dealership must identify its customers before determining which marketing strategies to implement. Active, inactive, and lost are the terminologies or phrases TVI MarketPro3 uses to segment and target a dealership's customers. "Active" is a common term across the industry, and it refers to a customer who frequents a dealership for service over zero to twelve months. Inactive customers fall into a 13 to 24-month window, focusing primarily on the second year. These customers have not returned to do business with the dealership within these months. The lost customer segment for TVI MarketPro3 would be those who fall in a twenty-five to a forty-two-month window of inactivity. These are customers who, for multiple reasons, stopped utilizing a dealership's services. While the terminology differs among manufacturers, marketing vendors, and other consulting companies, you will find a variety of terms used to indicate this period of inactivity. Defining periods of inactivity allows retention strategies to focus on keeping active customers. How to Measure Customer Retention in the Automotive Industry Measurement of customer retention is dealership-specific. TVI MarketPro3 uses a straightforward method to quantify retention. The goal is to determine the number of active customers a dealership has and then break them down by visits per year. Some manufacturers, however, look at pay types or the number of visits. For example, manufacturer A may look at the number of customer pay visits and require two over a 12-month window. Manufacturer B may look at a sales-to-service retention calculation. From the date of a sale or certified used sale vehicle, how many customers came in within 12 months? How many came in from 13 to 18 months, or how many came in from 19-plus months? There is no right or wrong answer regarding how to calculate retention. But a dealership must have a way to label customers based on activity. How Dealers Can Use Marketing to Retain Service Customers Identifying customer activity and action trends is a primary strategy influencing customer retention. When there is a specific period with a significant drop-off in customers, a dealership must strategize accordingly. The marketing should target those customers with a significant discount or an aggressive offer from a price standpoint. This offer should also be time-sensitive to help attract customers and allow a service team to earn the required number of responses or visits each year. How a Service Team Can Complement Retention Marketing Efforts Getting a customer through the door is the first step of customer retention. What a customer experiences after that is key to whether or not they will return. Service teams should complement the marketing efforts and focus on giving the "wow" experience. Frontline workers, advisers, and greeters at the dealership should all welcome the customer with open arms. Treat them as guests, and show them around the facility. Create an open and transparent line of communication. These efforts make for an outstanding experience, a powerful tool for improving customer loyalty. Refrain from overselling them for every single service due. By becoming more of an informant and educating them on their vehicle, you are more likely to gain their trust. Therefore, educate the customer on the recommended service and why it is in their best interest rather than making it a sales pitch. A service typically sells itself when a customer understands its purpose. Conclusion Customer loyalty is never just dependent on one area of a dealership. Instead, the sales, service and marketing teams can be a powerful force to influence returning customers. Advisors and service advisors can use these retention strategies to encourage repeat visits for years to come. Visit TVI MarketPro3 for More Resources
Automotive Service Ads to Increase your RO
Business owners are always looking for ways to market to both existing customers and potential customers. Dealership parts and service departments and even the body shop are no different. Although the departments are all part of a larger entity, they must get the marketing attention necessary to maintain overall dealership retention. A marketing plan geared to these service customers creates a presence in their space. It keeps them aware that you are there to take care of their service needs. After all, if you're not making them aware of your services, somebody else will certainly be making them aware of theirs. Your target customers get loads of marketing from other dealerships, repair shops, and quick lubes. So it is critical to run ads specifically for the dealership's service department that reach the right customers. Platforms for running ads Radio, television, and other traditional marketing channels are still effective mediums for auto repair shops, but these often fall on a widespread audience. Be as targeted with your marketing strategy as possible. Some more targeted marketing ideas to explore would be social media and pay-per-click ads (PPC). Both of these tools increase search engine optimization and lead generation. There is traditional direct mail for auto service. But this can still land on an unspecified set of customers. However, TVI MarketPro3 uses what we call intelligent mail. Intelligent mail is heavily reliant on segmentation. Unlike mass mail, we do cyclic targeted marketing for the service departments and the industry in general. Other advertising ideas to consider for auto repair marketing are texting and emailing. Both have a direct customer reach, but an intentional, targeted approach in these efforts will always be more effective in reaching potential customers. How often should ads be run or mailed Plan out your auto shop marketing annually, biannually, quarterly, and monthly to be consistent. Many aftermarket shop owners do seasonal mailers and email campaigns. Dealerships often do these every quarter, and incidental campaigns such as grand openings are run intermittently throughout the year. TVI MarketPro3 uses segmentation to follow the customer life cycle and strives to deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time. Dealerships typically do the campaigns every single month. They just hit a different target audience with each monthly campaign. This approach is more cost-effective as you know your ad is landing in the hands of a specific person. Service ads that entice Recurring maintenance reminders of oil changes and tire rotations are a great way to captivate an audience. These services are necessities, so getting yourself in front of the customer before the service is due is a great time to present related offers. Seasonal value-added offers grab the attention. Heading into winter? Place or mail an ad to remind people you sell wiper blades and make sure their washer systems are up to date. Perhaps add a tire check, so the customer feels confident they are in good shape. To any of the above offers, consider adding a special for additional services. An example of this is an offer for 25% off any repair service you do the same day you come in. When a customer comes in and needs additional work, the service advisor can apply the coupon; a very appealing offer to customers. Consider distributing a convenience offer. Offer a free loaner car for a repair over a defined price limit if completed on the same day of arrival. The customer is much more likely to take you up on the repair if they can go about their day. Every dealer should be marketing recalls to their customers. These ads inform the customer of the needed recall and let them know you are ready and able to take care of the problem. Conclusion If you're hoping your dealership's sales department will be enough to grow your repair order count, you're likely making a grave mistake. Customers need to be reminded of your service department consistently if you want them to consider you for their vehicle service needs. Be sure your fixed ops advertisement is created to meet your RO goals.
Automotive Repair Order Best Practices
Service teams use auto repair order forms or work orders for every vehicle that pulls into their service drive. This form directs each team member through all repair work processes. Therefore, service teams must use these standard business forms to their fullest capabilities to be as efficient and effective as possible. Digital or Paper? TVI MarketPro3's Kurt Hankey says that automotive service departments use both digital and paper repair orders. "I would say the majority of stores still generate a paper invoice or a paper repair order. But in the shop, the technicians and the advisors, for example, may be operating only on the digital version of it. There are very few shops that do a digital-only, but some do," says Kurt. Develop a Standardized Process Whether the repair order is paper or digital, service department leaders must develop a standardized process for handling repair orders. Everything - including intake procedures, documentation, repair tracking, and customer communication - must be performed consistently from one team member to another and from one customer to another. Accuracy is Key Though repair orders are standard, it is critical to remember that they are legal documents between the dealership and the customer. They are also legally binding between the dealership and the manufacturer. Kurt stresses that all team members must initiate and finalize repair orders consistently. Document all repairs and services performed on the vehicle, including details such as parts used, labor hours, and any special instructions. The repair order is "one of the single most important documents for a service department," says Kurt. Service advisors must make sure all notations and all timestamps are accurate. The manufacturer also uses this document and will periodically ask to see repair order records. In doing so, they will access the actual repair order, not the invoice. Repair Orders Allow for Effective Communication Service advisors should establish clear lines of communication with the customer throughout the repair process. In doing so, they should provide regular updates on the status of the repair and any changes to the original estimate. The customer should receive an invoice reflecting all the same information that was on the repair order with all of the corrections and services that were performed, as well as pricing. Turn to Technology Technology helps streamline the repair order process, and digital systems are recommended for intake, tracking, and invoicing. After the repairs are complete and the order is closed, all applicable information is saved, which becomes part of a vehicle's history. The history provided by closed repair orders will generate timelines by the date of service. The dates tell the service manager when it’s time to remind a customer of upcoming services. Make sure your staff is trained on the repair order process, including the use of technology and customer service skills. It can be tempting to assume a system is self-explanatory, but this can be a costly mistake. Keep the Information Up-to-Date Busy service drives can make it challenging for service advisors to catch all the details, but one area that shouldn't be overlooked is the verification of customer data. Every time customers arrive, advisors must double-check their personal contact information and vehicle information. Questions that should be answered are: * Do we have the right phone number?* Do we have the current direct mailing address?* Do we have the customer’s current, valid email address?* Which vehicle are we servicing, and have we serviced this vehicle before?* What’s the current mileage of the vehicle? Every time a car comes in, you must accurately record the current mileage in order to best serve the customer's specific vehicle needs. Errors in documentation can cause the creation of duplicate customer files on the same vehicle. Making detailed notes will also prevent miscommunication with your customers. Service advisors should keep records to specify the underlying cause of the problem. Thorough notes prevent discrepancies when explaining repairs to the customer. These mistakes can "create financial problems for the dealership," says Kurt, "so service departments need to be consistent and precise when executing a repair order." Attention to Details Finally, Kurt warns that dealerships should pay close attention to the physical filing of repair orders. The information on the computer screen is valid most of the time, but for legal reasons, "you've got to have access to the hard document" as well. An organized and structured system of filing these hard copies will make it easier to pull these documents should the need arise. Conclusion The repair order is one of the single most important documents for the service department. It touches every aspect of the customer's relationship with the dealership. The dealer protects itself from legal issues when it ensures these digital and paper documents are handled properly. It also creates a strong means of communication between the customer and the service team. A positive customer experience is the number one goal for any dealership. Therefore, an advisor should take the time to review proper procedures for these documents to make transactions smooth and seamless. Check out more service department business resources at TVI MarketPro3.
Automotive Marketing Solutions Dealers Should Consider
Automotive marketing solutions bombard the automotive industry challenging dealers to determine which of these many options is most effective. Dealerships can opt to handle all marketing in-house by hiring an individual marketer or a team of marketers. They may also utilize online marketing tools or employ a marketing company and outsource these tasks. Dealers also have two distinct sectors to promote: sales and parts and service. Each of these departments needs customized and independent marketing strategies that also meet the overall mission of the dealer. Tried and True Marketing Traditional marketing has proven to be successful over the decades, and many of these platforms continue to be strong tools in today’s high-tech world. Direct mail is still a popular and effective method of getting the word out. Service departments find this to be particularly true as it can extend offers to customers who need its services year-round. When executed properly, Direct mail is a targeted method that produces a positive ROI, but dealers must ensure their ads land in the right mailboxes rather than sending them out to their entire area. Sales departments benefit from casting a wide net for direct mail as people are willing to drive a distance to get the car of their dreams at the best price. Contrary to car buyers, people want convenience close to home or work for car repairs and maintenance. Dealers may be wasting money on their service department’s print advertisement and postage when mailing to an entire area or region. By collecting customer and vehicle data, a dealership can pinpoint exactly who will receive offers and when to send them. This ensures each mailpiece gets to customers who are the most likely to visit that dealership. Technology at its Finest Digital marketing can be just as targeted, but it must go beyond a social media post and a friendly monthly email. Dealers need these types of outreach, but they should enhance them with a thorough digital marketing plan. A dealer should create an annual master plan for all digital marketing. It should reflect email and social media frequency, intervals, and content. Marketers can insert additional emails to keep the interaction timely and relevant, but this master plan ensures a dealer has consistent digital marketing throughout the year. Social media and email marketing are not only about asking the customer for their patronage. It’s instead about engagement and interaction with the customers. It’s about providing compelling content and then extending enticing offers. You must be consistent if you’re seeking brand recognition and are looking to grow your following. Marketing Marathon All segments of the automotive industry are running the marketing marathon. But dealers can attract the right customers if they have great strategies and a great marketing team making all the right moves. Go to TVI MarketPro3 for more automotive marketing tips and information.
Automotive Marketing Reports for Service Managers
Reports may not be the most exciting part of marketing. In fact, they can be downright overwhelming to digest at times, especially if you're not a numbers person. However, reports are essential in many different areas of the automotive industry, but particularly when it comes to marketing. Rethink the way you view and utilize your marketing reports. It's like holding up a mirror to closely examine the results of your marketing efforts. The numbers reflect what is working, what needs tweaking, and what needs to be discarded altogether. A dealer must dissect the reports to get a better understanding of the information they provide and the purpose they serve. These reports will also help justify the marketing investments when reviewing business statements. There are several different reports that a dealership should be using to create effective marketing strategies. Below is an overview of the more impactful reports a service manager should expect to receive and review with the dealership's marketing partners. Activity Summary One report is called the activity summary. This summary reveals how much the dealer paid in marketing for a given month. And for that amount, it shows the overall customer reach for all areas of marketing. If a marketing company mails 3,000 direct mail pieces, it's imperative to know how many went to active customers, inactive customers, and recall customers. These reports should also reflect how many address changes are found in the DMS that need to be updated. Email reports should cover how many emails were sent and how many were opened. The reporting should also reflect the number of bounced emails, the number of emails unable to be delivered, and how many people unsubscribed from emails. If the email includes links, the reports should be able to track how many clicks there were in total for each link. Facebook is another very measurable marketing tool. When using Facebook for something like a recall check campaign, dealers will want to see a report on the number of recall contacts made and the number of responses received. The same is true with Facebook Ads. A dealer needs to know the ad spend as well as impressions, likes, and click-throughs received. Response Summary The second critical market report will be the number of responses received in a particular month. There may be a lag in reporting as customers may not come in until a month or so after receiving the advertisement. Therefore, remember when reviewing reports that a report reflects one to two prior months. These reports should be broken into segments of active, inactive, and lost customers. And the strategy for each of these customer types should be tweaked for the next month. For example, service managers and marketing teams may look at those lost customer offers and decide to change them for the next mailing to produce better results. Vehicle Mileage The service managers should know the mileage of a vehicle when it arrives, so they know roughly how much revenue a single car might bring in. Cars with 6,000 miles will probably be $80 tickets because they need a simple oil change or a tire rotation. But if the average number of miles on the vehicle is 40,000 to 50,000 miles, those are good opportunity tickets. The more miles that are on the car, the more services the advisor might recommend. So paying attention to these reports will better prepare a service manager for how to approach these customers with marketing. Revenue Generated A service manager should be reviewing the revenue generated from each repair order. When examining repair orders generated by a specific marketing campaign, they should break that down to see how much money the dealer received on those responses. Return on Investment (ROI) ROI should be a line item on the report. It shows what a dealer spent on marketing and the number of dollars generated. The return on investment might be reflected as something like eight to one or ten to one. Validation It is critical to validate and justify marketing decisions. You should not necessarily view marketing as an expense. It’s more like the stock market in that you put money into the program and get ten times the amount back. Is that an expense or a profit generator? The service manager needs to have this mentality when justifying their marketing decisions to their ownership. Very few marketing companies provide this, but a dealership should expect a validation report. If the data reveals 50 customers in a given month, the marketer should follow up with a detailed summary to describe each customer, including the repair order number, the date they visited, the vehicle mileage, the date of the previous visit, the customer status, and how much money they spent. The service manager doesn't need to just accept the marketing reports at face value. He or she can pick any of these customers and validate this information in their DMS. Subsequent Visits Subsequent visits are necessary to calculate your marketing ROI. They come to your store for the first time, and they then should be tracked for how often they return. The customer tracking should span about three years. This length of time will better reflect the actual value as a customer is more valuable than the first visit that lured them in. It is not about the $19.95 oil change where you lost $20. You may have lost $20 then, but you made $4,000 over a period of time. Market Trends Periodically, marketing agents should review the marketing trends compared with the market size and market share for the dealership. Is there an increasing number of responses each month, or are the campaign responses dropping off? Do adjustments need to be made? Studying these trends helps a dealership create future marketing campaign strategies. Conclusion There is a vast amount of reporting when marketing for dealership service departments. The leaders in a dealership must be well versed in these reports. Regular and consistent reviews of these reports will help hold your marketing partners accountable. It will also ensure your dealership gets the greatest return on its marketing investment. These reviews are easy to put on the back burner. But in reality, they should be guiding the way.
Automotive Industry Customer Segmentation Overview
Growing your business in any industry requires you to know your customer. You can examine many different areas to become more familiar with those who are likely to frequent your business. Most companies implement marketing campaigns to a target market based on a set of criteria or consumer segments. Shopify business defines customer segmentation as the process of dividing customers into groups based on common characteristics. Companies can then market to each group effectively. Your dealership may have 10,000 customers in its database. Segmentation identifies those customers and places them in different categories based on specific criteria. Many industries look at customer demographics like age, gender, marital status, location, and life stage. But a dealership can zoom out on its customer base and look at it from a broader scope. Segmentation can reflect a customer lifecycle in the dealership. Some main segments to pay attention to with the automotive client are active customers, inactive customers, lost customers, and conquest customers. Active Customers Active customers are customers that do business with the dealership regularly. Each manufacturer and each dealership may define an active customer differently. Some dealerships define an active customer as one who has been in the store once within six months. Other dealerships say it is once within 12 months. The parameters change, but it is still considered an active customer. Inactive Customers An inactive customer has extended their life cycle with the dealership. They no longer come in once a year. Auto Dealer Today Magazine wrote an article specifically about inactive customers. The article claims a customer becomes inactive between six and nine months. They point out that other dealers say this is a 12 month period, and some say it can be even longer. Lost Customers "Lost" customers are a segmentation that some manufacturers refer to as endangered or defectors. These are customers that have gone a certain period without visiting the store. Harvard Business Review claims these are great customers to target. They have demonstrated a need for the service, and they are familiar with the company. Conquest Customers Conquest customers are customers available in the dealer's market but have not yet been to the dealership. While customer retention is imperative to growth, getting these new customers through the door is also a part of the equation. Automotive Marketing Decisions Examining these main market segments is a jumping-off point when determining how best to market to these customers. But there are other questions to answer when targeting the automotive customer. What type of vehicle does the customer drive, and did the customer purchase the car from your dealership? Most studies reveal that marketing to a customer with customized incentives results in a more responsive customer. Segmentation can determine what message and what offers to send to any given customer based on their situation. You can decide what message you put on an offer according to what segmentations you take into consideration. Is it a 'welcome back,' or a 'thanks for coming to us for the first time?' Is it a loyal customer discount being offered, or would you like to send a 'miss you' type of message? Segmentation inevitably affects the pricing of those incentives. And it also allows us to determine how often and when to contact the customer. Where to find relevant segmentation data Dealership segmentation data typically comes from the dealership management system (DMS). A manufacturer will tell a dealer how to segment a customer. Segmentation is almost always based on vehicle type and visit history in the dealership. Some dealerships will override that and set their own segmentation, but all the data comes from their DMS. Marketing Budget Marketing must be cost-effective and provide a positive return on investment. Segmentation is a critical area to consider when looking at a dealer's marketing budget. Determine which segments a dealership already has a good response or ROI and which segments they are struggling to get in the door. Segmentation also allows a dealer and a marketing company to identify where they're weak. They can then put resources into those areas and make better use of their budget. When looking at segmentation, we have to understand which campaigns are working and which ones are not. We can then pay attention to the right area. Customer Experience A frequently overlooked benefit of customer segmentation is the ability to improve customer experience. By better defining and filtering your customers, you can ensure their experience is more customized to their needs and preferences. Some of your customers will take you up on mobile apps and free wifi. Others prefer the traditional paper approach. Some will trust you to pick up and drop off their vehicle, and others prefer to bring it themselves. Much of these preferences are unique to some segments of your customer base. So learning what these segments need and like will help you approach your customers accordingly. The Task is Worth It The task of extracting and cleaning your customer data is tedious. It takes a skilled data analyst to perform the job, so the information is as concise and accurate as possible. But the results are invaluable in targeting your marketing efforts. It will also ensure the customer has a five-star experience at your dealership. Visit TVI MarketPro3 to learn more about targeted marketing.
Conquest Marketing in the Automotive Industry
The automotive industry spends a lot of money on conquest advertising and conquest sales. Dealerships are always working to convince potential car buyers to buy from them rather than their competitors. The dealership service department must take the same approach, and the competition here is even greater than that of the car sales side of a dealership. While customer retention might be a better place to focus dealership resources, the never-ending task of customer conquest will always be a part of dealership marketing efforts for both the sales and service teams. A Service Conquest Campaign Those who frequent a dealership service department are more than twice as likely to purchase their next vehicle from that dealership. Therefore, focusing on customer conquest specifically for the service lane is imperative to a dealership’s customer base. How can you reach past the aftermarket service centers and grab the attention of a potential customer? Focus on competitive pricing within your dealership market, and ensure your dealership falls close to these offers. How can you make the auto repair experience pleasant as well as convenient? If you can reach this customer and present such benefits, there’s a good chance he or she will take you up on your offer. The Process of Conquest Marketing The first part of your marketing strategy must be to identify your target customer. Data mining using the dealership management system and other external databases can help filter out those exact customers who need a particular service at a specific time. It is a tedious process, but it creates a more effective campaign than casting a wide net and hoping it pulls in the right customer. Reach Target Customers Where They Are Once you’ve defined and located your target customers, you must reach them where they are through print and digital marketing campaigns. Send personalized custom offers to them via snail mail and email. Doing this at the right time, such as just before their next service is needed, will have them thinking of your dealership when it’s time to schedule that appointment. You must also find these customers on social media and engage on each platform according to its standards. Facebook engagement starts with sharing the service team’s story. Yes, it sounds silly. But if you look around, there’s always a story. The service manager just hit twenty years with the dealership, or the service lane just received new equipment that will help move vehicles through the line more efficiently. Instagram can have the same emotional pull, but you must present Instagram with more of a visual story. Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words. It’s a cliche for a reason, and Instagram exemplifies this. These stories on social media are what emotionally connect your target customers to your dealership service department, so don’t underestimate social media as a tool for customer conquest. Once you have their attention, you’ll be able to drop an offer in front of them that they’ll be more inclined to use since they now have a connection with your dealership. Conclusion Conquest marketing will always be a necessary part of the automotive service department marketing strategy. Therefore, this strategy must be analyzed and tweaked on an ongoing basis. This consistent approach helps to increase repair orders. This consistent approach helps to increase repair orders and dealership profitability. Visit TVI MarketPro3 for more automotive marketing information.
Automotive Conquest Marketing for Service Drives
A dealership service department plays a primary role in the overall success of a dealership. Therefore, the service manager and the marketing team must ensure their marketing strategies are effective. These strategies must be in line with their retention goals as well as attracting new customers. Conquest Marketing Definition Conquest marketing is a business strategy companies use to target customers who are not currently doing business with them. Ideally, these are customers who have NEVER done business with the dealership. The automotive industry also refers to it as prospecting. Prospecting is all about attracting new VINs, but there must be a strategic and well-executed plan for conquest marketing and conquest sales to be effective. Conquest marketing implementation There are several methods a dealership can use for conquest marketing, but one starts within the dealer system. Leveraging the Dealer Management System (DMS) data allows a marketing team to identify who from their customer base is active. They can also see the periods in which a customer has been inactive. Combining this with profiles can be great for targeting similar customers with conquest advertising. Again these are customers who have not done business in a region or assigned area for that dealership. Within TVI MarketPro3, we refer to this as the True Market. Earning service customers through conquest marketing When we asked customers why they have not done business with dealerships, there are typically two common answers. First, they had a bad experience with the dealership in the past. Secondly, there was a perception that the pricing was much higher than what the independent automotive service centers provide. A dealership needs a strategy that overcomes these two objections. Price transparency and customer reach are the first places a dealer should start. Typically a dealer would create a pricing or discounting strategy. However, it also needs to make sure it contacts the customer with the right message. Marketers achieve this by segmenting customers, whether it be diesel owners, hybrid owners, or synthetics versus conventional vehicles. Creating multiple marketing campaign levels with discounting is a strong strategy to attract new customers for dealerships. The message may be delivered to these customers through digital marketing, direct mail, or other platforms. How does this apply to the service manager? Service managers should view conquest marketing as a growth strategy. Attract new customers who live in the dealership market yet do not frequent the business. These customers are more than likely going to the local independent shops or maybe even an adjacent competitive dealership. Conquest marketing is a plan to attract these customers and show them the benefits and quality service their dealership can provide. They must also determine customer value and how they will attract and retain customers for future visits. A customer’s value is not only in the first service provided. The lifetime value of a customer is based on positive visits to the dealer’s service department. Ultimately, this increases car sales as well and improves the bottom line for the entire dealership. Visit TVI MarketPro3 for more resources
Automotive Attribution for Sales and Service Departments
Dealerships that want to sell more cars and increase their service repair orders must know where to attribute their marketing wins. This knowledge allows them to choose better marketing strategies in the future. Marketing attribution is the measurement of customer interaction based on a particular marketing campaign. If a service department has multiple marketing companies working for it, how can it validate which company brought which customer? Car repairing Measuring Attribution In Car Sales The sales departments cover a gamut of marketing avenues. They utilize radio, television, and in some markets, ads are still in newsprint for car sales. Many dealers also market with direct mail, email, and e-blasts for online shoppers. Dealerships can find it difficult with this variety to have precise attribution in the sales department. The sales department is a variable operation making it a challenge to forecast. The only data you can go by is past sales history. When they sell a vehicle, they cannot always know if the customer came in because they heard a radio ad, saw an ad on TV, or saw a sign when driving down the highway. None of that kind of stuff is documentable in the paper trail of that sales process. The most effective way to attribute marketing in the sales department is to send a direct mail offer and then require the return of that piece to get the offered discount. Attribution for the sales department is difficult to monitor at every level. Very few dealers have a reporting metric for the sales departments marketing initiatives. Measuring Attribution In Car Service Service departments also advertise on multiple platforms. They use, for example, Facebook ads, email, and mail. In most cases, service managers know who got their offer. They have repair orders to track every transaction and monitor customer interactions with the dealership service visits. In service, a specific ad targets a defined audience that requires customer response. The customer brings in or refers to the offer allowing the service department to drill it down to an offer campaign. You can also monitor which offer produces the most returns or responses. Differentiating attributions Many marketing companies do both sales and service marketing. They can tell the dealer they spent $5,000 a month for the past three months in service. So in total for a quarter they spent $15,000 in marketing. They had 200 customers come in, they spent an average of $300 per RO, so the dealer generated $60,000. That's a good return on investment! Sales and service marketing are viewed differently by dealers. Often, the same store that thinks $5,000 is a lot of money for the service department will budget 20 times more for the sales department. That's all your combined marketing services. But being able to determine where the sales marketing dollars succeeded is a challenge. Most general managers do know the difference. Sales marketing is like throwing a plate of spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. If the dealership does not understand that difference when you're marketing both sales and service for them, they could doubt the results. Measuring attribution TVI starts measuring marketing results immediately. Once the data feed is on from the DMS, we start collecting, measuring, and reporting the data. Each month we show dealers what happened in the previous month. We then look at a quarterly snapshot to get into the more relevant data. We follow this at six months, where we can observe if the trend is holding steady. Comparing Data Reports Datasets that marketing companies measure may not line up precisely to the datasets the dealer sees. The dealer may be combining records or data while their marketing partners like TVI get raw data from the DMS. It's crucial for somebody who relies on attribution to know how the dealer measures this. Go to TVI MarketPro3 to explore more automotive marketing trends and ideas.
Auto Dealership Website Design Tips
Car dealer website design can be a hard balance to strike. But along with social media, your website is one of your top forms of digital marketing. The main objective of a website is to convert. And conversion rates depend on a design focused on the user or the potential customer. Elements of a Strong Website Design Functionality is a priority when designing a website that should be distraction-free with easy-to-use navigation. Brand consistency is also important. Include the company’s typeface, brand identities such as color scheme, imagery, overall layout, and visual appearance. Less is more, so be sure there is enough breathing room between each element to prevent an overwhelming or frustrating experience for the user. You’ll want to make sure your website is relevant to the user if you wish to keep them clicking through your site instead of away from it. Users need to see the “what’s in it for me” message immediately, and the design elements should spotlight this message rather than overshadow it. User-Friendly Website Websites offer users a test drive of your dealership from the comfort of their device. The customer experience often begins here. Therefore, one of the most valuable elements of a good website is user-friendliness. You would not block your showroom entrance with a new car, yet so many do this with web design. Distracting elements should not be added to the site simply because they’re pretty. The colors and fonts that you choose for your site affect readability. Fonts too small are going to make it hard for the user to see. Colors too bright will distract from the message. Many people want to make their website unique, but you want to offer the customer a familiar experience. So keep it consistent with other websites. There are a few mainstays to web design. For example, underlined blue text is commonly considered a link. This text style should be clickable, or it may appear as though your site doesn’t function properly. Design Elements to Include Design elements for a car dealership website will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Luxury brands are likely going to keep their content to a minimum and instead be design-oriented. They want their websites to look as sleek as possible and focus on the brand itself rather than specific vehicle features. This style of design requires content to step back and let the pictures do most of the talking. Inversely, a mainstream manufacturer is going to focus more on features. These car dealerships should keep their design elements focused on the details of the car. Pricing is important, especially on budget cars. No matter the manufacturer a dealer represents, they should include media such as videos featuring their vehicles and their sales and service team. Balance Sales and Service Car sales and car services are very different. So how do you balance these two areas of your dealership on your website? You must differentiate these two areas of your business by segmenting your website. Then create an easy flow of calls to action for the user to navigate the site. Use spacing here to keep either of these parts from competing with the other. If you pack all of the information into one page, your customer will likely read very little of it. Getting to Service A homepage is a great place for marketing service departments. Use a simple ad on your homepage to entice the customer to click through to the service page. If a dealership wants equal focus on each of the sales and service departments, it can choose to split the homepage. Use this valuable landscape to send the message that a customer can purchase a vehicle from the dealership and that the same dealership can take care of future service needs. Conclusion After meeting all design elements, a dealership must ensure they have a responsive website that is easy to navigate no matter which device a user is on. A customer must be able to move from device to device and seamlessly know what to do. Go to TVI MarketPro3 for more pro tips for dealership service marketing.
Auto Dealer Marketing Video Tips
Digital marketing is a leading tool in efficiently and effectively reaching an online audience. These platforms give you many options for the content you want and how you might provide it. You can post text, images, memes, and GIFs to keep your followers engaged, but video content is one of the most powerful tools in a marketer's arsenal. Videos allow more messaging to be conveyed to potential car shoppers and service customers in a shorter time. While almost any business can benefit from video marketing, car dealerships have great visual appeal with shiny new cars and action-packed service drives. Types of Videos a Sales Department Should Create To entice car buyers, dealers should focus on the object of affection, which is the car itself. There is so much on a vehicle to feature in a video, leaving you with endless production content options. Car buyers are actively looking for sales events. The sales team can use video to announce the event using a handful of included vehicles as visuals. The sales managers can also use video to review the car buying process or to introduce the sales team. Types of Videos a Service Department Should Create It may not take a visual lead over the sales lot, but the service department should have a presence in automotive video marketing. The visuals here include nice, clean, state-of-the-art service drives and the beautiful lounge with its amenities. Service Directors can also use video to announce monthly service promotions like tire sales events. Video helps to build connections and trust between the customer and the service team. Introduce your customers to your techs through a feature video, or have a monthly video tip from the service advisor. Seeing the people behind the business creates positive customer feelings and increases the likelihood that customers will use your dealership for future services. Where to Post Your Videos Embed videos into dealership websites or emails as long as the load time is short. 20-30 seconds is a suitable video length, but you can also loop a shorter video to make it seem long without increasing load time. Post these videos across social media using video apps like TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Facebook and Twitter allow you to add a link to your video where others do not, so if you want the video to guide the customer to another page, these two platforms are solid options. Google owns YouTube, and using it to publish consistent and valuable videos can help your content be found more easily in search engines. However, YouTube links do not always play well when posted on other social media outlets, so consider uploading your video to each of these outlets individually to increase your organic reach. Part of your video marketing strategy should be to place video ads. Facebook's video ads can reach a highly targeted audience, and you always have the option to create a YouTube ad. No matter where you post it, video advertising is imperative to get the most out of your marketing budget. Video Posting Frequency Post videos as often as they're needed, depending on the message. For sales marketing, you want to post them weekly, as sales offers and promotions change frequently. Frequently update your website videos to ensure customers know who and what to expect. Conclusion More than anything, video marketing helps your dealership stay relevant and engaged. Customers will be more likely to think of you the next time service is needed if they recently came across your video while scrolling through social media or browsing the internet. Learn more about marketing for the automotive service department.
Automotive Industry Marketing Trends
Automotive industry marketing trends are ever-changing as automotive digital options become more and more available. The ability to shop for a vehicle online is easier now than ever before. Customers can also make service appointments online with more dealerships than they could prior to 2020. And the automotive sector is finding new and innovative ways to reach their customers where they are before they ever take a step into a dealership. Post 2020 Marketing Trends for Service Before 2020, so many of our TVI MarketPro3 dealer partners were marketing themselves with value propositions. We would do a market-based study to identify what a minor service costs in their market. And we would advertise these services with competitive pricing in the marketplace. We attempted to get customers to come back in for customer-pay work that proved to be a good value. In 2020, we found that customers have given less value to a good deal than their safety. So, we pivoted and helped the dealers promote themselves, not just with fair deals, but by prioritizing health and safety. We reminded customers that these are, in fact, necessary businesses. We promoted the fact that they are there to serve the automotive needs of the community. And we remind customers that dealerships are highly concerned with the safety of their staff and their clients. We review all of the things that the dealer is doing to make it a safe place to come to work and a safe place to do business. We never made that as high a priority in the past because we never dealt with a pandemic in modern automotive times. And right now, we feel that clients are just as motivated to do business with a place if they believe they are doing business with good people. They must also feel they are getting a fair price in the marketplace. A hands-free, digital approach to marketing There is now more of a hands-free approach to marketing on two different levels. The industry is getting savvier with digital marketing, and dealers often consider this attractive from a price standpoint. After all, digital marketing is more affordable than direct mail marketing. However, direct mail still has an impact when targeting the right audience. There is also a more hands-free approach to marketing when promoting a touchless experience. So a customer who may be sensitive to safety protocols would be more inclined to do business with the dealership that offers a touchless transaction. They like the socially distanced client engagement process, and they can pay for their service without having to touch anything in the dealership. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have become more prominent artificial intelligence solutions to a touch-free experience for car dealerships. VR immerses a car buyer into the car buying experience from the comfort of their couch with virtual test drives. AR combines digital elements to a live view by using the camera on a smartphone. Pokemon Go is an example of an augmented reality experience. AR showrooms offer their clients an unlimited choice of cars in virtual showrooms and the ability to customize. There are even some AR programs like Re’Flekt, that offer the ability to repair a vehicle in AR. Online searches even got a boost with voice search accuracy improvements on search engines. The online automotive customer journey now begins with the spoken word rather than the click of a finger. Customers get quick answers to common questions and easily find online content. This enhanced customer experience has made the car buying a more educated process overall. As these newer options become more accessible to businesses and customers, dealers will need to pivot with innovation to stay in front of their customers. Looking forward to a post-pandemic way of marketing Advances in digital marketing will continue. Every year, more valuable data become available for marketing partners like TVI MarketPro3. And as that data becomes available, so will creative and innovative ways to utilize it for more effective digital marketing. Dealers are now enjoying the release of the pent-up demand. In 2020, many auto customers worked from home. Vehicles parked in driveways and garages created a pent-up demand for service. Also, customers are getting back on their feet after losing their job in 2020. They're getting back in the market for a new or used car increasing the demand. Pent-up demand on both the sales and the service side will be something for dealerships to anticipate. Recalls will also become more of a prominent component of total revenue. Every year manufacturers are releasing more recalls than the previous year which gives a nice bump to dealers. Marketing campaigns will always need to embrace and utilize the latest trends in the industry. But they need to do so without losing that personal touch. The question will be, what makes any dealership stand out when technology is taking the reins on so much of the car buying and servicing process? Hopefully, the ease of purchasing and repairing a car will allow dealerships more time to spend personally connecting with customers. They can focus on an outstanding car buying or service experience. This combination will help dealers transition into a more online and automated dealership system. Learn more about automotive service marketing.
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