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.


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.


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.

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