We're big fans of service BDCs. In fact, during one NCMi instructor's retail days in the mid-nineties, he was an early adopter of the concept. He asked a consultant friend of his, who helped dealers set up BDCs, to give him a hand at his store. They had staff who were either mishandling or not making inbound and outbound calls, so he remembers being eager to see the results.
This topic must have been on this instructor's mind recently when he asked a class of NCMi students, “Where are your customers, and when are they coming back?”
Well, you would have thought he'd asked the question in a foreign language or something! There was absolute silence in the room. Some were looking at others to see if they had an answer. The instructor's take on the look on everyone’s faces was, “This is THE question, isn’t it?” No one ventured an answer.
The first service appointment is key
So, the instructor then asked, “How many of your dealerships set the first service appointment on each new and used vehicle at the time of delivery, based on time or mileage?” Of the 25 or so people in the room, only two raised their hands affirming that this was, in fact, happening at their dealerships.
When the instructor started his BDC, one of the processes he decided to track was the first service appointment. His dealership, for sure, was not setting these. He'd heard that getting a 65% return rate for the first service appointment was the holy grail but, he was told, only 14% of customers would come back on their own for non-warranty, maintenance, and repair work. You cannot build a business on 14%! So it became part of the sales and delivery process to have the BDC, based on time or mileage, put the customer’s scheduled first service appointment into the system.
Consistent appointments make loyal customers
While the instructor's dealership was very good in service in those days—especially in menu sales and work found on multi-point inspections, which they called the “perpetual service clinic”—this instructor is sure they were not setting next service appointments, something he now knows is a critical component to service profits.
With that in mind, the instructor asked his students, “How many of you set the next service appointment with each customer during the active delivery with their service advisor?” The answer was ZERO.
It’s a given that the first service appointment is a must to get the whole process started, but it’s setting the next service appointment that keeps it all together. This instructor has an analogy: “How often would we get our teeth cleaned, if the dentist didn’t call to remind us?” The answers range from “not as often” to “never!” Service work on automobiles is no different; most people forget about it until the vehicle doesn’t run or they are reminded of needed work. It’s so obvious that it still amazes this instructor that so few American dealerships take the initiative to set the appointment!
Challenge yourself to invite clients back
We all know that customer loyalty is on the wane. In response, most dealers have invested in CRM software to help keep track of clients. Yet, these tools are only as good as their processes. The sad truth is that many of our clients are still not setting first and next service appointments, even when they use these tools.
So, here’s our challenge to you: Always be able to answer the question, “Where are your customers and when are they coming back?” Create a reliable system that gets your clients back to the dealership after their purchase and keeps them coming back.