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Retaining service customers is more important than ever, which makes the first service appointment crucial. It’s what establishes the customer-dealer relationship and – if done right – customer loyalty. So how can you start off on the right foot? Read on to find out.

Start off strong

Typically, a customer’s relationship with your service center starts one of two ways. They either purchase a new vehicle, or choose you to service their current vehicle. Either way, there are steps you can take to ensure the relationship starts off – and stays – strong.

It’s always a great idea to introduce your new-vehicle customers to your service advisor in person, typically at the end of the sales transaction. This allows your new customer to make a face-to-face connection with the service advisor who will be reaching out to them for service reminders down the road.

For new service customers, their first interaction with your service center will typically be when they schedule their appointment, either over the phone or online. It’s essential to make booking an appointment as easy as possible. When you do, you’re giving your new customer a great first impression.

Give the right attention

If your service center is so busy that answering the phone is sometimes a challenge, look into hiring a BDC answer service to handle calls and schedule appointments. If this seems like a waste of money, consider this: BDC agents will be able to field more phone calls and schedule more service appointments, driving up ROI.

For customers who prefer to schedule appointments online, make sure your website is easy to navigate and your scheduling platform is front and center and simple to use. A customer shouldn’t have to fill out half a dozen fields to schedule an appointment. Also, make sure your service page calls out the amenities and value-adds that set your dealership apart from the “other guys.”

Keep the great service going in the service lane

When the customer arrives for service, it all comes down to what type of interaction they have with your employees. Make sure your customers are greeted quickly. If a customer waits in your service drive more than two minutes without an acknowledgment, that’s a failure on your part. If your service advisors are too busy to greet customers properly, hire a part-time greeter.

A greeter is a great addition to a service department during busy times. They acknowledge every person, chat with them, update contact information, verify the VIN and check for damage on the vehicle. A greeter who does their job well will increase ROI and CSI. Think of it this way: if you are ignoring your customers or rushing them through the process, you are likely losing customers – and that’s money down the drain.

Once the service advisor is connected with the customer, it’s critical they take the time to ask the right questions. The customer may have mentioned the reason they brought their car in, but is that the only reason? Never assume you know what’s best for the customer. Engage them, ask them some general questions about their vehicle’s performance and then listen to what the customer says. They may mention something that could result in a two or three-line-item RO instead of the one-liner you expect.

Honest service is worth paying for

You may be surprised to learn that when it comes to a first service appointment, pricing is not always the most important thing. Pricing matters, of course, but if you’re taking great care of your customers and being honest with them up front about the price of needed repairs, they will understand the cost. Customers get upset about pricing when they feel like they are being blindsided by an expensive quote. That’s why honesty is always the best policy, even if it means telling the customer something that they don’t want to hear.


It’s also important to keep the customer updated and notified about their vehicle’s progress. When a customer must call you to see if their car will be ready by closing time, that’s a failure on your part. Again, if your service advisors are too busy to keep your customers informed, consider adding BDC agents and/or a greeter to your service team. Remember, it will pay off!

Stay top of mind

Customer service doesn’t end when a customer drives off your lot. If you’re not following up, you’re losing your connection with the customer. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t have to be difficult to keep in touch: within three days, send them a quick text or email with a simple “thank you for your business” message. This small gesture will go a long way.

Then, of course, you’ll want to send out regular service-reminder follow-ups, declined service reminders, relevant coupons and holiday greetings/service offers.

Keeping these points in mind will greatly increase your chances of gaining a loyal customer. For more information on implementing best practices for your service shop, contact your Performance Manager today.

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