Customer Retention in the Service Department (Part One)

This article was originally published on the NCM Institute's Up to Speed blog

service

Is YOUR service department’s overall gross profit growing year-over-year? The automotive industry as a whole has been in a growth mode for the last five years.  Unfortunately, too often we want to continue to look back and blame the financial meltdown of 2008-2009 for what we are doing today. Although that did take a hard toll on us, currently we are actually in a good place going forward in the service department.

Since new vehicle sales have been on a steady rise for the last five years, the number of vehicles that are less than six years old coming into our service departments have continued to increase. These vehicles are our core target vehicles and allow us our highest retention possibility. So the question remains, is YOUR service department steadily growing year-over-year?

Looking at the big picture, we are able to see the overall industry growth pattern, but let’s take this a step further. The next question is what does YOUR retention look like? I’m going to quantify what I mean by retention. In my opinion, the definition of what a retained customer is varies depending on your manufacturer’s service interval. For instance, if your manufacturer recommended maintenance interval is 5,000 miles, then I would want to see two customer paid visits, per year, to be considered a retained customer. If your manufacturer recommended maintenance interval is 12,000 miles then I would consider one customer paid visit per year a retained customer. Looking at it this way, you will be able to find a figure that correlates with YOUR brand.

Why is this so important? I’m going to give you two thoughts on this; both are critical to the growth of a dealership.

Future Sales and Service Loyalty

The first reason I’m going to share is sales based. CNW Marketing Research studied owners of General Motors vehicles and correlated future sales with service loyalty. Here were their results:

  • Customers who regularly serviced their vehicles at the selling dealership became repeat vehicle buyers 86% of the time
  • Customers that occasionally service their vehicles at the selling dealership became repeat buyers 46% of the time
  • Customers who seldom serviced their vehicles at the selling dealership became repeat buyers 18% of the time
  • Customers that never serviced their vehicles at the selling dealership became repeat vehicle buyers only 8% of the time

Those numbers are just staggering. As we have just seen, service retention absolutely drives repeat dealer vehicle sales. And vehicle sales are a great long term by-product of service retention.

A Focus on Retention Leads to Total Dealership Growth

Now let’s look at the second reason that retention is so critical. It’s the immediate gratification that comes from increased service and parts gross profit. These two components make it so that if you are truly focused on retention, it will feed the whole dealership, both in the short term and long term.

Think about it this way, a retained service customer creates service and parts gross profit, they are more likely to repurchase from the same dealership and when they do, you will more than likely get the trade in. Over time, this helps every department within your dealership! So, if we know the “pie” or market is growing, and we know that increased service retention gives us an even larger slice of that larger “pie,” we start to see a positive pattern of current opportunity within our fixed operations.

Stay tuned for Part Two to learn how to capitalize on these opportunities.

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