A dealership’s service department is often overlooked and forgotten about by car buyers.

They hear “dealership” and immediately think of a lot full of polished cars, not the service department.

Here’s a pro tip: Service departments hold the key to success for dealerships.

Dealerships across the nation are bleeding customers; although these dealerships are trying to solve this by boosting their customer retention with customer-focused marketing and by allocating more of their budget towards conquest customers – there is no advantage there.

With this approach, showrooms are left empty and their inventory… they can practically hear the crickets.

Some of this can be addressed with customer-centric marketing and an effective digital marketing strategy, but dealers can’t begin to reach their dealership’s full potential unless they begin to utilize their service department to the fullest and put more of an emphasis on automotive repair.

The Problem With Dealership Service Departments

People aren’t buying vehicles as frequently as they used to. The length of ownership for the average vehicle owner has increased from 4.3 to 6.5 years. Meaning shoppers are visiting their dealership less and less between purchases, leading to increased customer defection rates and less showroom traffic.

On top of that, the average age of vehicles is rising.

There are two facts that present a big opportunity for dealers to focus on fixed ops.

Service opportunities are plentiful thanks to vehicle owners keeping their vehicles for longer periods of time between purchases and driving older models. The best way to keep this type of customer loyal to your dealership is to keep them actively involved at your dealership.

By offering vehicle owners automotive repair and service, that’s offering them an opportunity to visit the dealership repeatedly – which will help the dealership retain their business.

In fact, the likelihood of a customer purchasing their next vehicle at your dealership is dependent on their interactions with your service department.

Dealers should want to push vehicle shoppers toward their dealership.

At this point, digital marketing has made its way into the mainstream. Dealers are turning to digital marketing to boost their sales and move their inventory faster and more consistently.

Digital influences nearly 60 percent of vehicle purchases at the dealership, however, the influence is stronger when it comes to post-purchase service.

There’s a huge opportunity for dealers to utilize digital marketing for their fixed ops. The combination of the two can strengthen customer retention, bring new customers into the dealership more frequently, increase automotive repair orders, and lead to more vehicle sales over time.

Creating a Relationship Between the Service Department and Digital Marketing

There is something the majority of dealerships have in common: they have yet to include their service department in their digital marketing.

A dealership’s biggest competitors are third-party service centers and corner-shop mechanics – only 30 percent of all service visits are conducted at a dealership, and many do not occur at the dealership where the vehicle was purchased.

This is a cause of vehicle owners’ misconceived perception of the dealership experience.

They believe a dealership’s service department is more expensive and less convenient. Customers are aware that the service department has mechanics with a better understanding of their vehicle, they know the mechanics are highly qualified and knowledgeable, that they have better parts, tools, and equipment for automotive repair, and they know they’ll be more comfortable while they wait for the service to be completed.

The challenge is changing a customer’s perception by addressing it with digital marketing.

A dealer can accomplish this by simply serving marketing that directly addresses vehicle owners’ concerns about overcharging.

If dealerships in general are faulted for charging more than their service is worth, the right fix would being serving ads that directly address this misconception.

Dealers have an opportunity to gain more service customers by offering and promoting competitive pricing or price matching.

Additionally, they can use their digital ads to send owners to landing pages that directly address customer concerns and needs. If you’re able to provide advertising and information that directly appeals to them and their questions, the dealer will have more engagement, leads, and service customers than ever before.

Build A Service Relationship With Customers

Dealers can build a service relationship with their customers by remaining competitive and offering discounted service pricing. Customers are looking for the best, most convenient deals they can find, and utilizing digital marketing to provide that will drastically increase the number of consumers who visit a dealership’s service bay.

Nearly 25 percent of all automotive searches are parts, services, and maintenance related.

This is when a dealer should take advantage of a situation and serve ads that directly relate to what vehicle owners are searching for – once a consumer notices that a dealership is offering better service and competitive pricing for automotive repair, they won’t be able to turn the offer down.

If dealerships efficiently use digital marketing to squash customers’ ideas of dealership service departments being too expensive, push vehicle owners to be actively involved at their dealership between vehicle purchases, and offer competitive deals, then their service department will be thriving in no time.