Four tips for effective fixed ops communications

Service shops are like Starbucks – there’s one on every corner. Between the quick lubes, the tire centers, the independent shops, and even the shadetree mechanics, it’s clear your dealership faces stiff competition for service work. Top dealers consistently attract, retain and grow their fixed operations business in part through effective communications with customers and colleagues.

That builds lasting, loyal relationships, even when there’s a competitor around every corner. Implement these four communication tactics in order to decrease defection and increase retention.

1. Invest in internal communications tools
Good customer communications begin with good team communications. If your tech doesn’t relay the right message to your service advisor, or if the parts department doesn’t communicate that a part will take three days to arrive (not one), your service advisor can’t effectively communicate with the customer. If customers get frustrated and feel like they can’t get correct and precise answers, they’ll go to the guy down the street. Don’t let that happen. Consider investing in inspection and communication software that allows your team to track where a vehicle is in the process, automatically update repair order status and store work authorizations so everyone is on the same page. When all the information is in one system that everyone can access, you speed up internal communications, which in turn, speeds up customer communications. That’s a boon for your business.  

2. Give the right answer 
In today’s digital age, it’s easy for someone to go online and find out what is wrong with their vehicle. They arrive at your shop armed with knowledge, and if you tell them something incorrect, they may not return. Sure, consumers may not always be right. But if they’re not, you better be ready to explain why they’re not and be prepared to correctly explain the real problem. Photos of faulty parts and detailed descriptions of recommended repairs go a long way in establishing credibility.

3. Communicate through the right channel
How you communicate with your customers is just as important as what you say. Preferences are changing rapidly, with many consumers choosing a text message or an email over a phone call. That makes sense when you consider that 85 percent of people consider mobile devices a central part of everyday life. It’s crucial to ask every customer how he or she prefers to receive vehicle updates, and then adhere to that preference. Then, train your team to effectively communicate through each channel. For example, a text message should be short and to-the-point with minimal attachments and links. An email should have a very clear subject line that stands out in a crowded inbox.

4. Be proactive 
Once a customer’s vehicle is in your shop, proactive communication is the key. Don’t make the customer reach out to you. Successful dealers designate response time frames based on the type of service. For example, if a diagnostic typically takes one hour, it’s logical to ask your team to communicate findings within that one-hour time frame. If, for some reason, it will take longer – a backup in the shop, for example – your team can still communicate within the hour with an estimate of how much longer it will take. As a general rule, within minutes of your service advisor receiving a vehicle status, it should be communicated to the customer.

When your team effectively communicates with customers, it builds trust and lasting relationships. It’s these relationships that will help you survive and thrive in an increasingly crowded service landscape.  

Matt Hurst

Matthew Hurst is the Director of Product Management for Fixed Operations at Dealertrack. Working with Dealertrack for more than eight years, Matt manages the strategic direction and product development for Dealertrack’s Fixed Operations offerings, including its Service Pro and Service Check-In solutions. In addition, he works directly with dealers to help them transform their Fixed Operations Departments to drive efficiency and profitability for their businesses. Matt is highly respected in the Fixed Operations and Dealer Management markets for his experience in marketing, product development, strategy and professional and customer service.