It makes no sense: Even though parts and service departments are the lifeblood of car dealerships, they generate just a fraction of the industry focus given to new or used car sales. That's troubling, because parts and service departments deliver a consistent volume of business and profit, year after year. According to the "2015 NADA Data Guide", in fact, last year the average dealership rang up almost $6 million in service and parts sales – with a gross profit rate of 46.45 percent. That's more than 15,000 repair orders written, per dealership, at an average price tag of $257.
Just imagine what parts and service could do with a little more attention.
To that end, let’s shine some light on fixed ops, with seven tips to help managers streamline operations, provide better service, and create long-lasting customer relationships that will greatly benefit every component of the dealership. If you are new to digital, our blog Eight Tips to Help Every New Dealership Internet Manager, and connecting with your Internet Manager, are great places to start.
1. Audit your parts and service presence.
Make sure your digital foundation is solid. Review your call tracking and destination numbers and ensure that the destination phone numbers for parts and service go directly to those departments, not to the main dealership line.
Review any of your existing parts and service pages, and dealership about us pages for relevance to your current business, team and client needs.
2. Review incoming phone call conversations, if recorded.
Perhaps you’re receiving many departmental calls about specific maintenance cost estimates. What do these calls tell you about what your customers want? Listening to these calls may also create some coaching opportunities. This is your service department, and they are your customers. Address any process or customer service gaps today and avoid losing unsatisfied shoppers.
3. Create compelling content.
Now that you’ve performed your audit, it’s time to create great content. Not only is it going to help your customers, it’s going to attract more business for you long term via high SEO value (search engines like high quality content). First, devise a plan based on some basic business goals. Are you trying to build a relationship with new customers? Does your market have a large influx of pre-owned out of warranty vehicles from your brand? Are you close to a large workplace or transportation hub that would be relevant to prospective service clients? Did listening to your calls reveal that your service advisors or parts staff spend much of their time answering the same questions? Take the opportunity to create content, both written and visual (photos and videos) that sells your service department to prospective customers. You can even use blogging as a tool to drive up relevance and reach of your service business online.
4. Assess your digital competition.
Consider how customers might be searching for parts and service in your area. Use the Google Adwords preview tool to search geographical areas around your market and keywords. In addition to the standard terms, put yourself into the position of your customers. Will they be searching for ‘service department,’ or maybe they’ll be adding terms like ‘check engine’ or ‘vibration’ to their make and model in a local search?
5. Create a digital advertising strategy.
Just as your advertising your inventory online, so too should you be brandishing your parts and service departments (re-read the section above about the obvious importance of these areas of your dealerships). Locally targeted, relevant ads that reach parts and services shoppers will boost revenue. Consider these questions whether you’re just getting started or have already implemented parts and service advertising: What is your competition doing? What business are you going after? What is your geographical priority? Do you want to have a mobile strategy? Are you looking to drive a specific type of new business?
6. Create parts and service-specific landing pages.
Digital ads designed for sales send visitors directly to the ad’s featured inventory, which minimizes the chance of visitors leaving or “bouncing” from the site when the content doesn’t meet their expectations.
Your parts and service department ads, depending on their keywords, should link to landing pages with content and information specific to the keywords. For example, if you and your advertising strategist create ads based on tires, the landing page needs to reflect your tire stock, tire warranty, and tire “why buys.” Sending them to your homepage, service scheduler, or general service page will set you up to have a high number of these prospective customers leave when the content that they see doesn’t match the ads on which they clicked.
7. Merchandise your initiative across your digital presence
By this point you have an updated website, and digital advertising steering traffic to tailored parts and service landing pages. Now, update your slideshow and create service-oriented specials, which provide a clear path for additional visitors to reach your content, which has been tailored to meet their needs.
Incorporating parts and service messaging into your digital strategy is a huge win for your overall business. Once in place, expect gains across your fixed ops department as well as your entire dealership.
Patrick Wyld is Learning Solutions Manager at Dealer.com