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4 ways car dealers can win against aftermarket service providers

Customers feel justified in spending more to get exceptional service. Take some time to see where you can streamline your service process.

According to the J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Aftermarket Service Index Study, customers increasingly prefer aftermarket service providers to new-vehicle dealers. J.D. Power surveyed almost 10,000 vehicle owners who owned their cars between four and ten years. The data showed that aftermarket service providers capture 70% of the service market, while franchised dealers only acquired 30%.While it seems like vehicle owners prefer to take their service needs to independent servicers; fortunately, franchised dealers can do some things to close that gap — particularly in offering convenience. 

Here are some takeaways from this study and a few things your dealership can do to attract more consumers for service appointments.

1. Communicate what you offer during the car buying experience 

According to the survey, among Gen X, Gen Y, and Baby Boomer respondents, prior experience with the service facility beat price and convenience when selecting a place to receive their vehicle servicing. 

Since experience with the facility is essential, you can take advantage of this knowledge with your current customers. For example, during the car buying process, you could mention the service department, specific services you offer, and any discounts or incentives. 

Additionally, try making a point to stay in touch with them. This could be through vehicle servicing reminders or email newsletters with blog postings about your service offerings. The goal is to ensure they know your service department is an option while building trust.  

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2. Focus on getting to the heart of the customer’s servicing problems 

One of the most interesting metrics in the study related to customer service, especially getting the servicing issue fixed the first time. In the survey, independent service providers improved on already-high numbers (from 94% to 97% in 2021 and 2022, respectively). If this is something that your dealership is doing well, mention it on your service website and in conversations you have with prospective service customers. 

Timing and budget constraints make “fixing the problem right the first time” critical for consumers. So, if this is something that your servicing department is struggling with, be sure to make it a priority to see where the workflow breakdown could be occurring (whether it’s communication-related or you need more proficient personnel). 

3. See If You Can Accommodate More Varied Schedules 

According to the survey, 38% of those surveyed said they chose independent service providers since they accommodate their schedules. Today, because of the volatile nature of the job market, it can be challenging to be agile in how you service customers. Still, you stand to gain if you can better accommodate consumer schedules. 

For example, you may determine that most of your clientele prefers weekend appointments, so you may want to offer limited-hour servicing on Saturdays or Sundays. 

Alternatively, you may want to see if it’s possible to stay open a few hours later during the week for the convenience of individuals who work 9-to-5. 

Start by surveying your customers to see if there are specific windows of time that work for them. 

4. Add ease to the process 

The survey revealed that 34% of vehicle owners choose independent dealers because of the ease and speed of the process. 

There are some practical ways you can smooth out the servicing experience at your dealership: 

  • Allow online scheduling: Let prospective customers schedule appointments online, especially using mobile devices. 
  • Offer at-home repair: Are there some repair activities you can perform at a customer’s home? For example, Tesla allows customers to set up service visits in a convenient location. Bringing the servicing experience to customers is sure to win points for convenience.
  • Communicate repair status: Can you send text message updates on the status of the repair, or even let them log into an online portal for repair reports? That will allow them to plan so they can arrange to pick up their vehicle.

Ultimately, the goal is to provide an experience that disrupts their routine as less as possible. 

Final thoughts 

You may not be able to compete with independent dealers on price, but you can gain a competitive advantage with convenience and emphasize the reputation and experience of your staff. 

Therefore, customers feel justified in spending more to get exceptional service. Take some time to see where you can streamline your service process, as doing so can help you compete with aftermarket service providers and potentially surpass them. 

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Chanell Turner
Chanell Turner
Chanell Turner is a contributing writer and investigative journalist for CBT News.

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