Forward-thinking dealers have drastically improved fixed operation profits over the last year, but what factors are driving these results? In this CBT News Power Lunch, host Jim Fitzpatrick is joined by Skyler Chadwick, Director of Product Consulting at Cox Automotive, to discuss the major components of service department growth.
Opportunities in fixed ops
While there is always room to grow in the fixed ops space, Chadwick expects the number of opportunities to expand rapidly as inventory returns to pre-pandemic levels. However, taking advantage of these new openings will require dealers to carefully consider the future. According to Cox Automotive’s Forward Thinking Dealership Study, retailers who fell behind on service proficiency saw their earnings significantly reduced. Meanwhile, Chadwick explains that dealers “who were forward thinking and implementing these advanced tactics were both more profitable and more efficient…” In fact, these businesses saw fixed ops income increase 28% over the last 12 months alone.
Qualities of forward-thinking
Such “forward-thinking” dealers tend to display four qualities in their fixed ops departments: transparency, optimization, integration and personalization. Features such as accurate payment calculators, mobile appointment scheduling, online payment options and video chat not only enhance the customer’s experience but make the entire process faster. “Customers have told us for years they want control over their service experience, and they want to be able to interact with their service provider…on their own terms,” comments Chadwick. “Most successful dealerships are seeing the value in giving these customers control.”
The technician experience
However, consumers are not the only group dealers should prioritize. Technicians are an equally important contributor to a fixed ops department’s success, and these employees benefit just as much from the four qualities mentioned above. “Our research showed that forward-thinking dealerships are looking for ways to streamline their service capacity management,” Chadwick explains. Electronic dispatch programs which automatically assign work to maintenance staff and marketing alerts which notify customers of open time slots are perfect examples of techniques that make the advisor’s work less complex and more efficient.
Most important quality
Out of all these qualities, the most valuable is personalization. This element is less concerned with amenities, clarifies Chadwick, and more with responding to the needs of the consumer. Other industries have already made the shopping process more personable by listening to buyer feedback: now vehicle owners have come to expect the same quality of care from their fixed ops experience. Retailers need to “go back to giving control and demonstrating this respect to their time,” Chadwick remarks, without forgetting “that our staffs are consumers too.”
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