For around 50% of American drivers, winter weather gives way to a sloppy spring season. The timing of the freeze-thaw cycle correlates with another season that drivers are none too happy about: pothole season. AAA discovered from a 2021 survey that 10% of drivers experienced damage to their vehicle that required service repairs, specifically due to impact with a pothole.

Motorists in the south may not understand or experience the phenomenon, but it’s real. Moisture from the melt penetrates cracks in the pavement and, when freezing temperatures arrive overnight or for a cold spell, the water freezes, expands, and breaks up the pavement. These divots range from minor bumps in the road to major holes that can leave a driver stuck at the side of the road after a full-force impact.

Greg Brannon is AAA’s director of automotive engineering. He says, “In many parts of the country, winter roads will likely give way to pothole-laden obstacle courses. When a vehicle hits a pothole with any kind of force, the tires, wheels and suspension get the brunt of the impact and fixing any of those items is pricey.”

AAA’s survey found that the average cost to repair pothole damage was nearly $600 per instance in 2021 with drivers paying out $26.5 billion for directly related damage. Their guidance is for drivers to do their best to avoid potholes or mitigate the impact by driving alert and slowing down, plus watching for signs of damage. But for service departments at franchised dealerships, this season is another opportunity to make contact with your customers and serve them.

Email blast when potholes start showing

At roughly the same time every year, the potholes start to show up, and usually they’re in similar spots to the year before. It’s so bad that some cities have a pothole tracker, like Chicago. At the start of the ‘season’, include a service reminder CTA in an email campaign that goes out to your customer base. Since potholes don’t discriminate, this should go out to every customer, regardless of their vehicle’s age.

Directly speak about the types of damage that can happen and the types of symptoms to watch for. Encourage an appointment for anyone who’s hit a pothole.

Make your campaign unique

Most marketing strategies don’t captivate the audience very well, but there are always opportunities to think outside the box and make yours unique and engaging. This applies to potholes but could be just as effective for any other issue. 

An off-the-cuff idea could be to offer customers an incentive for bringing in a photo of the offending pothole. And since everyone has smartphones, make it easy with digital picture submissions. Put them on a carousel in your service drive or print them off and put them on a bulletin board, like a wacky Wall of Shame for potholes. 

Incentives don’t need to be discounts, but perhaps offer a giveaway of some sort like car care products. 

Recommend an alignment annually

Although wheel alignments aren’t on the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule, they’re a service that should be completed every year or so, especially in areas where potholes are prevalent. It can be a service that receives opposition since customers don’t often see or feel a difference, so ensure the causes and benefits are explained well every time. 

There’s no need to feel like you’re capitalizing on customers’ misfortunes here. As dealership service departments, it’s your role to keep their cars operating well. If you’re not offering to care for them, someone else will.

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