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Sales to Service Handoff, then Back Again

Do you keep track of your customer defection rates? It’s one of the more unpleasant numbers to monitor, but perhaps the most important statistic for your store. These are the customers who choose not to visit your dealership after their vehicle purchase; the ones you won’t see darkening your doorway again.

It’s difficult to find accurate numbers on customer defection rates. As a service advisor, one trainer stated the manufacturer’s defection rates for our store was 50 percent in the first year and increasing to 70 percent by the end of the second year. By the end of the third year of their vehicle ownership, defection rates were a staggering 80-plus percent! Less than two in ten customers continued to visit our dealership beyond two years of ownership. That’s abysmal.

Whether your dealership’s stats are better or worse, your customer retention rates can always improve. One such process is the sales to service handoff. When done well, it’s the start of a relationship that may eventually become a service to sales handoff down the road.

How It’s Done WELL

A career salesperson understands repeat business. A new gunslinger on the sales floor does not. The adrenaline of closing a sale blinds them to anything beyond the moment, especially anticipating a customer’s return three to five years down the road. A sales to service handoff could be rushed or skipped altogether. An established process can ensure it’s done consistently for each customer. Here are a few ideas:

  • Require that the salesperson personally walks the customer to the service department. If it’s being neglected, require the salesperson to have a delivery sheet signed by a service team member.
  • Perform the handoff to an established service team member. Employee churn is a turnoff for customers, so introduce your new sales customers to an employee you can comfortably expect will be a familiar face in the coming years.
  • Establish service department value in the sales conversation. Speak highly of the service department and make the assumption that servicing will be completed at your store.
  • Book a first appointment with your customer. The salesperson should be available during the first service visit to answer new questions, and simply to touch base.

The Service to Sales Handoff

Repeat customer business is the goal. After faithfully servicing their vehicle at your store for a few years, and now ready to purchase a new vehicle, your service staff are poised to hand the customer back to the sales department.

If the service to sales referrals in your store are alarmingly absent, dig into it. Often, it’s simply training service advisors to analyze how best to serve the customer. Do they ask if a customer has considered trading up to the newest model? Are your service advisors always looking for the home-run service bill or are they diligently seeking to serve the customer’s needs best?

According to CDK Insights, 62 percent of vehicle owners said customer service could influence future purchases. That’s not just the service department; that includes the customer service the salesperson provides both during the sales process and aftersales. An established sales to service handoff process will ensure your customer feels well cared for by both the sales and service departments, positively influencing future sales.

Originally published on May 9, 2017.

Jason Unrau
Jason Unrau
Jason Unrau is an automotive specialist with more than 15 years of experience at the dealership level. Focusing mainly on fixed operations and the service industry, Jason’s expertise is in enhancing the customer experience and promoting a healthy, profitable service department.

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