On average, 80% of a dealership’s business comes from the service department. That’s why it is interesting to me that so many people have waited until now to warm up to the idea of making service a bigger part of your online strategy. As long as I’ve been around this business, everyone is always clamoring about “the sales part” of the website. The focus makes sense–when we think about how to make money, we immediately think about sales. Right? “Show me the cars.”
But I’m going to tell a little story that has stuck with me for a long time–a story that starts with the cars but ends with the humble service appointment form.
Many years ago, back when I was still new to Dealer.com and manning a phone in the support queue, a call came in. The call was from a client who had noticed that the inventory on his website was displaying incorrectly. It was showing cars that had been sold weeks ago. We did some digging together and found the source of the problem: we had received a bad feed from their system.
The good news was that the issue would fix itself the next time we received a correct data feed. The bad news was that we had no idea when that might be. Even in the best-case scenario we were looking at waiting a full day for that next feed. That wouldn’t do! But what were our alternatives?
I asked our client what he thought about working together to fix each car manually. He protested: “But that could take hours!” And he was right; it was not a very good suggestion. But his alternative suggestion was even worse: “Just shut the whole thing down!” He wanted to take his whole website offline until the issue with the inventory could be resolved. Something about that didn’t sit right with me, but I didn’t know what else to say. So I asked him if he could hold on for a moment, and I turned to my manager for advice.
“Are you crazy?” (my manager asked me) “Why would you let him do that? Think of all the other missed opportunities!” I saw at once what he was talking about. The “Contact Us” form. The Directions page, and of course, the humble Service Request Form.
I got back on the phone and explained the epiphany I just had. “Why don’t we just pull the inventory pages off for a day or two while we work through this together?” That solution sounded reasonable to everyone. So we kept the site up, took down the inventory so as not to lose any service leads. When I followed up with the client, they told me no leads were lost and were happy that we decided to keep the site up.
Now every time I hear someone discussing how service needs to be a larger part of a dealership’s online presence, I think back to that phone call and smile. Even though we kept the website up without inventory, we were still able to generate service leads, proving that sales is more than just selling cars.
by Rob Friesel, User Interface Developer