The Value of Service Data

June 2009, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Harlene Doane - Also by this author

Often, it’s the service department that keeps the dealership doors open during down sales cycles, but this is only achieved when the dealership drives continual traffic, convinces customers that service is a prioity, makes doing business easy for the customer, and delivers an outstanding experience.

Small changes in the customer experience can translate to small changes in the number of customer pay repair orders or the number of hours per repair order, either of which will add up to a considerable amount of money over time.

Year-over-year customer pay repair order count is up on average at most dealerships, so it is up to dealers to make sure the additional repair orders are maximized.

Customer Pay Repair Order Count

Year Over Year Change









All Dealers




Highline Dealers




Import Dealers




Domestic Dealers




The service experience starts long before the customer arrives in the service department with a problem. The sales team and F&I team can be the first impression for many service departments. Your F&I department should be offering some type of preventive maintenance program. The question every dealer needs to ask is: Do I want service or maintenance programs to be a profit center for the F&I department, or do I want it to drive loyal customers to the service department where you have more profit potential over the life of the vehicle?

Once a vehicle is sold, whether new or used, the sales team should introduce the customer to the service department and even encourage the customer to set their first service appointment. Not all customers will schedule that appointment, so you must mine your database and communicate regularly with all sales and service customers. That communication can be in the form of direct mail, e-mail, phone calls, or even text messages, but it has to be regular and ongoing.

Today, dealers have to move beyond pushing out service coupons or incentives and use available technology to make the customer experience smooth, convenient and enjoyable. Dealers can start doing this by offering customers the ability to set service appointments completely online.

Once the customer arrives at the dealership, the advisor should know the complete vehicle history and be prepared with any recall or maintenance recommendations. A multi-point inspection should be done with the customer noting any and all damages and reviewing the options available should anything noteworthy be found.

Once the repair process begins, every service advisor must have a reliable, quick way to reach the customer. When an e-mail address is provided, some systems allow the dealership to send photos along with an explanation of the work needed and all pricing information. This gives the customer the ability to share the information with a spouse, parent or even a friend and quickly make a decision.

Once the approval is received and repairs are finished, the customer should experience the same top-level service when they pick up and pay for the repairs. Does your service advisor walk the customer to the cashier window to answer any last-minute questions or do they point them to a window and send them on their way? In the service department, the last impression at the cashier window is just as important as the first impression made in the sales department. 

Vol. 6, Issue 4 


  1. 1. Michael Roppo [ January 31, 2011 @ 01:58PM ]

    Dear Mrs.Doane, great stuff as usual. Thank you for your efforts. However, do you have a source other than ncm that can provide me with balance sheet benchmarks for every profit center and every manufactuer?


    Michael Roppo

    Director of Fixed Operations Consulting, Training & Business Development

  2. 2. Harlene Doane [ January 31, 2011 @ 02:17PM ]

    Michael, thank you for you note. There is certainly more than just NCM 20 groups in the industry, however none of them are in the habit of giving away all of their proprietary data for free even to me. NCM was kind enough to work with me on a joint venture in 2009 to raise dealer awareness of benchmarks and help them understand areas for improvement.


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