How to Improve Service Appointment Setting

Scheduling impacts every area of your service department. The challenge is that many advisors and appointment setters see the appointment process as something to just get through quickly; many advisors will often brag about how they can make an appointment in 30 seconds or less. Making a good impression and getting accurate information is far more important than getting off the phone quickly.

Scheduling impacts:

  • Profitability
  • Customer wait times
  • Efficiency and capacity of your shop 
  • CSI scores and customer retention 
  • Maintenance penetration 
  • Rental and loaner vehicles required 
  • Timing for shuttles 
  • Customer perception of the dealership

That first interaction is important, whether it’s online or over the phone. In fact, according to the 2019 J.D. Power Customer Service Index Survey, 28% of customers prefer to book online, but about 45% of customers do not know booking online is an option. That makes it pretty clear that while booking online is the preferred approach if you want to do it right, your advisors have to master both options. Here are a few tips to help:

Tip 1: Enable Online Scheduling. The J.D. Power study found that customers who schedule online book an average of $50 of factory-recommended maintenance, compared to $32 when calling in. Customers who schedule online also spend $25 more in the drive when presented with a maintenance menu and have higher CSI scores. Ensure your online scheduling is easy to find and easy to use.

Tip 2: Introduce Online Scheduling as Part of New Car Delivery. Show the customer your website and walk them through how to make their first appointment online. Give them a reminder card, as well — with the website address listed. Then introduce them to the service advisor you set the online check-in with — just to connect the dots.

Tip 3: Answer the Phone. You’d be amazed at how often a customer calls yet can’t get through. Or gets put on hold forever. If you don’t have enough staff to answer the phones, fix that first so that every call is answered by the fourth ring.

Tip 4: Be Professional. “Service” is not an appropriate way to answer. Thank the customer for calling your dealership, identify yourself and ask, ”How can I help?” Find out the customer’s name and make sure you know the make, model and mileage for the vehicle to be serviced.  Before ending the call, verify their contact information and secure text/email opt-ins for communication. Sadly, there are times when a car is in for service and the advisor can’t reach the customer… because no one bothered to verify their phone number and email address.

Tip 5: Understand the Customer’s Concerns.  Are they experiencing a specific issue? Do they have a description? Check the vehicle history and get background information. Is this a repeat visit? Are they coming in for maintenance only? Take the time to thoroughly document everything the customer says. Your customers and technicians will appreciate the effort.

Tip 6: Advise the Customer on Maintenance. Send them a copy of required maintenance intervals, so they can know what to expect before check-in. A good appointment scheduling system will integrate with OEM data and populate factory required maintenance — priced out and ready to review. Some studies show a 32% increase in factory scheduled maintenance sold on the drive if presented during the appointment call.

Tip 7: Check for Recalls. You should also have the ability (with a VIN) to let your customer know ahead of time if there are any required recalls. Help the customer find their VIN by suggesting that they look at their insurance card or owner’s app. Ask the parts department to supply a daily list of on-hand parts for the top ten most active recalls.

Tip 8: Help with Transportation Options. Ask if they will need alternate transportation. If so, share dealership options. Remember that the best approach is to “under promise” and “over-deliver” the time it takes to properly diagnose and repair a car, so try to make it convenient for customers to leave their car overnight. Today’s appointment technology usually includes a transportation option -— and that helps to make sure the rentals, loaners and shuttles are ready to go.

Tip 9: Set Expectations.  Be transparent and tell customers what to expect. Walk them through the process, including options for checking-in and time with the advisor, so they can plan ahead.

Tip 10: Send a Confirmation Email or Text. Send a reminder email or text 24 hours prior to check-in time. Explain that this specific time is set aside for them to meet with their advisor, not an appointment with the technician.

Getting customers into the service lane starts with a simple and convenient approach to scheduling an appointment. Follow these tips and you’ll increase online bookings, improve the efficiency of your shop, and have happier customers. 

This article in full or in part first appeared in CBT