The unspoken truth about the dealership continues to be the same – the service side of the business is where the money is at. However, 72 percent of car purchasers do not return to the dealership for service in the following 12 months1. This represents a huge opportunity for dealers to use the service side of the business to drive revenue growth.

While customers may naturally think about dealerships when they need to buy a car, given the statistic above, it’s clear that dealers need to be doing more to keep customers engaged and active so they can start making the connection between dealership and service. The car has to get serviced, and with the relationship forged during the sales process, the dealer is perfectly positioned to step into the service role. This is why dealers, more than ever, need to drive customer loyalty and repeat business by optimizing their service department offerings for a seamless ownership experience.

There is also an evolving truth entering the dealership space – customers want to do as much as possible online. And although that may seem to be more relevant on the sales side, since a car cannot be serviced by a computer, tablet or phone, there are still aspects of the service side of the business that can be moved online. In particular, the service lane is an area that is ripe for transformation using today’s latest technology resources. This is where online payment for services can play a critical role in delivering a superior service lane experience. 

Today, fewer and fewer people carry cash. A 2016 Gallup study revealed that only 24 percent of individuals pay with cash, compared to 36 percent in 2011. This is a significant consumer trend that is likely to continue to rise. Additionally, credit cards are being replaced by mobile apps and touch screens as those technologies continue to develop. As these capabilities become more mainstream, consumers will want to pay digitally everywhere they go – including when they go to get their cars serviced. This is not yet a requirement for customers to consider you for their service needs, but it can create satisfaction and loyalty that could significantly increase your revenue and profit margins. It comes back to meeting customers on their terms and anticipating their needs. 

So how do you set your dealership up for success and provide online payments to customers? You need resources in place to make it happen.

If you are a forward-looking dealership with all the latest technological advances in place, you should be able to adapt fairly easily. If you are a bit behind on the technology front, then you may need to adopt technologies such as the cloud to make this work for you.

Using software that allows in-lane and online payment features will provide you with access to menus, pricing, and service history for each car and customer. The dealer can easily accept payments from vehicle owners at the point of service or online, whichever is more convenient for them. Customers are usually in a hurry when they come to pick up their cars from a service appointment. So, if the payment can be made online, this speeds up the pickup process and makes them happy. Either way, this will save each customer time while giving them options that work best. On the dealership side, this will improve your operations flow and increase your volume on a daily basis.

Of course, these tools are only useful if customers trust the technology and are sure that their information will be safeguarded. This is why the payment solution you use should meet certain industry standards, such as being PCI compliant and utilizing encryption and tokenization. Implementing trusted, verified solutions will allow you to maintain the highest standards of safety and security while processing transactions – and moreover, allow you to convey to customers that you are invested in their information security. 

Ultimately, creating a seamless customer experience is the most effective way to start increasing your sales-to-service customer pipeline, thereby increasing your overall revenue and profit margins. Implementing a payment system that allows for flexibility and speeds up the process will enhance your customer experience and provide you and your customers with multiple options throughout the service process.

Author: Jim Roche

As Senior Vice President of Marketing & Managed Services, Jim Roche is responsible for brand positioning and driving marketing’s strategic impact on business. Jim brings over 30 years of automotive high-tech leadership experience. Previously, Jim was founder and Chief Executive Officer of AutoPoint, where he was the visionary and driving force behind the development of the industry’s first multichannel marketing platform, its adoption by hundreds of dealers and its subsequent acquisition by SRS. While at SRS, AutoPoint experienced rapid growth; Welsh Carson Anderson & Stowe acquired SRS in 2013.

Digital Dealer