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Why it’s time to open your Service Department online

By August 31, 2015January 3rd, 2017Think Tank

“Mobile devices turn every waking moment into a potential research or shopping occasion.”
– Deborah Sharkey, Vice President at eBay USA1


Consumers are now comfortable buying and booking all types of goods and services online on laptops, tablets and smartphones

Accuracy, certainty and trust are critical elements to building customer satisfaction and lasting loyalty. Online systems such as electronic Multi-point Inspections (eMPI), VIN-precise Service Quoting and electronic Real-time Customer Surveying (eCSI), work to deliver these elements at each step of the vehicle service process. However, buyer expectations and purchase decision processes have changed and more customers are going online and researching extensively prior to deciding on genuine service or an aftermarket provider.

Look around and it’s highly likely that you’ll see someone browsing the internet on a smartphone, tablet or laptop. Undoubtedly we’re spending more time with our internet-connected mobile devices at work, out and about and even in our homes – and this dependence shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

So as internet-connected mobile devices have transitioned from a luxury to a necessity and ubiquitous possession, online shopping has experienced tremendous growth and become an established and appreciated part of daily life. Engaging and seamless online stores, secure payment systems, generous return policies and better data plans mean that consumers are as comfortable buying goods and services online, as they are in traditional retail outlets. From groceries, to hotel rooms, sneakers, car insurance and tickets to the big game; shoppers now have the freedom and confidence to virtually buy and book online anything, anytime, anywhere. A recent survey conducted by Accenture of over 10,000 consumers in 8 major countries, indicated that 75% would even buy their next vehicle online if it were possible.2

Changing buyer behaviour and expectations

The development and consequent popularity of online shopping has also irreversibly changed buyer behaviours, processes and expectations. Now that the point of purchase can be found in palms, pockets and laptop bags, no longer do consumers consider traditional 9am to 5pm business and shopping hours to apply. The minimum buyer expectation has evolved, and consumers now expect to conduct all purchase decisions in a way that maximises their personal convenience and satisfaction.

The internet’s real-time, perpetual stream of information also means that consumers can extensively research purchase decisions before handing over their hard-earned dollars. They now have very little reason to believe and accept any product or service information at face value, and have never been more informed before entering a sales transaction. This makes lasting loyalty harder to win and easier to lose.


Without an online sales touchpoint, dealerships risk being invisible to younger consumers

Contrastingly, consumer suspicions are automatically raised when product information and sales transaction details lack detail or are difficult to find. Scant product and price transparency can easily snowball into lost sales, poor online reviews, social media backlash and a hit to brand image and credibility.

You can now sell where your customers are

Despite the popularity of online shopping, the use of the internet to facilitate the booking of vehicle servicing and maintenance has so far been limited. Most dealerships still require vehicle owners to phone or email a service booking request and then appointment availability is confirmed with follow-up contact by dealership staff – often a day or two later with disappointing news.

In order to offer a customer experience that resonates better with customers who expect an immediate outcome, dealerships could implement an online service booking solution that provides a 24-7 sales touchpoint on their website. This would empower time-challenged customers to book a service at their own convenience with real-time appointment availability, eliminate after hours customer turn away and even open a new market of vehicle owners that may never have considered genuine dealership service as an option, such as Generation Y.

Increase ROI by following-up multi-point inspections (MPI)


A VIN-precise itemised listing of parts and labour strengthens the value proposition of genuine service

There are also unique and important efficiency advantages that an online, automated booking solution can deliver. Staff burden to answer basic appointment availability enquiries would be reduced significantly. Therefore, precious staff time could be reallocated to jobs that grow dealership profitability and enhance customer satisfaction, such as following-up on customer deferred work from multi-point inspections (MPI), making proactive outbound service reminders and spreading awareness of special offers and events.

With a treasure chest of customer insights and analytics directly collated by the online booking system, Service Managers could also better track and monitor trends in their customer base, improve dealership planning such as customer transportation and implement more frequent and targeted marketing campaigns. For example, hyperlinks to empty appointment slots and last minute cancellations could be promoted via email, SMS, or social media channels such as Twitter or Facebook, before their revenue potential expires forever.

A perfect mix of buyer convenience and transparency

Many consumers say they feel emotional attachment to their cars and loyalty to a particular automaker, but when it comes to servicing with the franchised dealer beyond the Capped Price Service or Warranty period, they feel uncomfortable and wary of being taken for a ride.

Franchise dealerships can limit defection to aftermarket service providers, by providing transparent, easy-to-understand service information that leaves customers feeling in-control and informed about their vehicle’s servicing requirements.

The very best online service booking solutions now transform the customer experience with instant VIN-precise service quoting, seamlessly and efficiently within the booking process. So over the vehicle ownership life, the service booking customer experience is fast, transparent, personalised and engaging; immediately providing the critical information that the vehicle owner needs to make a confident and fully informed purchase decision. With genuine automaker data, the online booking solution now provides direct answers to two critical customer questions:


Appointment availability is identified in real-time empowering the customer to choose the most convenient option available

  1. What parts and labour am I paying for?
  2. How much will it cost me?

Building lasting trust and loyaltyThe professional and fully priced service quote is now easily attainable and explains in plain language, exactly what will be charged and what work will be performed. This helps customers feel involved, in-control and comfortable before entering an unfamiliar situation like the service department. When they see a digital process instantly pricing their selected service, customers can be more confident that they’re receiving a fair and consistent price. All this builds certainty and trust, and gives the dealership an edge over the competition.

When a customer has an easy-to-understand, fully-priced quote with a list of all the parts and labour involved, the value equation and appreciation of genuine service is strengthened. It’s this compelling information and positive engagement that goes a long way to building trust, satisfaction and loyalty in your staff and dealership. The unrivalled mix of accuracy and convenience of a self-serve VIN-precise online service booking system, delivers all the elements that 21st century consumers expect from a rewarding shopping experience.

Losing service bookings to the aftermarket is no longer inevitable!