The Broken Process Between Service and Sales -
A little “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” can help meet common
dealership and individual departmental goals.
If someone were to ask me which process in service is most broken and how would
I fix it, I would overwhelmingly point out the relationship between sales and
service and the failure to realize that working together can yield amazing
results, both in terms of your individual department goals and for the
betterment of the dealership as a whole.
It is no secret that car service departments can no longer rely on the automatic
service business those sales generate. I believe that the process by which the
dealership attempts to convert sales customers into service customers is
seriously flawed, yet it’s a proven fact that converting your sales customers
into service customers is the surest way to turn them into repeat sales
customers. In a perfectly functioning dealership, sales feeds service and, in
turn, service reciprocates and feeds sales.
A number of studies have been done measuring the likelihood of a new or used
vehicle purchaser becoming a repeat sales customer. One of these studies found
that if a sales customer makes the conversion to doing regular business with the
dealership’s service department, the likelihood that they will make their next
vehicle purchase from the same dealership rises to 86 percent. On the other
hand, if that sales customer never visits service, only seven percent make an
So, the process that is most broken is that which is designed to do all things
possible to get the customer into your service department. That conversion to a
service customer pays immediate and measureable dividends; the added benefits to
sales take a little longer, but are no less significant.
Clearly, that is why so many dealerships stress the transition from the sales
transaction to the service introduction. The sales departments have a vested
interest in seeing this relationship flourish. Setting the first service
appointment has long been a desired goal, but unfortunately one that is often
given less than full attention and emphasis.
While the service manager is not in a great position to influence what goes on
in the showroom or the F&I office, it is certainly true that making more friends
up in the “front end” can help both departments.
The process of introducing the customer to service and setting the first service
appointment often breaks down during the bottleneck at the F&I office. Customer
frustration, often fueled by ‘wait time’ at this point in the sales process can
often blunt any attempt to convert the new sales customer into a service
I suggest that the dealership not have a single and ordered set of ‘steps to the
sale’, but be able to vary the process based on any bottlenecks that would cause
the customer to wait. I would like to suggest the possibility of having three
alternatives (maybe more depending on your dealership’s sales procedures) where
waiting time at F&I is estimated for each customer.
If the F&I office can handle the new customer right away, stick with the
original plan of getting the customer in as soon as possible in order to
introduce them to the service department and obtain the first appointment once
the F&I steps have been completed.
However, if the customer will be required to wait 10, 15 or 20 minutes for the
F&I process to begin, the salesperson should be ready to switch gears and fill
the wait time with the service introductions and the setting of the first
service appointment. Clearly, if you can keep the customer busy through the
steps of the sale, their frustration level will be diminished and they will be
I also suggest that you may want to help keep the salesperson’s focus on the
service intro and the setting of the first appointment by establishing some
goals attached to modest bonuses they can earn for hitting some benchmark
results. Depending on the dealership’s pay plan philosophy, you may want to
consider paying the salesperson a monthly bonus that is triggered if their
customers actually do come back to the dealership for their first service
A $200 to $250 per month payable bonus when 80 percent of that salesperson’s
customers actually show up for the first service appointment may help in keeping
their eyes on the goal of making service customers out of sales customers, so
that they can become sales customers once again down the road.
And, if sales works just a little at creating service customers and service does
its part by increasing the number of service customers that return to the sales
department, the vicious circle of self-interest you see evidenced at many
dealerships will become something much more appealing.
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