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Mobile Apps Can Fuel A Service Department’s Customer Acquisition And Retention

Establish a new link with customers delivering targeted offers, detailed service reports and more. BY RICH HOLLAND

shutterstock_207575554In today’s automotive marketplace, businesses must be mobile to compete. After all, 90 percent of American adults have cell phones, 65 percent of which are smartphones. And, Google Analytics predicts that by 2020, there will be 245 million smartphone users in the U.S. alone.

The always on, always with you, always connected nature of smartphones isn’t just a trend. Their incredibly useful apps are fundamentally changing how consumers purchase, service and repurchase just about every product and service out there – and shape their expectations of companies from which they buy.

Meanwhile in the retail automotive industry, the vehicle service interval (average span of time between service appointments) continues to increase. In fact, it grew to 185.2 days from 181 days in 2014 alone, and those lost days of service revenue cost dealership groups an average of $85,650 annually, or $20,400 per store.

Dealerships have help from mobile app technology in their battle against the growing service interval, and their efforts to boost customer retention – if they choose to embrace it. The cost of modifying an app to their needs can be less than $9,000 per year per store.

How Apps Serve Dealerships

Mobile app technology is currently the most important channel of customer connectivity available to the modern business. According to recent Nielsen data, 89 percent of consumer mobile time is now spent in apps. With 51 percent of all digital time spent on mobile devices, as opposed to desktops (42 percent) and all other devices (7 percent), that’s a whole lot of customer engagement just waiting to happen.

One of the best ways for dealerships and other businesses to leverage this technology is by offering a business-branded app for their customers to download. For example, dealerships now have access to customizable mobile apps they can modify and rebrand. An example is DMEautomotive’s Driver Connect app.

These apps not only are very useful for customers, they also enable dealership service and sales teams to build an easy and trusted connection with those customers. Dealer-branded mobile apps also help dealers combat the increasing service interval by going right where consumers are engaging the most and most often: on their smartphones.

Apps like Driver Connect are designed first to improve customer retention and service, secondly to market products and services that help with customer retention, and thirdly to sell vehicles. They help dealerships send their best “bring ‘em in and get ‘em spending” offers, which customers can save in their mobile wallets to redeem at their next service visits. Along with these deals, dealers can offer a loyalty program to further drive retention and increase share of garage.

Special offers through apps also pull customers away from attractive competitor offers. Through multi-location “geofencing” capabilities, dealers effectively can set invisible perimeters around their own lot and around competing stores. The app will automatically send customers a special offer whenever they come within a given distance of these locations.

Driver Connect also includes an array of useful vehicle ownership tools (including a flashlight, digital parking meter and car location) that help with the app’s “stickiness” and keep customers engaged on a regular basis. Plus, it offers a menu of services intended to generate still more engagement between the customer and the service center. For example, customers can use the app to read services that are needed and their vehicle’s complete service history, schedule a service appointment, receive a “vehicle ready” notification and even pay their invoice from anywhere, 24/7.

Beyond the convenience factor, mobile tools let dealerships increase their service and sales revenue and customer retention. A 2014 study by DMEautomotive found that customers using Driver Connect were 73 percent more likely to purchase a vehicle from the dealership, spent up to 7 percent more when they did buy a vehicle, and then scheduled 25 percent more service appointments than did customers without an app. Another study, of 307 dealerships, found a dealership received an average $144,000 of incremental service revenue for every 1,000 app users.

shutterstock_143184400Customizing Service Reports

Engaging today’s “always on” consumer is no small feat, and the service department need not have to go silent during the time of a service visit, either. One app that lets customer interaction can continue while a car is on the lift is AutoPoint’s OwnerCare.

OwnerCare funnels personalized, interactive service reports to motorists via text or e-mail. These reports include multi-point inspections (including “failed,” “caution” and “passed” points) that feature color-correct stock images of the appropriate vehicle. Then the app visually maps the recommended work on failed components in the vehicle’s engine, interior or exterior. It also can provide educational videos and articles, so that customers get an array of tools to make informed decisions about their vehicle service.

Meanwhile, OwnerCare also can make life a little easier for the service department, and increase efficiency and productivity. Service recommendations that the customer approves are electronically submitted back to the AutoPoint platform and logged. The service advisor, tech and parts department are notified that work can begin, thus eliminating phone tag with the customer.

Apps Can Drive Service Business

From the first purchase to the repurchase and all the lucrative service visits in between, apps have the power to hook customers and keep them coming back again and again. After all, the White House Office on Consumer Affairs estimates that on average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.

However, it’s not easy to hook and retain the modern customer. With all of the visual and auditory noise cluttering the marketing world, it takes a super-convenient, hyper-targeted marketing strategy to clear the mechanism.

Fortunately, mobile apps can offer that focus, and more. Perhaps most importantly, a smartly purchased and adapted app will pay for itself several times over for a dealership.

The numbers make it clear: Mobile apps are not facing away. A dealership armed with a start-to-finish strategy connecting itself to customers at every stage of the vehicle ownership and service lifecycle wields the ultimate competitive advantage.

Garnering the prime real estate on a customer’s smartphone screen means dealers have the chance to engage a powerful audience over the device that never leaves their side. With all the business apps available have been proven to drive business, the only question that remains for today’s dealership is: What are you waiting for? Get ‘appy!


Source: Service Drive Magazine, September 2015 Issue

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