It’s Time for Service “Engagement”

For at least 15 years, dealers have been told that they should be sending “reminders” to their owner base to remind these customers to come back in for service when their vehicle is due. Dealers have been told that if they haven’t seen a customer in a year, they should send them a deeply discounted offer to “win” them back. 

For most of this time, the idea was to send as much direct mail as a dealer could justify, but several years ago, we learned that this could also be accomplished through email for a significantly lower cost. 

Let’s face it—this stuff worked and generated incremental service visits and resulting gross profit. What it did not do, unfortunately, was deliver “engagement,” or advance the ongoing relationship between customer and dealer. 

An analysis of over 5.6MM transactions by Outsell, Experian, and RXA, found that engagement over time leads to higher retention, more service visits, and higher customer value. 

It’s time to apply “engagement” to service. Service engagement is different than today’s typical service reminder programs. Here’s how:

  • Reminders flood consumers with clutter by sending through any channel that can be justified. Engagement is best achieved through Artificial Intelligence (AI), using actual behavior to understand the customer and determine the best media with which to reach them. Sometimes this is email, sometimes Direct Mail, sometimes social, or a combination. This method over basic reminders enables dealer marketers to produce better results much more efficiently while saving money.
  • Traditional service programs send offers, reminders, declined services, recalls, and more when the clock says a consumer is due. This is all very transactional and focused on getting the customer to act. Engagement tracks the customer’s behavior more than their vehicle – sometimes when there is nothing due at all, or when a transaction next week is not the goal. Engagement means customers get information on how best to use the features of their vehicle. They get regular broadcasts about things happening at the dealership to enable them to keep the dealership top of mind. Sometimes they get sales messages about new products. The goal is to drive future sales and service transactions for sure. The technique, however, uses AI to determine the best message for that customer to deepen long-term engagement, which, along the way, also produces loyalty and future transactions.
  • Traditional service programs also send the same stuff to everyone. The only differences are typically around what service is due or the vehicle owned. Engagement is personalized to enhance the experience the customer has with the dealership. When AI recommends it, sales messages can inform the consumer about service, vehicle care, or ownership. Conversely, service messages can inform them about sales on new models, special offers, community events, or even sometimes include inventory—but all personalized based on measurable behavior. This is not just 3 versions of the same thing, with pictures of snow for the Northeast. True personalized engagement in service considers life stage, customer behavior, vehicle traits, customer communication preferences, vehicle usage, and so much more.

It’s time to apply “engagement” to service. An effective program, such as Outsell’s VIN Service Engagement, have among its goals to advance the way every customer views the experience the dealership provides.

The future of service engagement helps consumers understand that the dealership has their best interests in mind. It helps them understand the value being provided. It helps them understand that experts are serving them. It tries to suggest that today’s dealership can be trusted with the care and safety of their vehicle. 

More than this though, it seeks to offer an extended relationship that analysis has shown produces both effective short-term service transactions akin to reminder programs, but also long-term retention through personalized engagement that leads to higher dealership loyalty in both sales and service and significantly higher customer gross profit. 

Learn more about Outsell’s VIN Service Engagement.