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Transforming the Service Drive: Unlocking the True Potential of Customer Engagement

Of all the places in the dealership, the Service Drive has to be the most interesting and one of my most favorite places to talk about. In my career, I have never seen a place so feared by many, yet those who chose to venture into it became victors as the gold was theirs for the taking.

Name another place in the dealership where ALL your customers congregate, waiting to spend money? Not prospective customers, not people checking out the price of a left-handed widget for a 1978 Datsun 510. I'm talking about people who already have your brand and whose sole purpose is to spend their money at the dealership. Where else can you find these people but in the Service Drive?

So, why is it so hard to get your sales teams to get in there? Easy... Two simple reasons; first... lack of integration of the fixed and variable teams, second... a simple fear of the customer.

If it is that simple, it should be equally as simple to overcome this fear, right?


If we are indeed to breakthrough the barrier of entry to this promiseland, we need to fix the resistance or ignorance of the relationship between the two departments. We can't have our employees working as individuals within their respective departments; we need them acting as teams. This leads back to a refocusing of responsibilities and understandings, with priority being placed on customer experience and employee equality.

When we start to realize that the Service Drive is for us to SERVE the customer, it means we are there as a single entity or brand representing the dealership. There is no unbiased balance as to who is more entitled; we are as one. This mindset MUST be both trained and coached into all team members. Further representation should always be shared between fixed and variables when the drive is open.

Think of this... A customer drives in, appointment or not, and they have the fullest attention of your team. Both members are there to represent and advise on the best possible outcome for the customer and the team. While one is focused on bringing in the vehicle for service, the other is creating value to reassure the customer not only did they purchase the right brand, but the dealership has their best interests in mind as the variable team remains with them long after the sale.

Creating this synergy will bring huge dividends as each team member can promote value to the customer and display the benefits of the long-term relationship. As a customer, wouldn't you want this? As a dealer, isn't this the attentiveness that you are looking for in your teams?

With the experience the customer is now receiving in the above scenario, where does the FEAR level come into play from the staff? It disappears faster than free donuts at a meeting.

So what do we get?

Now the customer drives in; they are greeted by a team, one is busy doing the intake while the other is establishing value. Neither is pushing for an outcome to benefit them but only that of the customer. For example, Mike, our Service Advisor, explains, "Mrs. Customer, you brought your vehicle in today for its 36,000-mile service, and that is fantastic. However, given the mileage and condition, my colleague Susan has appraised your vehicle and has great news." Then Susan takes over to explain positive equity, and regardless of the direction the customer takes, fixed-ops is still rewarded with the business. Combine this properly with your data, and you can essentially build an in-house subscription purchase model.

What type of experience does that relay back to the customer? An outstanding one that build both dealership and brand loyalty.

There are a few brands that do this exceptionally well, looking at each customer as a multi-vehicle purchaser. They design their processes to ensure the first purchase experience is strengthened through the service drive and ownership cycle, so that each subsequent purchase is adopted from this process. In fact, I know a brand that expects each customer to purchase a minimum of seven vehicles from this exact experience model.

Recognizing this, the importance of the Service Drive to the dealership is paramount to its success. We need to address how we operate here, where our focuses are, and how we must adapt them to the current expectations of the customer. When we do, you will see the benefits. This is all but guaranteed.

Let's transform the service drive into a goldmine of customer engagement and loyalty. The potential is there; it's time we tap into it.

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