Expert: Dealers should stress service online
Case: Changed store Web sites
Dealer Rick Case wants his virtual service department to rival his physical one.
Case has put his buildings' service departments near the front of almost all of his 15 dealerships for customer convenience.
He is taking that same approach online. His company designed a new Web site for the group's main page and for each store.
The new Web site gives more prominence to service, says Case, owner of Rick Case Automotive Group in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"We service all makes and models seven days a week, so that's going to drive a lot more people to our service department," he says. "It's easier and faster to move through with less clicks to maneuver through it."
Industry leaders say Case is addressing a problem common to many dealers: a weak online service presence. Solutions include buying better key words on search engines and making dealerships' Web sites easier to navigate, says Chip Maher, dealership management consultant for the National Automobile Dealers Association 20 Group Program in McLean, Va.
"If you Google 'brake repairs,' you'll get a list of independent shops but not one dealership," Maher says.
Maher says the typical dealer lacks a competitive online presence for the service department. "You have a $20 million building, and a customer has to click twice to see where your service is on your Web site," Maher says. "The independent guy down the street has a $1 million building and his virtual service presence is greater than yours."
Maher says 95 percent of customers who set up a service appointment do so through the Internet. And as more young vehicle owners enter the market, dealerships must differentiate themselves online to stand out.
He suggests some ways to do that:
Create a separate Web site for the service department.
Offer coupons and promotions.
Show videos of technicians explaining the work to be done if a car is recalled by the manufacturer.
Buy key words on search engines to land higher on customer searches.
Make it fast and easy to set up a service appointment online.
"These are probably the least cost-sensitive changes to make," Maher says. "You're not moving walls."
Case's new Web site launched March 1, he says. Case expects customers will make more service appointments and he can showcase his service offerings better than before.
"We're trying to keep up as things are changing and we monitor other dealers' Web sites," Case says. "And we're just trying to be the best."
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