Autobytel.com has introduced an online maintenance reminder system dealers can use to promote repair and maintenance to Internet shoppers. The service, which is known as Service.autobytel.com, is similar to service reminder systems launched by other online auto-buying services.
The consumer has an online file that allows him or her to keep track of a vehicle's service history and receive alerts when the vehicle needs maintenance or when there is a recall. The consumer uses a password to access the file.
Autobytel.com's reminder system also lets dealers market their service departments to customers and potentially lure new business.
'This is a customer-retention tool,' said Mike Lowell, senior vice president of development for Autobytel.com. 'Sixty to 80 percent of customers go someplace else for service' after buying a car from a dealer.
HOW IT WORKS
Consumers use the Autobytel.com site to get a vehicle price quote from a dealer. Customers complete a form that includes their e-mail address. Even if they do not buy a car through Autobytel.com, customers who request a quote receive an e-mail message asking whether they want to enroll in the reminder service.
The e-mail reminders will bear the name of a participating dealership and can include coupons for discounted service. Participating dealers also can tap an online lead-tracking system for updates on how many service leads they have received, how many reminders were sent and how many customers visited the dealership for service.
Dealers must offer menu pricing and give a price quote when customers ask for service. Service departments must respond to requests for service within 24 hours. In areas where there is no Autobytel.com dealership involved in the program, Autobytel.com will promote the system to other dealers or independent garages.
More than 750 of the 2,800 Autobytel.com dealers have signed up for a free trial period, but dealers eventually will pay a fee to take part in the program. The reminders are free to consumers.
Service.autobytel.com also has a few more bells and whistles, including:
A 'Lease Watch' feature that alerts consumers when they are approaching the mileage limits of their lease, so they can avoid excess mileage charges.
The opportunity to schedule service appointments online.
A bulletin board on which consumers can offer each other advice on service and repairs.
An 'Ask the Expert' feature that allows customers to get answers to frequently asked service and maintenance questions.