Last week, I attended an online forum where dealers, fixed ops directors and service managers shared their views on how the coronavirus pandemic was affecting business. They traded ideas on how best to deal with the current situation and pondered what the service drive would look like in the future.
Most agreed that dealership fixed operations will not go back to business as usual once COVID-19 passes. Customers have become accustomed to some of the concierge services that have been rolled out by service departments as they attempt to do business while also honoring social distancing protocols. Things such as vehicle pickup and delivery, mobile servicing, video multipoint inspections and touchless payment.
Brian Benstock, whom you can read about in this newsletter, said service departments need to change and reinvent themselves. Why?
"Because the game has changed," said Benstock, general manager of Paragon Honda and Acura in Queens, N.Y.
The message was the same at an NADA Academy webinar this month. The crisis is a chance to innovate, to be creative, to launch something a fixed ops department has been considering but hasn't had the time or courage to try.
"It is a great time to do amazing things in fixed operations by showing customers the true difference between yourselves and the competition," NADA Academy instructor Bob Atwood said.
With dealership service departments being deemed an "essential service," the fate of many of those stores rests with the men and women turning wrenches and running parts.
"Service is the backbone of the dealership. It's not the back end," Atwood says.
"Most of your states have said the service department is an essential business. It is essential to the U.S. economy."