Four Simple Steps for Improving Online Scheduling

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Aug. 30, 2017—If you polled every dealership in the U.S., Jim Roche says that every single one of them would claim to practice online appointment scheduling.

But if you asked how many of them do it effectively?

“Many of them will just have a request form on a page,” said Xtime’s senior vice president of marketing and managed services. “You need a robust, multi-channeled online scheduling process.”

New research from Xtime proves it’s no joke: Twenty-three percent of customers schedule their visits outside of a dealership’s business hours. And those scheduled visits generate an average $54 uplift compared to walk-in customers.

For dealers seeking to combat sluggish sales by expanding their fixed operations, recent data underscores the growing importance of online scheduling in delivering a connected ownership experience. Figures from the NADA Data 2016 report, along with Xtime’s findings, show that 315 million service appointments were scheduled in the U.S year-over-year, 108 million of which were processed through Xtime’s Spectrum platform, resulting in $34 billion in service revenue.

Additionally, a Cox Automotive report found that while 76 percent of customers who scheduled service appointments online would be willing to do so again, 45 percent of customers who did not take advantage of online scheduling did not know it was an option.

Fixing that discrepancy is everything to Roche, as customer retention should be of utmost importance for service departments.

“The primary building block for retention is the experience,” Roche said. “The experience is the the fundamental need. And the starting point in almost any industry is scheduling the appointment.”

Here are some common mistakes Roche says should avoid. Fixing them will enhance the online scheduling process and help you gain customers for life.


1. A lack of personnel tracking online appointments

While 100 percent of dealerships units may claim to host online scheduling, Roche says Xtime found that 57 percent of time? Online appointments aren’t even addressed or seen by employees.

“Then it’s just an email form,” he says. “There's no intelligence behind it”

Get somebody’s eyes on the appointments, and make sure that person has a good understanding of the schedule and workload capability of the service department.


2. Trusting the form

Too many times, dealerships fall victim to being passive with online appointments and schedule the work the customer thinks he or she needs. Before working the appointment into the technicians’ schedule, you need a full breakdown of the job. And you simply cannot assume everything in the online appointment is all you need to know.

First, you should follow up with the customer and find out more information, such as whether the customer can wait in the lobby or needs a rental. But on top of that, you should pull up the customer’s vehicle history, if possible, and research past appointments and any outstanding recalls that could affect the job.


3. Failing to evaluate employee schedules

Once again, it’s easy to work any online appointment into the requested time. But you’ll need to first evaluate your service advisors and technicians’ schedules to see if the work fits into your allotted resources and time.

Some questions you’ll want to address are:

  • Does the customer have a preferred service advisor?
  • How many technicians are available? What are their days and hours of operation?
  • Is any special equipment involved?
  • Does the customer want to add recall work to the appointment?
  • Is the customer interested in getting new tires?

“The idea is to make online appointment booking seem seamless,” Roche says, “but there’s a lot going to do that right.”


4. Offering just one online booking form

When it comes down to it, people have more demanding schedules than others. Some like to spend time filling out specific information about their cars—and others just want to put in some basic information and move on.

“If you’re already a customer, you might want to go in and find your record and your specific vehicle VIN, year, model,” Roche says. “If that’s the case, it pre-populates the information for you and jumpstarts the process.”


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