What if I told you that over 95 percent of your service and parts business comes from "traditional" marketing—word of mouth, past customers, location. Nearly everyone who spends time in your service or parts department got there because they already knew something about you.
What if I told you that in 2010, people are starting to go online more for their service and parts needs and there are ways you could take advantage of this? You would be interested, of course, because while new and used car sales are the "waves" that help dealerships to be successful, fixed ops should always be the backbone that keeps a dealership profitable.
You knew that. Now, the question is, "How do I increase my conquest service and parts business?"
The answer, as it has been with sales over the past few years, is to increase your online service and parts presence. Here's how:
1) Give Them Their Own Web Site(s)
The vast majority of service and parts centers at franchise dealerships across the country piggyback on Web sites designed to sell more cars. There's normally a tab, button or dropdown menu on the dealership's home page that takes people to a service and parts section.
These departments deserve their own presence online because people are searching the Internet for reasons to have their needs fulfilled by you. They do searches on Google for "Toyota service Costa Mesa" because they're looking for someone local who can take care of their needs. In that particular search, if a dealership has a service Web site, you'll see that the dealership’s main Web site comes up first and the dealership's service Web site comes up next. Their chances of getting that local business despite three other Toyota dealerships in a seven-mile radius increase exponentially as a result.
2) Customer Ratings Are Hot
Search engines are putting more focus on sites like Vast that offer one- to five-star ratings on services. Why? Because people trust other people. Seventeen percent trust advertisements, while 81 percent trust reviews by other people. Encouraging your happy customers to give you a review online and having a way to easily enable them to do so is the only way to make this happen.
We all know that people who are dissatisfied will fly online to tell the world, but those who are happy need a little encouragement to do the same. If you aren't the one encouraging, your competitors will get the upper hand.
3) Social Media While You Wait
There are so many ways that social media can have an affect on your fixed ops business, but we'll cover two of them in this article. Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare are easily accessible through mobile devices. While people are waiting for their vehicles to be fixed, they will often browse the Web or their favorite social media sites.
You should set up a check-in point through Foursquare at your service department. Why? That's an article unto itself, but as location-based social networking continues to explode you will want to be well-positioned.

4) Social Media Specials Updates
Setting up a proper service and parts tab on Facebook and encouraging people to find specials there are so important that I cannot stress it enough. Testing has shown that those who are passionate about Facebook (and there are a lot of us out there) like to be able to find Facebook-exclusive specials made just for them. Your fans will increase, your phones will ring and you'll be amazed at how many people respond to this free service.
5) Update Your Specials
Hopefully, you won't need this piece of advice. Hopefully, in 2010, you are no longer one of the many dealerships that allow their online specials to go out-of-date. It's a chore, but it's one that can have a tremendous impact if done correctly.
You run specials in service and parts; therefore, you should publicize these specials on your Web site(s). It's a shame that so many do not find the time to do it, but that's to your advantage because, as a reader of Auto Dealer Monthly, we already know you're ahead of the curve and doing what it takes to be successful. Specials are the easiest way to separate yourself from the competitors who do not make the time.
Fixed ops is often forgotten in the online marketing strategy. We feel as if we can't move the needle and that fixed ops is, well, fixed. Make the right moves online and you'll see growth. Remember, more people are going online to make their service and parts decisions than ever before. Give it the attention that it deserves.

Vol. 7, Issue 4