Earlier this year, Cars.com released a market research report about consumer perceptions about the cost of repairs, price transparency, and digital marketing among auto dealership service departments, versus independent and "big box" repair chains. Jack Simmons, manager of dealer training at Cars.com, discussed the study with Aftermarket Business World.
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What was the most surprising thing you found in this survey?
It was the big gap between consumer price perception and dealer service departments. More than half of consumers think dealers are more expensive, just because of pure perception. After the warranty period, they really feel the dealer is going to cost more money than the big box retailer or independent shop. That's independent of any demographics; it was across the board. A lot of that has to do with the lack of price transparency at dealerships, and how far behind the service department is in terms of a digital presence, compared to the sales department.
There is a big group of consumers (43 percent) that have no initial preference where they get their cars repaired. How are dealers working to attract that non-committal share of the market?
The big thing is price transparency. Online reviews, especially service reviews, are also important. People make these decisions based on peer recommendations, and those reviews are critical. Consumers need to be confident that they are dealing with a trustworthy provider, and that the dealership is a good place to do business after the warranty expires.
What are the key challenges dealer service departments face when it comes to marketing service?
The pool of available service and repair maintenance is big and continuing to grow, but dealers are actually sliding backward and losing share. You have to tell your story in a digital environment. If you look at the average dealer, 97 percent of their website content is for sales, and just 3 percent is for service. That's a huge disconnect.
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