Fixed Ops Roundtable Presents “Dare to Dream: Unmasking Childhood Cancer”
Online Service Marketing Panel
Hosted by: Ted Ings
Led by: Owen Moon
Panelists: April Simmons, Drew Benson, Erin Sparks
On November 15th, FIXED OPS DIGITAL CEO Owen Moon hosted the Online Service Marketing Panel for Fixed Ops Roundtable’s “Dare to Dream: Unmasking Childhood Cancer” event. Read the full transcription below!
Ted Ings: Welcome back to the Fixed Ops Round Table. This is the panel we’ve all been waiting for. Owen Moon is a great friend of the fixed ops community. He’s been with us since the earliest days of the Roundtable, the online service marketing panel, which is hosted by Fixed Ops Digital, Owen – first of all, welcome back to the Fixed Ops Roundtable.
Owen Moon: Ted, thanks for having me. Pleasure to be here. You know, a lot of times, I’ll do individual sessions on these, but I always love it when I can come in and help moderate a panel of experts, and we’ve got some good ones here today. So looking forward to this.
Ted Ings: Owen, I love the mask. I love April’s and Erin’s as well. I recognized Drew because he’s been on the Roundtable several times before. So I know you got a great discussion coming. I’m going to step out of the way, Owen, and I will come back as we get towards the end. So, Owen, the show’s all yours.
Owen Moon: Awesome. Well, thank you very much, Ted. First off, I just kind of want to introduce everybody here today. So first off, in my upper right-hand corner is April Simmons. April is the Corporate Internet and Marketing Manager for the Horne Automotive Group out of Arizona. In my lower-left-hand corner is Erin Sparks. Erin is the Marketing Director at DeNooyer in Michigan. And Drew Benson is the Fixed Operations Technology Process Manager at the Qvale Auto Group. And I know Drew had obviously been on the Roundtable in the past. So first off, welcome, everybody! Glad to have you on the online service marketing panel.
April Simmons: Thanks Owen. I’m super glad to be here with you.
Owen Moon: Yeah, absolutely going to take my mask off here so we can just have a quick conversation.
April Simmons: I love it. I’m gonna put my glasses on. The downfall of the mask is that if you wear glasses, they don’t really fit over it.
Owen Moon: Well, obviously we’re supporting a great cause, as Ted does with all of his roundtables, and so it’s good to kind of get into character and have a little fun with it. But I’m super excited about this panel because what I want to talk to you guys today about is service marketing. A lot of times on the Fixed Ops Roundtable it’s very driven, it’s technology-driven. But marketing is one of those things that I think is moving very fast. And so I think that that’s really an opportunity that a lot of dealerships have to get better. You know inside the dealership and that’s how they’re marketing their fixed operations, right? Fixed operations is everything from parts, service, tires, accessories, and collision. These are all great profit centers for the dealership and I think what we find a lot of times is they’re very neglected. So what I want to kind of start with, and I’d love to hear your guys’ kind of feedback. Let’s start with April. April, tell me a little bit – you know our company always talks about sort of the evolution of service marketing and that transition may be away from customer loyalty campaigns and going after specific audiences to more of an online approach. What are you seeing with your stores? What are you kind of seeing out there in the industry? How can dealerships maybe look at their service marketing or their fixed operations marketing a little bit differently when it comes to 2022, and obviously as we’re moving into 2023?
April Simmons: So one of the crazy things is when I first started I really was focused only on the variable side of things because I was hired as the Internet Director for all of our stores. So I was heavily involved in the marketing of the variable side. When I started to really dig into the data and look at what’s working and what’s not working because store to store, I found that to be very, very different. So it was a different spot for me going into a corporate space versus an individual store. And what I really started to see was that a lot of the traffic that sales was paying for was actually going to service. So the goal completions, the things that were happening on the website, the converting spots, were within the fixed ops room. So that, of course, then took me down the rabbit hole, starting to look at, well, what happens on the website? Where are these people going and this epiphany of like, WOAH, we’re all talking about sales experience on our website, customer experience, and for some reason, nobody lived in fixed ops and thought that was important. Well, fixed ops is where the majority of your web traffic actually goes. The majority of your phone calls to your dealership and also your web traffic is actually in your fixed ops space. So the first thing with marketing that I feel that people really need to hone in on is having the same approach to all of your converting, your SEO, your converting tools, your scheduler, anything that is related to fixed ops you should have, if not more intensity than even on your variable side. So the first place to start is your website and making sure that you have that proper customer experience, and then look at where you’re landing people.
Owen Moon: Yeah, great point. Obviously we’ve seen the evolution of variable marketing for years, especially online, but I feel like the service side has sort of just kind of lagging behind and we’ve been very content with doing direct mail campaigns and email marketing and things like that. Erin, as the Marketing Director at DeNooyer, what are you guys doing maybe differently today than you did a year or two, even five years ago, to help reach those different audiences, specifically online?
Erin Sparks: In just our marketing in the general sense, there are a lot of things that the OEM is going to require of you in the service space, just they are on the variable side too. But taking your chance to look at that and understand what’s required of you and then knowing and understanding how that actually fits into today’s world, because not to maybe throw anyone OEM under the bus per se, but it would probably behoove you to really take a step back and say: is this serving us? Is this thing or the way that they tell me to do this serving me or serving our end goal? We know that on brands that we see behind me, direct mail is a heavy influence, but text messaging is not. There is a focus on an understanding of what they’re coming in for and how many call lists you can have and all the outbound activity that you can do. But how are you supporting that physical, outbound activity that you do with the content on your website, resources for the customer to know and understand, and using digital marketing as a general whole to support the things you’re doing? We found that when I walked in the door that we were doing the things that the OEM was telling us to do, and they’re selling us that we’re doing all the things.
Owen Moon: You’re checking off the boxes, right?
Erin Sparks: Right! But you know you’ve got a ton of smart people in that room and there are people that are doing things just because they say it’s right. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good.
Owen Moon: Yeah, great point.
April Simmons: According to them, 100% of every customer that comes into the shop is because of them. 100% of the time!
Erin Sparks: April and both have an affinity for UTM codes and tracking and call tracking and things because you can do more, probably without spending even a whole lot more, if at all, if you just take a step back and look at what you want to accomplish and find the ways to track that along the way.
Owen Moon: Drew, to kind of follow up on that, I know you guys have quite a few different brands. Is it more important than ever to have those brands be sort of marketed differently than it is with sales? I mean obviously with sales on new cars, it’s very different, but a lot of times dealerships will take a very consistent approach to their used car marketing or their used car side of things. How are you seeing your different brands, sort of tackling different things? I know you’ve got a couple of brands very heavy with EVs and things like that. What are you doing differently or what can you see differently with your OEMs?
Drew Benson: With our different OEMs, we put those three to the side and we focus on our own dealership brand, which is the Qvale Way, and our process of service. So no matter what they’re telling us for marketing, we want to make sure that for all three stores, our processes are equal, right? We want to make sure that the websites are promoting our brand, which is the Qvale Way, our service process, the videos, the digital MPIs, the virtual glove box, and the pay online. All of that stuff is our brand. So, no matter what the OEM is telling us, yes, we’re going to satisfy them, but we’re also going to focus more heavily on our website, on our service process, so they’re going to see that on our website and they’re going to know what to expect when they come in. We’re even going to, when we set a service appointment, in our confirmation text message, it’s a link from our video to our website that shows them what to expect when they walk in the door. So it’s all connected but we focus more on our personal dealership and Qvale Way brand rather than the OEM stuff.
Owen Moon: You know, that’s a great point. I love that because when you have a brand and multiple stores, especially if they’re in the same market, you don’t want someone to go from one store to the other and get a completely different experience, right? So kind of moving on to the next point, I want to talk a little bit about customer experience. Drew, why don’t you start here with us since we just ended with you? How do you see what you’re doing with the Qvale Way and sort of you and your brand first, how is that affecting your customer experience? How is it affecting reviews and CSI scores? Are you seeing that it’s kind of working, that is, everything is kind of cohesive as opposed to Volkswagen’s over here and Audi’s over here and that type of thing?
Drew Benson: Yeah, it’s very similar at all three of our stores and we’ve seen an increase in every one of our stores in CSI, in gross, and everything because we’re going to stick to that process. We’re going to change pay plans to force that process and make people adapt to it so that it’s the same at every one of our stores. Our managers know how to manage the advisors, the advisors know how to manage themselves, and so on and so forth. So I think it’s really important to just put in that effort. It starts on your website because that’s where most people are going to find you. So they are going to find you on your website. You want to market on your website and then it’s about delivering when they walk in the door. So you want to have that same speech when they walk in and then promote it so that when they do come in for service, you’re giving that consistent process over and over and over to every customer.
Owen Moon: Yeah, that makes sense. I love it, April, what are your thoughts?
April Simmons: It goes back to the first thing, which is, I always say, be a customer. So if you’re fixed ops director right now and you haven’t even logged onto your own website for your store, start there. Go in and be a customer. Try to schedule the top five things that your customers consistently schedule. Make sure that it’s actually easy to get the appointment scheduled and then from there, make sure your scheduling tool actually reflects your ability to take care of the customer. Now I’ve seen some stores make mistakes where they open that scheduler up to the point where, all of a sudden, you have 300 people on the drive. Well, nobody can give a good customer experience. You have all this great stuff on your website saying, oh, we’re going to get you in now, we’re going to give you a great experience. We’re going to be nice, all these things, it’s convenient and then you’re in line for an hour. That doesn’t work. So you need to make sure that you inspect what you expect from that as if you were a customer and how that actually then flows through. Then you want to start thinking about what questions you can answer with knowledge on your website. So, in the same way that we do for sales if you were to look at a car on somebody’s website and it didn’t tell you what those facts were? You’d bounce out pretty quickly. If you go on your website and you want to know, hey my check engine light just came on. What do I do? You need to answer that question without them having to call you so that they don’t bounce off your website and now go try to google for those things. So I think we first have to just put our customer hat on to be customer experience forward and just think about those things and how you can make it easier for your customers. And honestly it’s easier for your staff because now you’re getting a lot less calls if they can actually conveniently and easily use the tools that are out there and then following up with that is the communication. So how are you communicating with your customer when they’re live at your store, when they’ve left? How are you getting the proper information back to them? Are you doing video? Are you sending that via text messaging, or are you expecting your customers to answer a phone call when they’re at work and causing that friction back and forth back and forth type of thing? So those are the things I think you can apply a lot of the stuff that we’ve been doing in sales for a while and just put that customer hat on and put it into your fixed ops process.
Owen Moon: Yeah, great points. Go ahead, Erin.
Erin Sparks: And if you don’t know what to tell a customer yet a really great way to figure that out is a couple of ways. A) If you have a service BDC, have them write down every question that they were like, really is that a question? For a week, or just three days is even probably plenty of time. Monitor your chat if your chat takes anything that has to do with service. What are the questions that you get there? And just look at even just those two things. Those are really great starting points. One question that I didn’t think through at one of our other stores was the way that you can get an oil change just for quick service, you can go and look at that and it says 6-quart or 8-quart. I know what that means because I’ve been in the automotive industry, but my 19-year-old cousin is going to look at that and be like I don’t know, do I have a 6-quart or an 8-quart?
Owen Moon: They’re gonna go, “mom, dad, what have I got?”
Erin Sparks: But you know, you’re continually teaching a new generation and you want to look to the lowest denominator of like: what do they know or not know and teach to that.
Owen Moon: Well, and to your point where everything is kind of different on the service side compared to the sales side, is that we have dealerships that are just now starting to get into service BDCs. I do a lot of speaking at different 20 groups, and one of the questions we always ask is how many in the room – so let’s there’s 20 dealers there – how many are doing outreach? And maybe 2 will raise their hands, so there’s still a long way to go. Those other 18 stores, you know what they’re doing all day. They’re fielding phone calls. So if we can build out content, we can build out information, and we can answer questions for the consumer. We’re going to cut down those number of phone calls that are coming in just for real basic information. So obviously there’s a way to do it right. There’s a way to do it so it looks like it belongs on your website and then obviously Google has different ways that they want you to sort of construct that content and get it out there so you get some SEO value and stuff like that. But just having some good information on your website is the first step and if you can have that, it solves so many different things from CSI issues to reviews. I’ve seen more one-star reviews just from dealerships not meeting or properly setting good expectations inside the dealership when they’re there. Now, could some of that be avoided pre-appointment? Yeah, if you have some great infrastructure on your website and that type of thing, so good points to everybody.
April Simmons: And mass bonus points for video!
Owen Moon: People don’t want to read anymore. They want to watch a little bit of video, right?
Drew Benson: Yeah you see a big paragraph on a website, you’re just going down to the bottom. You’re not even reading it.
Ted Ings: Well let’s kind of stay in this and talk a little bit about attribution because, as marketers, we’ve been sort of conditioned, and rightly so, that hey, you got to make sure things work right. So how do we get away from, hey, we targeted 1000 people in our database that hadn’t been in for service for 18 months, we sent them a piece of direct mail or an email blast, and now to you guys’ point every marketing company’s coming back going, oh, I want credit for that guy. You know that person. I want credit for that person. How do we make that transition away from that type of ROI or attribution to more of digital attribution? Because obviously there’s a lot more that goes into it. You know, utilizing traffic and sort of page views and things like that. Just a lot of that digital metrics that we see very predominantly on the sales side, that when you go to service manager a lot of times its sort of that I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’ve never been in my Google Analytics account. That’s not what I do. I’m a service guy. How do we kind of close that gap? Because I think there’s some really good, valuable info that we could maybe be able to present and give to service managers to make decisions. And Erin, why don’t you start with that? Then I’ll let you guys all kind of jump in.
Erin Sparks: Sure, if you’re not using QR codes for the physical aspect of things, you should. Whether that be in-store, you’re still required to do direct mail pieces and things like that make it easy for the customer to get their next thing done and getting them there directly would be my first and foremost request. But also too, you can use things like UTM codes on direct links that go back to the website and get them back to the scheduling tool, and with proper setup on your Google Analytics and exciting things that are coming down the way with GA4 and understanding attribution from a GA4 aspect, I think the there’s a lot of opportunity there, but it’s got to be something that your marketing person is interested in in order to be able to show you that attribution because it does take setup.
Owen Moon: Well, a good point and one thing that I will say is: everybody on this call has a marketing position of some sort in the dealership right? So that’s why we’re here. It’s not that I didn’t say hey, let’s not grab service managers for this, but typically when we go in and work with a store it’s a triangle. We’re working with the service team, and we’re also working with the digital team, to make sure that we’re all moving in the right direction. We’re not overlapping services. We’re properly looking at the right metrics. I’ve done some stuff in the past on Google Analytics/GA4, and Ted always calls it the gold standard of reporting. It’s like we have adopted this as an industry. Is your vendor using those same resources, or are they trying to go it alone and create their own scenarios? So April, coming from a multi-store group like you guys have, how are you looking at attribution? Maybe from your Phoenix stores all the way to some of your outskirt stores. What’s important to you guys? What are you looking at?
April Simmons: It’s an interesting thing. I think the first thing that any dealership, whether you’re single rooftop or multi rooftop like we are, is to figure out who your marketing ambassador is, because here’s the reality of what most stores have. They either A) have an internet director type person who oversees marketing, which then they only let them be in variable because they don’t know anything about fixed ops. So they kind of cut them out and say no, no, we take care of this over here. You have a GM who is like I kind of understand, fixed ops, I’m just learning it, but most of them come from variable as well. And then you have the fixed ops director that has no idea about marketing at all. Who just says, well, all these people just show up? Why would I pay money to actually have them show up? So they think there’s a very set it and forget it. So I think the most important thing when we’re talking about attribution is to find the person who can actually help you ensure A) What do you have? Then what is working? Then what can you do to actually make it better? So when my fixed ops team finally let me in, they were like okay wait a minute. April knows.
Owen Moon: Open the door?
April Simmons: Yeah, let’s go ahead and let her help the fixed ops side of things. One of the first things I realized was most of the ones would refuse. They will not UTM tag their stuff. They won’t do it. Well, that kind of scratches my head like, well, what are they doing then or not doing that they’re scared to actually see the reality? The next thing is call tracking numbers. If you’re not using a separate call tracking number in every single thing you do, you’re missing the boat. There are two and again, a lot of pushback from them. They don’t want to do it. I found that most fixed ops directors didn’t even know what the OEM was even doing, like what was actually being sent out or what messaging was going out, and they were hiring other companies to do the exact same thing to the exact same people. In some cases paying two and three times to send an email to the same customer and emails are getting less and less effective. So we need to be paying attention to those things. So the most important thing for attribution is making sure that you can figure out is this working? Am I making phone calls, are people showing up? But when we start talking about Google, it gets really cool. You can even take and separate a search query to say I want to land this search query on this landing page that you are answering that proper question, so there’s a lot more that we can do. We’re just scratching the surface and I think that you have to understand you don’t have to be here today if you’re not here. That’s okay, but find somebody in your group who has a passion for marketing and open your doors and say here’s what the OEM’s got us doing. Here’s what I’ve signed up for. How can we make it better?
Owen Moon: How can we evolve it? Yeah, good points there April. Drew do you have any thoughts?
Drew Benson: Yeah, I think a lot of it’s like by autopsy. You don’t really know, like the customer walks in with a coupon, you’re like wow. I didn’t know that was running this month. And you’re not prepared.
Owen Moon: Like where was that at?
Drew Benson: Yeah and you look like you don’t even know what you’re doing, and then the OEM’s like? Yeah, we let you know and they really didn’t. They just send it out, so finding out on-the-fly what your customer’s bringing in. Well then, you’re not prepared. So then, how can you know that your website’s prepared? So you have to be prepared for all of this. So April’s right; you got to find somebody or figure out what the OEM is doing for you or find somebody that can figure it out quickly.
Erin Sparks: And, I will attest, with all of the brands, I still chase things down, but it’s better than knowing nothing.
Owen Moon: But at least it’s the same thing as we used to do with, like super sales. Where hey, we’re on this huge sale and then the customer shows up on the lot and they’re like…some sale. Like where are all the people in the balloons and the sales environment? You know, next, you got salespeople going, oh, I didn’t even know that direct mailer was going out. So there’s definitely a disconnection. And I see a disconnect all across service marketing. We try to really create an environment where we have pricing integrity throughout all the different things that we’re doing on the website for our dealers as well as if they’re doing social media, paid search, display, and advertising. We’re trying to kind of connect everything because we’ve seen it work on the sales side. I mean, that’s how we’ve evolved on the sales side, is by having software that can push inventory to Cars.com and Carfax and the websites. And doing inventory ads on Facebook. That is just now starting to become a reality for service. So I think that there has to be some standardization as far as attribution. And I think that that’s one thing that we’re really kind of leading the charge with is what is it that we’re trying to accomplish with online service marketing? And how can we actually show those results when we don’t have a customer’s name, email, phone number, or address that we’re sending those customer loyalty programs to? Cool, well, the last thing I want really touch base on, then, is technology because we’ve kind of made the whole like the whole gambit. We talked a little bit about the evolution of service marketing and we talked about customer experience, maybe some attribution strategies. What can you do to make sure it’s working? But what can we do from a technology standpoint to help kind of also evolve this, maybe it’s not so much on the marketing side, but maybe in the shop, maybe there’s some tools that we can look at there. But I think it all kind of goes together with marketing because if you have certain products and services that you can bring to the customer, let’s market those and let’s advertise those. So Drew, I know you’re a technology guy. Let’s start with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the technology side of where it’s going.
Drew Benson: Yeah, I think you started it with the website and just offering those services. You don’t have to be a fire sale on your website. You just list your prices and then even if it is higher than the store down the street, you have that knowledge on your website so that you’re explaining things before they come in. And then when you get into this shop, like when your car is in the shop, your techs, you’re going to have to do a video and a multi-point inspection on every single car every single time. And I tell my advisors like: if you don’t have that, then you’re not moving forward until you go get it. So then you have to give them an experience. But you want to show them they might have clicked this for a brake flush. They might’ve come in for an oil change. Well, they might have a massive oil leak. We want to show them that before we just hey, your oil change is done. It’s going to leak out in six months. We want to make sure we’re explaining everything. The techs understand the importance because the biggest pushback that I get is like well, then I’m just doing the advisor’s job. Well, no, I mean you’re not. You’re finding things out, you’re discovering things and you’re ultimately going to make more hours if you’re showing the customer what’s wrong, if you sound good on the video, you’re showing everything and it’s easy for the customer to click into and understand, then they’re more apt to understand and spend more money. So it’s all about giving them an experience. But April was right before: you can’t promote it on your website and then fall flat on your face when the customer walks in, the experience doesn’t match the marketing.
Erin Sparks: And Drew, I totally agree with you. The age and experience of our technicians are such a wide spot. You’ve got the 35-year master technicians all the way to the guy that just started last week and he’s fairly green, and some of them think I haven’t had to do that. I’ve never had to do that and the words I get a lot are “I’m not in sales.” From the technicians and my response back: I’m not asking you to sell anything. I’m asking you to be honest and that is a tenant of our company as a whole. I’m literally asking you to be the person that you are and just be honest and tell what’s happening because that’s what we need is just the honesty and let everybody else do their job.
April Simmons: I think the other side, Erin, with technologies, not only is our staff a wide variety of demographics but so are our customers now. So if you have somebody who is 60 years old and you only have an option for mobile pay, that might be a major friction point for them. However, if you have somebody who is 22 years old coming into your store and you don’t offer mobile, they’re gonna be like “who are these people? I don’t know how to write a check or like put my credit card, even in a thing like I pay everything by my phone.” So I think we have to understand that we have such a drastic demographic in employees and customers that the best thing we can do is to offer a way to communicate in the way that they want to be communicated to. So if they want a phone call, then call them, if they want a text message, text them, if they want to pay on their phone, offer it, if they want to write you a check, take it. I think when it comes to technology sometimes OEMs, and even stores, we overdo it or we underdo it. So you’ve got to just kind of find that sweet spot where you’re able to do it for the customers’ sake, in the way that they want to, so that they keep coming back.
Drew Benson: Yeah, I think it’s it goes back to what you said earlier April with putting your customer hat on. We get mystery-shopped all the time by the OEMs. Put your car through service, mystery shop your own shop! See what kind of video you get, what kind of multi-point inspection? So I think it’s a big thing, not only do that on your website, but then actually put your own car through service or a car that you’re just watching the whole time.
April Simmons: Exactly! Exactly.
Owen Moon: Well, great points, everybody. Obviously we could talk about this all day, but I know we’re running out of time, I see Ted jumping back in here, so with that everyone, I just want to thank you for being a part of the panel. I think we’ve got some really great conversations. Maybe we bring you guys all back for a follow-up one in early 2023 and see kind of where things are evolving in the next 90 to 120 days. I think that would be great and April and Drew and Erin, we were mentioning just a little while ago how much of everything we do now is online. Starts online. The whole process has to be congruent Drew, like you said when they come into the dealerships that everything matches. So congratulations to all of you. Owen, great panel. I took a lot of lot of good notes. I want to wish all of you and your families happy Thanksgiving coming up next week.
Owen Moon: You as well Ted!
Drew Benson: Thank you Ted.
Erin Sparks: You too!
Ted Ings: And on behalf on behalf of the Fixed Ops Roundtable, everyone, Erin Sparks, Drew Benson, April Simmons. We’d love to have you back. Want you back. Owen Moon, thank you for all you do for our industry as well with FIXED OPS DIGITAL.
April Simmons: Happy Turkey Day!
Ted Ings: Owen Moon and the Online Service Marketing Panel here today at the Fixed Ops Roundtable.