Leverage Fixed Operations to Keep Profits High While Inventory is Low

The automotive industry is in the midst of a major, ongoing inventory shortage and it doesn’t show signs of letting up any time soon. To overcome the challenges associated with lean inventory, your dealership needs a comprehensive, cross-departmental strategy for sourcing vehicles and replacing lost profits. And when it comes to selling and sourcing cars, your service department is one of your richest resources. At the 2021 Cox Automotive Fall Expo, Tiffani Stefanescu, Performance Manager at Xtime, discussed the following methods for alleviating inventory challenges using Xtime solutions.  

 

Sourcing Inventory Through Schedule  

One of the best opportunities your dealership has to communicate with vehicle owners is at the point of service scheduling. Take advantage of those opportunities by populating your service webpage with visually prominent promotions, emphasizing your eagerness to buy vehicles and your willingness to pay top dollar.  

 

In addition to promoting your interest in purchasing, give vehicle owners the opportunity to proactively express interest in trade-in opportunities. On the service scheduler, you can set up “free appraisal” as a service that customers can request. Be sure to position the offer as a no-cost benefit offered by the dealership to the vehicle owners as they wait. While working with dozens of dealerships, Stefanescu has seen this strategy have a significant, positive impact on inventory and profit. By setting up the appraisal as a service, you’ll also make it visible to internal appointment takers so they can offer it to customers that schedule service by phone.  

 

Efforts to source inventory shouldn’t stop once a customer schedules an appointment. Include “we’ll-buy-your-car” messaging in appointment notifications, reminders, and follow-ups. And, be sure that your sales team has access to appointments scheduled each day. One way to do this is to set up a daily appointment report, automatically emailed to the salespeople so they see who’s arriving when and coordinate trade-in conversations.  

 

Sourcing Inventory Through Engage  

Of course, your salespeople aren’t the only ones that can discuss a trade-in with customers. Actively train your service advisors to have those conversations on the service drive. For example, you can insert a new talking point into your Engage Tablet that reminds advisors to raise the topic during the check-in process. It can be as simple as asking customers if they’d be interested in a free appraisal while the car is already in for service. Remember to frame this as a customer convenience and a free service offered by the dealership for the benefit of vehicle owners.  

 

Sourcing Inventory Through Inspect 

You can even create opportunities to source used cars during the inspection process, where you’ll encounter owners who are frustrated with repairs and open to trade-in opportunities. Within Inspect, your technicians and advisors can set up notifications to send automated emails and text messages when a vehicle owner declines work over a certain dollar amount or if a customer comes in with an older or high-mileage vehicle.  

 

Once a used car has been acquired, it’s essential to turn it around quickly, and Inspect can also help with the reconditioning process. First, train technicians and advisors to know they need to get recon ROs in and out quickly. Set up a color-coded “reconditioning flag” so the team sees and prioritizes recon work right away. Finally, use Inspect to send digital inspections and quotes directly to the recon approvers so techs and advisors don’t waste time chasing down approvals.  

 

Sourcing Inventory Through Invite 

Dealerships with Invite can use their promotional tools to distribute information to their existing customers and to source used inventory. Within Invite, you can build and distribute emails promoting trade-ins. The lists for your email campaigns might be made up of customers who own in-demand vehicles—information which you can pull by looking at the most frequently searched models on your website. You could also email all owners in your database with vehicles that are 3-6 years old or who meet some other criteria.  

 

In the midst of an industry-wide shortage, your inventory might be low. That doesn’t mean that your profits have to follow suit. And, as demonstrated by Tiffani Stefanescu, there are plenty of things your service department can do to source more vehicles and to help make up for lost revenue.  

 

With the tools available in Xtime, your service team can promote used car purchases, identify likely trade-in prospects, and notify salespeople when those prospects are in for service.   

 

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