Among dealership service customers who scheduled their appointment online, more than three-fourths (76 percent) said they were apt to go that route again, according to research from Cox Automotive. What’s more, setting up the service visit online creates a path toward a happier customer, says Jim Roche, vice president of marketing and managed services at Xtime.

“Problem is, many customers don’t know that online appointment-setting is an option,” Joe Overby writes for Auto Remarketing.

According to that same research from Cox Automotive (Xtime’s parent company), 45 percent of customers who didn’t use online scheduling were not aware it was offered.

“That is a surprising and disappointing fact,” Roche said. “It’s on us in the industry that we have that lack of awareness.”

The new AudienceSCAN study found 9.3% of Americans intend to have auto repair or body work done in the next 12 months. These planners just might appreciate the ability to schedule this work online, even in the middle of the night when they have time to do so.

“Fortunately, he said, it’s a “low-hanging fruit” that dealers can do something about,” Overby continues. “For instance, he urges dealers to send an email blast to customers at least twice a year to let them know that online service appointment scheduling is available — and beneficial.”

“Setting the appointment online really lays the foundation downstream for a great experience,” Roche said. “Because you get the day and the time that you want, the dealer can be prepared for you. The system can make sure that the reservation is managed so that they can spend as much time with you (as needed). It can look up open recalls on your vehicle.”

“It can also help ensure the experience is a high-quality one, which leads to the uptick in dollars spent. In fact, scheduled visits tend to pull in $54 more per visit than the walk-in visit.”

Let customers know that online scheduling is available through TV. The AudienceSCAN survey found 43.5% of Auto Repair Customers took action after watching television (over-the-air, online, mobile or tablet) ads in the past month.

“They spend more because it’s a better experience,” Roche said. “And it’s one that has been planned for, whereas the walk-in service appointments might not always been planned. If the consumer has scheduled the appointment, it likely means time and money has been budgeted, too, Roche said.”

“Beyond the periodic email blasts, Roche also advises dealers to explain the online appointment-setting process during the delivery of the vehicle. He urges dealers to walk their new customer into the service department and introduce him or her to the service advisors.”

“People are often creatures of habit; meaning they’ll continue scheduling their service appointments they way they always have. So if that’s to be changed, the benefits of online scheduling has to be communicated.”

Newspapers (print, online, mobile or tablet) could be effective in reaching Auto Repair Customers, to inform them of online offerings. The new AudienceSCAN research revealed 33% of Auto Repair Customers took action after reading these ads in the past month.

So how do dealers communicate with the service customer?

“As it relates to service scheduling, it’s multi-channel,” Roche said. “It’s impossible to know what someone’s preference is going to be in advance. The strategy has to be to meet them where they want to be. So, the only way to do that is to provide full coverage.”

Regarding the multi-channel approach, he added: “It’s mobile. It’s on the web. It’s available through the phone. So anybody who needs to interact with the dealership or the dealership systems to schedule online can do so any time, 24/7.”

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies, or with the SalesFuel API. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.