Customer Experience vs Customer Service: Why It Matters at Your Dealership

Do these challenges sound familiar to you?


  • Your customer is upset that no one can tell them when their unit will be ready
  • Your customer claims that they did not authorize work on their unit
  • Your service advisors are frustrated, overwhelmed, and burnt out
  • You are constantly recruiting and retraining service advisors because they turn over every two years
  • The GM or owner (which may very well be you) regularly needs to get involved in escalations


No matter how organized and capable your team is, negative customer experiences happen. If your team is swamped, those negative experiences can be demoralizing.


Let’s talk about how we can turn those common negative customer experiences into positive customer experiences.


To understand what “customer experience” means, we need to take a look at what’s going on in today’s market.

The New Dealership Customer Experience

You’ve probably heard this over and over by now: technology is changing how customers interact with brands.


That’s certainly true.


But customers want the same things they always have—consistent, reliable service. The same things that have kept customers coming to your dealership over the last five, ten, fifty years.


Here’s what’s changing: dealership “customer service” as we have always known it won’t get you as far anymore. Now, the businesses that get ahead are the ones that deliver on a full “customer experience”.


Now, “customer experience” might sound like a buzzword. But it’s a real thing that can have a big impact on your business.


In fact, according to PWC, 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience.


So, what exactly do we mean when we say, “customer experience”?


Customer Experience vs. Customer Service

What’s the difference? It’s more than just semantics.

What is customer service?

Customer service is how your dealership assists customers. It’s a set of tactics for how to take care of your customers.


Customer service includes classic tactics like:

  • Smiling when you’re talking into the phone, so it comes across to your customer
  • Starting your emails with “Hello <Customer Name>” instead of a generic greeting
  • Believing the customer is always right


Those tactics are still important. After all, they’re classics for a reason. But they don’t solve the root challenges that dealers face that can cause a poor customer experience.

What is customer experience?

Customer experience is your customers’ interactions with your brand, throughout the entire customer journey. It should be foundational to your dealership, connecting every department and guiding how your team communicates with customers.


  1. Customer experience starts the second they see your billboard ad, website, or social media posts. They see your team’s smiling faces in those ads and a happy customer picking up the keys to their RV and they think, now that looks like a friendly place that will take care of me.
  2. When they come to your dealership, they’re met with the same smiling faces they saw in your marketing campaigns.
  3. That good feeling is reinforced by your team’s transparent communications with them throughout the service process. They feel their needs are being met and at no point did they have to wonder what was going on with their unit.
  4. When they leave, they share their positive experience with other people online, leaving Google and Facebook reviews for your dealership.
  5. Most importantly, they come back to your dealership again. They may even bring their friends with them.


Customer experience is a continuous loop, turning first-time customers into repeat customers, and repeat customers into brand advocates.


The Dealership Customer Experience Loop

IDS Dealership Customer Experience Loop Infographic

Want to learn how you can create a 360° customer experience at your dealership?

We’ve created a guide that breaks down how to create an unforgettable customer experience at your dealership, step-by-step:

  • How to create communication touchpoints with your customers at every stage of the sales journey
  • How to turn first-time customers into brand advocates for your dealership
  • How to evaluate the effectiveness of your team’s performance, so you can increase customer satisfaction
  • And more tips, based on our team’s first-hand experience helping dealers grow their businesses!

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