The Internet has empowered car buyers. Now, it’s doing something similar for service-department customers.

Some service managers are using web-based technology to increase sales, enhance retention rates and give customers more control over their service experience.

“Consumers will take their dollars to businesses they believe are more open, honest and transparent about their practices and processes,” says Gary Nixon, CEO of marketing technologies provider CIMA Systems.

Brian Keegan, director-fixed-operations at South Bay Honda in Milpitas, CA, utilizes the firm’s interactive digital menu that includes service offerings and pricing.

Customers access the menu through the dealership website, by email or elsewhere.

The menu displays OEM and optional dealer-recommended mileage interval services for the customer’s particular vehicle, based on its actual mileage. When a customer selects a menu item, it is automatically included in the service-appointment information.

“I’m not afraid to show our prices online like this,” Keegan says, pointing to a 35% increase in customer retention. “Customers tell us they like it and know what to expect when they arrive in the service lane.”

Of about 40 scheduled appointments the dealership books daily, half are booked by customers using the menu system, he says.

Larry Tate, fixed-operations director at Dublin Toyota in Dublin, CA, also uses the CIMA system. “These tools differentiate our dealership,” he says, citing transparency and “relevant communications to our customers.”

Dave Sinclair Buick-GMC in St. Louis includes an online educational video for people taking their vehicles in for service.

“The menu videos help assure customers of why we’re making these recommendations and what these recommendations, if done, will do to improve their vehicle safety and performance,” says Don Koch, the dealership’s fixed operations director.

If a technician sees an issue with a car taken in for service or maintenance, he or she can email a photo or videos of parts recommended for repair or replacement.

“This prepares the customer to make informed decisions, more quickly, about whether to have those services done,” Koch says. “It’s another way to reassure customers.”

Keegan’s dealership uses that visual aid, too “It’s a great closing tool, because it builds trust with the customer and the picture is convincing,” he says.