Service is our bread and butter. The more advanced dealerships understand this not just from a profit standpoint, but from a customer-retention standpoint as well.

But I am amazed at how little cross-promotion of sales and service still goes on in our industry today.

The first 180 days after delivery is the most critical time for you service department to make an impression on a customer to get them to come back.

It is also one of the analysis points you should watch closely in your dealership marketing department. Good customer engagement from the time of delivery will cut down on the number of customers that do not come back to the dealership for service within the first 180 days.

Customers of dealerships using modern communication tools and customer- relationship management software expect a much higher level of service, including the ability to make service appointments online.

When those customers arrive for service, they will expect you to know what they need and to have a loaner ready if one was reserved.

For high-value customers, you need an elite service lane where they can get immediate attention when they arrive in the morning. These vehicles would be marked with a noticeable windshield sticker and would get first access to the loaner car fleet. You should also have standby cars and guarantee these customers loaners any time they bring their car in.

At the drive-in service lanes, be prepared to know what services to recommend. This sounds basic, but I am continually amazed at the number of times this is not happening in dealerships.

A menu of services should be based on the vehicle, service schedule, services performed at last visit and any recalls that are available on the vehicle.

The price of repairs is important to elite service customers but not as important as time and convenience. Their attitude is: “I can make more money, but I can't get back the two hours I spent waiting on my car in your dealership.”

Although price remains a customer concern, it's not how you might think. It's not so much about wanting the lowest price as about understanding the charges and costs involved.

Doing this in a clear manner is critical when it comes to customer-pay service. It is the No.1 reason why dealerships lose 77% of service business when the vehicles they sold are out of warranty.

The best way to ease customers' service-price fears is to be transparent. Clearly display your pricing on your website for standard repairs and maintenance. Have a repair pricing guarantee and a work guarantee.

Many repairs are not found until the vehicle is on the rack. This is challenging for the service writer, as the customer cannot see the problem or get a full understanding of the costs involved.

This process makes up well over 80% of a dealership's additional service opportunities. Modern dealers will be able to show the customer a picture of the defective part next to what the part should look like.

The customer also will be able to see a clear easy-to-read account of proposed repair work, including costs for parts and labor. This allows them to make an informed decision. They can even approve and pay for the work online, then pick up the repaired vehicle at their convenience.

Modern dealerships using CRM and other Internet technologies to stay in touch with customers deliver customer value at every touch point. What little revenue is lost by being price competitive is more than gained back through loyal customers and higher operational efficiencies.

Price is important, time cannot be earned back and trust is a must. Your connected customer is driven by all three.

To survive and thrive in the Internet Dealer 3.0 world, you will address customers on these terms because the customer has many choices besides your dealership and, if not treated right, they will exercise those choices.

Modern marketing and Internet expert Larry Bruce is a partner in and a dealership partner in the GM Sanddollar Autoplex.