This year, technology is finally going to take over the world of automotive retail. Force a wave of transformation. And make everyone rethink everything they ever learned about selling and servicing cars.

Balderdash.

The truth is that every turn of the calendar sees its share of new technology solutions and ideas, all designed to make the business of automotive retail easier, better, and more profitable.It’s an incremental evolution of technology and human advancement, the process of which washes out the bad ideas and strengthens solutions that offer value to customers, dealers, and shop owners.

Just think about how far we’ve come: Today, there are apps that sell vehicles via a subscription. The role of a technician is more like that of a forensic technologist than a mechanic. And today, sensors are basically driving vehicles down the road without human assistance.

The point? It’s progress, and how it makes everyone more profitable and powerful. So in honor of new ways and greater opportunities, here’s a look at what you just might see more of – and less of – in 2019:

Not Hot: New and Used Vehicle Margins

It’s getting to the point where it costs money to sell a new car – and used vehicle margins aren’t that far behind, all things considered. More competition, a saturated market, and a somewhat strange consumer fixation on crossovers has put the market in a state of flux. As a result, that puts more pressure on the service department to run a tight ship and increase profitability, build customer retention and even serve as a source of sales.

None of which is surprising. The service department has long been a foundational part of any dealership. This time, however, there’s more competition on the service side of automotive retail, and service managers will need to bear down on cost and make investments in technology to streamline operations.  

Red Hot: Used Car Reconditioning

Used vehicle reconditioning will be one of those red-hot areas in 2019 – if it isn’t already. Turning around used vehicles for resale quickly (and for less) is increasingly part of the crucial role service departments play in helping boost profits.

Dealership managers should be focused on creating a reconditioning process that emphasizes turnaround speed, lowering parts and labor costs – and ensuring efficiency throughout. With a glut of late-model used cars just off lease, managers who know well their “time to line” will gain the advantage of moving more inventory and perhaps help to stabilize margins. Using technology to improve communication between managers and techs is a key step toward reducing the time gap between trade-in and re-sale.

Not Hot: Blockchain Technology

Okay, okay. It’s arguably bitcoin’s greatest gift. But it’s also the ultimate buzzword. Fact is, blockchain didn’t exactly set the automotive retail world on fire last year — unless talk and speculation counts. It undoubtedly will, one day – but maybe not quite yet. There’s just so much to like about the decentralized ledger technology, especially for industries with outdated records tech and mountains of paperwork (see: automotive). Yet something this big takes a long time to develop, and many experts warn about things like transaction speed and standardization slowing down implementation.

Red Hot: AI Technology

Hello, Alexa. Hi there, Google. Our erstwhile artificial assistants are helping to monitor and drive vehicle maintenance – plus much more. Indeed, it’s already happening: many newer cars use some form of AI to monitor hundreds of sensors to detect possible problems and maintenance needs. In fact, Volkswagen and Microsoft recently announced a partnership with the intention of using AI to improve the ownership experience. That includes predictive maintenance, and Over The Air (OTA) software updates, among other innovations.  

Fact is, AI is in the service bay at increasing levels. From predictive replacement part ordering to claims adjustments and predictive maintenance and repairs, the name of the game is efficiency. Look for increases in AI across the dealership as it proves effective at lowering costs and streamlining workflows. One need only look at the emergence of chatbots as an example of how AI technology can work with employees to create timely and complete experiences.  

Not Hot: Autonomous Vehicles

It gets all the headlines – for good and bad reasons. As a result, the march toward self-driving vehicles is anything but a straight line to customer driveways. As advanced as self-driving tech companies have become, and despite their advancements on the commercial side of transportation, ethical and technical issues are to be sorted out. Of course, most of us know about the accident that killed a woman in Las Vegas as she crossed the street with her bicycle, but there have been other accidents and glitches as testing has increased.

Not that any of this has stopped the self-driving phenomenon. The benefits in terms of safety, efficiency and fleet use are too strong for the technology to not make an indelible impact. As testing continues onward, look for more measured and cautious progress as autonomous vehicles begin to find their place in the automotive world – including service and repair.

Red Hot: Electrified Vehicles

All manner of electric vehicles are available today, and that selection is growing quickly. From hybrids to plug-ins and daily-driver EVs, car buyers are being treated with more power and greater efficiency than ever. One only need pay attention to the number of Teslas on the road – and charging stations available. Worldwide, in fact, EV sales reached around 1.4 million vehicles.

But that’s not the hot change for 2019. What is even more significant is the accelerated switch from the long-standing 12-volt vehicle electrical system to a 48-volt system. Up to now, we’ve seen 48-volt systems in a few luxury vehicles, but it looks like the transition is moving into the mainstream. That’s likely driven by demand for gadgets and power-laden features such as advanced audio systems, ambient lighting and start-stop functionality — not to mention electronic turbo systems and mild hybrids.

More practically, however, is the reality that automakers have been shifting from mechanical parts to electronic componentry under the hood. Ultimately, after more than 60 years the power needed for vehicles is now too much for 12-volts to handle. It’s a change that may have a direct impact on your service techs, as they will need to know how to work with 12-volt systems and 48-volt systems. And it is yet another example of how technology is helping to drive a more powerful and robust automotive world for 2019 — and beyond.

Today, technology is such a big part of everything we do that it seems as though we were never able to do anything without it. Just try to imagine a world without email, for example. Or mobile devices.

It’s a little hard to believe that the first-ever mobile phone was sold in the U.S. in 1983 – with the Apple iPhone debuting in 2007.  Wait – 2007? That was barely more than 10 years ago. Mobile devices are a perfect example of how the power of thinking forward, of focusing on technology and innovation, can make life easier.

The automotive industry is in the midst of such a dynamic and exciting time. Everywhere you look, technology is changing the work of sales and service, turning what was once time-consuming and expensive tasks into a seamless and efficient experience.

And that’s just the start: on the horizon are implementations of proven technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), facial recognition, predictive data, Augmented Reality (AR) and more. Surely, however, not everything will be effective or profitable. For example, promising innovations such as Blockchain haven’t quite taken over the automotive world. In fact, understanding what will work to deliver a satisfying and profitable customer experience is why thinking forward is important. To think forward is to look through a new solution or process and ask three critical questions:

Does it Create, or Help to Create Exceptional Experiences?

This the point: creating a service or sales experience that delights customers is item #1 on the must-have list. Otherwise, there’s no point. And that includes the fundamental concept of core competency. An innovation must be able to produce an exceptional experience long after the install date. To that end, a strategic feature set and UX updates are important considerations.

Truth is, creating an exceptional experience increasingly relies on data – much of which is easily available. That type of good data should power human interaction through predictive learning. Current sensor data, information about warranty repair, frequency of service, issues and recall notifications can be aggregated and used for predictive maintenance opportunities. Ultimately, today and tomorrow’s tech must be customer-focused on a predictive and anticipatory experience, one that helps to make customers feel wanted, important and cared for.

Does it Maximize Service Utilization and Efficiency?

Workflow efficiency and transparency is the bookend benefit to go with the experience. It’s a fundamental point about the value of technology and one that must be present in order for the value of the technology to always be greater than the cost. If not, profitability suffers and innovation stalls.

And while that includes the fundamental idea of reducing time at task, it also includes a more important consideration: how much time does technology add to your interaction with customers? The true and real value of technology is not only how much time it saves your service advisor, but how much more in sales and relationship-building happens as a result of that practical efficiency.

During a time of shrinking margins and hyper-competition, increased retention and improved survey scores are fundamental profit builders. Increasingly, that starts with as-needed training, transparency of workflow and the ease of making a change to improve utilization.  

NADA Session: Service Department Effectiveness for the 21st Century

Will the Innovation Fit in an Undecided Future?

Lately, there’s been a lot of progress made toward a future of autonomous vehicles, subscription vehicle services and electric cars. All three of which, with scale and staying power, would have a tremendous impact on all dealership departments. True, they could be just ships in the night, trends that pass in favor of full-size trucks.

But maybe not, and maybe they will wind up benefiting dealers with new streams of revenue. For example, the recent announcement of Waymo One, a self-driving rideshare program launched in the Phoenix, Arizona area, will likely create new layers of a service business for dealers. Would that investment be worth it?

Thinking forward through today’s demand for faster and better service – and to tomorrow’s promise of more powerful solutions – is a critical component in analyzing how dealerships should be positioning technology. It requires a total tech approach that includes updates and training, as well as education on an ongoing basis.

Thinking Forward: Our Commitment

Here at Dealer-FX, thinking forward about the future of automotive ownership is an essential part of our philosophy. Indeed, “Thinking Forward” about how technology helps to power exceptional experiences is what we do, and why we’re able to develop effective technology such as ONE Platform.

That’s technology that enables you to manage every stage of service and the customer experience through mobile applications, data-driven insights, and powerful analytics.

It’s also an example of how technology is making customers more satisfied, employees more efficient and dealerships more profitable. That’s Thinking Forward — and as the industry evolves toward a more tech-driven future, Dealer-FX will be there to help support, guide and provide the best technology for dealers across North America.

Every day, customers come and go through the dealership service drive, the happy result of effective sales and digital marketing efforts that span all aspects of your business.

Increasingly, that flow of business is dictated by online activity. Indeed, according to Google, 4-in-5 customers use search engines to find information before making a purchase decision – the first stop on a journey that will take them to your website.

Dealer-FX Connect Digital Marketing

While the use of websites, search and social media is a fact of life, dealership efforts to market across these channels can be frustrating. Here are three simple, realistic and affordable things your team can do to help improve your store’s digital marketing efforts:

#1: Start a Customer Success Blog

Success stories happen at your dealership service department every day – and many are worth sharing. The customer who came in over the weekend with an unexpected repair need, or the harried commuter who must squeeze a service appointment between three meetings and a soccer practice…all are potential stories that accurately depict the commitment your team makes to deliver excellent customer service. The key is consistency: decide how you plan to write up the story, who will do it, and how often. Just once a month is a perfect start.

The tough part? Commitment. Stick to it for one year and support it as a priority. You’ll be glad you did, because showcasing customer success stories is a powerful way to use digital marketing to show the value your dealership provides. It also helps to improve overall search results to your dealership website and illustrates how your service department actively cares and shares their good work. Connect the blog to your website service pages, and online appointment section, so that potential customers will see the stories while they’re looking for service pricing and appointment tools.

#2: Tell Your Service Story

Your website is a vital sales and marketing tool – and that goes double for the service department. In general, potential customers value dealership service departments because of the expertise they provide and the value-add of better customer service.

That doesn’t mean they’re just going to show up, however: customers look for confirmation that they’ll get what they’re looking for when they visit your website. Show them just how strong your team is by adding a service-related content to your “About Us” page on your website. Add a section about certifications that shows just how much a technician needs to know about your vehicles before they get the tools out. Illustrate your service commitment and benefits, such as free wi-fi, available loaner vehicles, shuttles, and more.

Sure, independent shops may be able to beat you on price. But they can’t beat the expertise of your team or the value of your service. Show that where it matters most, on your dealer website and via digital marketing. That’s where many customers make their minds up about where to go.

#3: Think Search, SEO and Google E.A.T

When it comes to revenue and profit, service departments are often the foundation of your dealership. That’s common knowledge. But they’re also a major pillar to the overall success of your digital campaigns, whether meant to boost ROs or new car sales.

Why? Search. According to Google, 53% of searchers click on the first organic result – and 25% click on the second or third result. The fact is that Google and Bing control the traffic flow of vast numbers of potential customers. That makes it vitally important to produce parts and service-related content, invest in Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to drive targeted traffic to your website and commit to a consistent social media approach – including just primary channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The importance of SEO and SEM just can’t be overstated when it comes to using digital marketing. And it’s something that requires expertise in the space. For example, over the past few years it has become clear just how important authoritative content is to Google search rankings. The company uses the acronym E.A.T to gauge the level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness found on a website – especially for commerce websites that promote the sale and service of complicated products – like cars. Google’s E.A.T rating impacts the quality rating of your dealership’s website, which ultimately dictates ranking in good and bad ways. Here’s a basic overview:

Expertise: Show your skill and expertise. As in #2 above, use service to prove your expertise. It’s vital to build content on your service pages that support the expertise found at your service drive every day.

Authoritativeness: If your website has a service forum or community, actively monitor the conversation in terms of quality; nonsense threads will bring down your authority score. In addition, consider adding short bios about your service manager and senior service employees. Google likes to see authority!

Trustworthiness: Consider adding basic service pricing to your website. Your customers will appreciate it, and it may help improve search results thanks to Google’s “T” in E.A.T. At a minimum, make sure your website has an active SSL certificate.

How Can Dealer-FX Help?

At Dealer-FX, our mission is to help automotive dealerships transform the customer experience by providing leading-edge marketing services that help to deliver the right message at the right time — via the right digital channel. How can we help you? Click here to learn more about Dealer-FX Connect.

In today’s digital world, customers are connected and in control, so it’s no surprise their expectations have changed.

To keep customers happy and coming back, dealerships need to think differently about technology, customer touchpoints and service department culture. Service departments should be customer-focused and process-oriented, and leverage technology that allows the entire service department to be connected. That way, the department delivers a frictionless experience that elevates the customer experience.

Change Starts at the Advisor Level

Effective change can take place on the service drive with proper training and incentives that ensure everyone is aligned with the new digital service department. This whitepaper provides tips on how to deliver a digital and world-class experience at the service drive by adopting a comprehensive service delivery platform, transforming the department culture — and more.

Click here to download the free Whitepaper.

How Can Dealer-FX Help?

At Dealer-FX, our mission is to help automotive brands and dealerships transform the customer experience by providing leading-edge technology solutions that create an exceptional and efficient service experience. How can we help you?
Click here to learn more about Dealer-FX.

 

Your service department is the foundation of the dealership. In fact, according to the National Automobile Dealer Association (NADA), 2018 mid-year service and parts sales are up by $1.65 billion when compared to 2017.

That usually means that advisors are busy writing orders, and service bays are humming with profitable work. As a result, now is a good time to make sure that your operation is optimized. And to that end, Greg Dryden — industry expert and Dealer-FX Vice President of Client Optimization — will hold two special sessions at NADA 2019. They’ll cover several actionable insights, and show you how to do the following:

  1. Identify gaps in current service department processes. Tasks like booking appointments, conducting the service write-up, inspection, and parts management.
  2. Calculate the impact on business, caused by gaps and breakdowns in their processes.
  3. Formulate a plan to address gaps in the customer experience while increasing throughput, capacity and parts and service revenue.
  4. Solve issues with parts specifying to drive overall efficiency in their service department.
  5. Structure pay plans that drive the behaviors required to drive key performance metrics for their dealership.
  6. Implement a plan to improve the experience at every touchpoint with the customer. That will help to drive customer satisfaction, retention and brand loyalty/repurchase.

Understanding areas of opportunity in your growing service business are the first step toward improving the process and, ultimately, creating a more profitable experience. Objectives such as these only happen through actionable best practices, shown and discussed by an industry expert. Be sure to save time to attend one or both sessions.

NADA Session: Service Department Effectiveness for the 21st Century

At NADA 2019 in San Francisco, Dealer-FX Vice President of Client Optimization, Greg Dryden, will illustrate the changing behaviors of consumers and how dealership service departments can optimize to increase their business.  Greg began his career in the automotive industry more than 25 years ago, as a Certified Master Technician. Since then, he has worked in almost every role in the dealership. At the OEM level, Greg has helped develop training programs for field staff, trainers, and dealership personnel for leading OEMs including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA Group), Audi, Mazda, Lexus, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Acura, Suzuki, General Motors, Mitsubishi, and Subaru.

During NADA, he will illustrate best practices across two days at the convention, discussing the following questions:

  • How close are you to being able to deliver a completely digital service experience?
  • How does a dealership use technology to create a frictionless service experience?
  • Which digital services hold the key to meeting new customer expectations?

Attendees will leave the sessions with a plan to enhance the customer experience while making service departments more efficient and profitable. Indeed, you will be able to begin your plan by attending this one-hour session. There are two sessions to choose from:

  • Session 1:
    When: Thursday, January 24, 2019
    Time: 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM
    Where: 3010W
    Department: NADA Fixed Ops
  • Session 2:
    When: Saturday, January 26, 2019
    Time: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM
    Room: 3011W
    Department: NADA Fixed Ops

Click here to learn more about Service Department Effectiveness for the 21st Century check out the NADA 2019 Workshop Schedule and filter by Fixed Ops. Dealer-FX will be exhibiting at NADA 2019 in booth #3625S. See you in San Francisco!

How Can Dealer-FX Help?

At Dealer-FX, our mission is to help automotive brands and dealerships transform the customer experience by providing leading-edge technology solutions that create an exceptional and efficient service experience. How can we help you?
Click here to learn more about Dealer-FX.

The days are getting shorter, the air crisper, and playoff baseball is at hand. Which means there’s one question on everyone’s mind:

Is this when new vehicle sales start to slide, and the Service Department comes in from the bullpen for the save?

The answer, apparently, is that it “depends.” Comparing September sales to last year’s hurricane-fueled sales rally doesn’t exactly paint an accurate picture – especially when new car sales estimates remain over 17 million units. Still, there’s little doubt that overall sales are headed toward a year-end fade. As such, we’ve spotted a few trends and stories that might help you prepare for a challenging final quarter – and a successful start to 2019.

September New Vehicle Sales Declined 5.5%. Is it Time to Worry?

What: Automotive News calls it a second-half slowdown, and while that’s true enough there are a few interesting wrinkles in the story. Let’s start with a Harvey hangover from last year’s hurricane replacement business. Indeed, sales bettered the predicted 7% drop in sales and registered a 17.54 million SAAR as well – the fourth highest September on record. Still, the signs are clear: piles of discount dollars aren’t sparking buyer interest like earlier in the year.

Takeaway: It’s time to fire up the Service Closer. Service is the key to retention – something vitally important during slow sales cycles – and offers a sturdy profit center you can count on. It’s also a good source of new vehicle sales… if you’re prepared to leverage it. Are you leveraging customer data and mobile technology to build relationships at the service drive? Using the right tools to create a “right time” and consultative approach improves profitability, increases retention and lowers the cost of new vehicle customer acquisition.

Future of Mobility - Dealer-FX

Is the Future of Mobility Robots and Ride-Hailing, or Same as it Ever Was?

What: Earlier this month, National Automobile Dealer Association (NADA) Chairman Wes Lutz took aim at the future of mobility, questioning the logic behind some very common assumptions like the emergence of autonomous cars and the effectiveness of ride-hailing services. According to Lutz, humans are actually quite safe on the road when you consider that we drive 90 million miles per traffic fatality. In regard to services such as Lyft and Uber, he pointed to a recent AAA study that showed using ride-hailing services cost more than twice as much.

Takeaway: Dealership business models are evolving. As such, the Service Department will play an increasingly important role in driving profitability and retention. Whether or not people use ride-hailing apps, buy their own car, opt for a subscription service or just go back to taking the bus, as options increase so too does the opportunity for the entire dealership operation to thrive. Things are definitely changing. And as they do, dealer managers will see increased Service opportunities to build relationships and drive efficiencies.

Speaking of Mobility, What About EVs — and their Impact to Service?

What: A recent study by UPS and GreenBiz offers good insights into fleet perspectives about EVs. That’s yet another one of those “future mobility” topics. Survey results found that environmental benefits and lower cost of ownership were the greatest drivers behind fleet interest: Over 80 percent cited sustainability, and 64% said that the expected lower total cost of ownership was a major factor.

Takeaway: The cost of ownership benefit includes direct and indirect costs over the life of the vehicle. That includes things such as fuel economy, but it’s also an expectation that EVs will require less maintenance than traditional vehicles. Indeed, according to InsideEVs, fewer components means fewer issues and less need for service. For service managers, it’s more complicated: As EVs begin to gain critical mass, dealerships may well have to factor in training and cost of electric service procedures; all of which may make the typical repair order more costly — but less frequent.

Slower Sales Call for Focus – and Creative Solutions

What: A recent series by Automotive News that features dealer success stories during the Great Recession. It chronicles what many dealers did to thrive under terrible sales conditions. For example, Ohio dealer Rhett Ricart improved team morale, while others focused on creating a better customer service and repair experience – an approach that has certainly reaped dividends today.

Takeaway: You don’t have to open a deluxe car wash.  however, slow sales offer a good opportunity to focus on retention and customer service. Indeed, consider what many studies have reported over the years: Around 70% of recent car buyers will use a third-party repair shop for service.

Trends like that can change through simple steps, such as introducing the service department to car buyers towards the end of the sale and connecting the sales team to opportunities at the service drive. It’s a fundamental fact that service departments can generate more than 50% of a dealership’s profit; as a result, keeping buyers connected throughout the entire process is a vital step toward thriving during a sales slump.

How Can Dealer-FX Help?

At Dealer-FX, our mission is to help auto brands and dealerships transform the customer experience by providing leading-edge technology solutions that create an exceptional and efficient service experience. How can we help you?

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Quick: What’s the top reason for customer dissatisfaction? Unmet expectations. And while failed expectations happen for many reasons, at the core of every disappointing service experience is a breakdown in trust.

Whether that happens due to a broken promise time or another example of miscommunication, it still means that an advisor or manager overpromised results or underdelivered on educating the customer – the very thing that builds trust. Indeed, most subpar customer experiences happen because they either don’t trust you, don’t understand, don’t see a need or don’t feel there is any benefit or value.

The simple fact is by explaining the need and educating the customer, service employees build trust and show value organically. Of course, doing that starts with the typical four “Cs” of repair order writing: complaint, cause, correction and confirmation. But to go above and beyond, remember to apply the following new four “Cs” to your routine. They just may help improve CSI scores and build more profitable orders:

#1. Courtesy

Customers come to your service drive looking for help. Often, they know little or nothing about the mechanical operation of their vehicle. As a result, they arrive distrustful and on the look-out for broken promises. Add to that the fact that vehicle service and repair isn’t usually the highlight of someone’s day, and it’s easy to see how a little courtesy can disarm the crankiest customer. Make it a point to develop a routine based on personalization and courtesy. From a cheery “hello” to a personal approach, courtesy goes far in establishing the right tone of the conversation.

#2. Caring

You’re not filling out one of 20 repair orders. You’re helping a fellow person get their vehicle serviced with the least amount of friction to their day. Caring means going above and beyond to overdeliver in those occasional moments when a customer needs a little more than the standard operating procedure. Caring is making the effort, even though you may not have to do so. When that happens – when you care about the experience you help to create – that’s when you deliver on the business objective of happy customers and profitable service. Buying into the service process, from the technology you use to the established advisor routine, is the first step toward creating an experience founded in empathy, caring, and respect.

#3. Comfort

Making your customers comfortable doesn’t mean buying overstuffed furniture for the service waiting room. Rather, it symbolized the comfort of expertise: when you explain the value of a service, and “sell the why,” you’re creating an environment of comfort from which the customer will base his or her decisions. Remember, chances are they have been taken advantage of at another repair shop. Showing your commitment (to them) and expertise (as a service professional) increases their comfort zone.

#4. Confidence

Having confidence in what you say makes people feel confident in you. That’s a simple truism we all know, and one that’s especially important when it comes to service. Think of it this way: as the source of information, you’re the expert – and the customer takes your lead. If you project a friendly, assured and confident persona, they’ll be far more likely to trust what you say and agree with your suggestions. Remember, however, that confidence without the steak is just a bunch of arrogance with a whole lot of sizzle. So, if you act confidently without being able to back up those promises, the trust you build will soon deteriorate.

The bottom line is what trust does: make people feel important and empowered. Or as Mary Kay Ash said: “Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.” Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.”

By Ridge McCoy

Ridge McCoy is a regional performance manager for Dealer-FX. With 20 years’ experience in the automotive space as a technician, service advisor and shop manager, Ridge has participated in over 1,800 hours of sales, leadership and customer service training. He holds an Automotive Management degree from AMI, a business degree from Northwest University and has served as mechanical chair of the Automotive Service Association in King County, Washington.

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How Can Dealer-FX Help?

At Dealer-FX, our mission is to help automotive brands and dealerships transform the customer experience by providing leading-edge technology solutions that create an exceptional and efficient service experience. How can we help you?
Click here to learn more about Dealer-FX.

The service journey can be fast-paced and complicated. One missed appointment, a broken promise time or confused communication can lead to missed steps and a poor customer experience.

The pace of service retail in this digital-driven and on-demand market places a premium on efficiency and creates a need to build an automated monitoring, communication, and reporting technology. If you’re researching service dashboard-like solutions, make sure you start with these questions:

Service Dashboard: Dealer-FX

#1. How Does it Help My Daily Service Operation?

Service Dashboard enables managers to quickly track the progress of every vehicle through the shop, from before write-up to delivery. Advisors don’t spend time filling out route sheets because it’s automated, and service managers can quickly see all shop activity at all times. It also streamlines communication. For example, Advisors, technicians, managers and parts clerks can easily connect from their workstations. Automatically see the day’s appointments including transportation options and unfinished carry over work. View an up-to-the-minute timeline of the service process, with timestamps marking the completion of each step for every vehicle.

 

#2. How Does Service Dashboard Track Communication and Information?

All internal and customer communications are associated with a VIN, so the tool maintains a complete record of every message, recommendation, and response. In other words, “Who said what” is never in question. Send and receive texts with customers and department employees, keeping a VIN-level record of all communication in an easily accessible journal. Access the entire vehicle history with every document associated with a VIN, including pre-writes, menus, inspection results and ROs from prior work.

Service Dashboard: Dealer-FX

#3. Does it Help Identify Problem Cars and Broken Promise Times?

Yes. The Service Dashboard has an “Opportunities” tab that allows users to identify potentially problematic vehicles, including those falling behind the required timeline. It also highlights missed appointments, vehicles ready for delivery, those not delivered and more, including alerting employees when promise time and quarter-time targets are at risk.

Special Feature:  How does Service Dashboard help connect with customers?

Service Dashboard lets dealerships inform customers exactly where their vehicle is in the service process.  It also enables dealers to consistently meet that expectation. Service dashboard can also send technician recommendations to customers, and handles invoices and receive payments.

How Can Dealer-FX Help?

At Dealer-FX, our mission is to help auto brands and dealerships transform the customer experience by providing leading-edge technology solutions that create an exceptional and efficient service experience. How can we help you?

Related Links

 

Summer is almost over. And it would seem the years of ever-increasing new car sales are also coming to an end, which means service departments will soon be more vital than ever — a fact that underlines the need for an effective operational plan.

Here are three headlines that show just how much things are changing:

How’s Your Technician Retention Plan?

A report published by Automotive News has showcased the current acute shortage of technicians. Simply put, it’s already a problem — and it’s getting worse as older employees retire. The numbers tell the story: According to automotive research firm Carlisle & Co., retirements in the coming years will create a shortage of up to 25,000 positions. 

Why it matters: According to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), there’s an average of 19 techs per dealership, so this is a critical issue. Dealers can change the culture of the service drive to reflect a customer-focused, technology-driven approach to communication and workflow operations. That will appeal to tech-savvy Millennials.  Management will also appreciate the efficiency gains and younger recruits will feel at home in an environment that uses mobile devices.

New Car Sales are Down – Is it Time to Worry?

New vehicle sales lost ground compared to the first half of the year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean customers aren’t interested in purchasing vehicles. Demand is softening and consumer preferences are shifting toward larger vehicles. Case in point: According to Reuters, July passenger car sales dropped, but SUVs and trucks generally increased.

There are also signs the used car market is heating up. In July, the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index reported that used sales reached a 39.2 million SAAR. That’s the best figure since 2012.  

Why it matters: Any decline in new car demand is noteworthy. As competition increases, the entire dealership operation needs to operate at higher levels, especially fixed ops. Given this sort of volatile market, dealership managers should focus their time and resources on profit centers such as the service drive.  

New Technology is Good, but Iteration and Refinement are Better.

All the recent talk about autonomous vehicles has made it seem that no one will ever have to drive again.

Or not.

Broad adoption of self-driving cars is still years away. Autonomous leaders like Waymo are expanding their testing, taking things slow, learning and racking up miles. Why? Consider this recent report published in Automotive News: almost 50% of consumers surveyed said they would never buy a fully autonomous vehicle, and 85% said drivers should always have the option to take the wheel.

Why it matters: With their lives potentially hanging in the balance, consumers are thinking twice about handing the steering wheel to a “robot.” And that’s not a surprise. Disruptive innovations require ongoing development, testing, and refinement to provide reliable products that deliver lasting benefits. Waymo and its peers are dedicated to developing a technology-driven solution that meets a clear need.

In much the same way, dealership leaders should scrutinize service technology in terms of what how it meets evolving customer expectations…and how it fits into the overall technology footprint of the dealership. How does the service experience you deliver align with customer expectations? Does it provide a transparent and personal approach to customer service needs? Most importantly, if your technology is meeting today’s needs, is it also being constantly improved to meet tomorrow’s needs? Technology that’s not keeping you one step ahead will just be a part of tomorrow’s problems.

How Can Dealer-FX Help?

At Dealer-FX, our mission is to help automotive brands and dealerships transform the customer experience by providing leading-edge technology solutions that create an exceptional and efficient service experience. How can we help you?

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Customers come and go. Hopefully, they come back. If not, we’ll send them a coupon!

Does this sound like your customer retention program? It might. After all, when times are good it’s easy to let retention fall off the radar. Investing in programs designed to bring back existing customers just doesn’t seem very important when they’re likely going to come back anyway.

And if they don’t, well – there are plenty of car buyers out there to take their place.

The trouble is that today’s environment is no longer so sunny. Granted, annual sales forecasts are still at healthy levels despite recent declines; a 16.73 million SAAR is a far cry from the days of the Great Recession. But sales volume is not the only factor. The current market condition is unique and volatile; as sales have slowed, credit has tightened, and the average cost of a new car has stayed pretty much the same. Meanwhile, variable expenses are up, in some cases significantly. Floor plan interest rates, the cost of hiring and employee retention, as well as marketing and advertising expenditures…smart dealership managers are already actively looking to cut costs and hang on to current profit margins for as long as possible.

The bottom line? The cost of doing business just got more expensive.

Time to Think About Customer Retention

Which brings us to the need for customer loyalty. An effective customer retention program will help lower the cost of acquiring new business, increase CSI scores and boost overall profitability. Indeed, as reported in the Harvard Business Review, most studies have found that acquiring new buyers is from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining existing customers. According to global consulting firm Bain & Co., increasing customer retention by just 5 percent boosts profits by 25 to 95 percent.

It’s just hard to beat a happy customer who comes back for repeat business and tells all their friends.
Best of all, it doesn’t take a million-dollar marketing “points” program to build and nurture a strong base of loyal customers (though that may help!). You just need a service drive that’s open to change and willing to work in a customer-centric manner. In fact, put these three simple tips into action and see how effective your service drive can be at improving customer retention:

#1. Connect Sales and Service with a Simple Introduction

During the sales or F&I conversation, walk the customer over to the service department. Introduce them to a service manager or advisor, and briefly talk about the strengths of your department. That may seem a bit obvious, but it doesn’t happen nearly enough: recent studies found that most new and used car buyers were not introduced to the service department, even though it’s a clear difference-maker.

Remember, consumers generally look at dealership service departments as the primary source of expertise when it comes to vehicle maintenance. Linking sales to service, with a simple introduction and/or a technology connection, is a good way to introduce a dealership strength into the experience.

#2. Sweat the Small Stuff

Make sure communication is tight. That includes dialogue between advisor/customer and advisor/technician. Make sure you’re leveraging the customers preferred feedback channel, and that promise times are transparent and carefully communicated. Indeed, how you communicate is almost more important than what you communicate.

As such, finding the customer’s preferred channel is paramount. For example, studies as far back as 2014 show that texting improves customer “show” rates and that properly staffed and scripted service BDCs can have a significant impact on appointment-setting – not to mention the reduction of ghost customers. For example, according to Connect Mogul, 90% of all text messages are read in under 3 minutes. That’s a powerful example of how the right communication channel can deliver results. Remember, we live in an on-demand world of customer service expectations; our ability to communicate properly helps to control what that means to customers.

#3. Measure Twice, then Optimize

Virtually everything in the service department should be transparent to managers, and trackable as a performance indicator. Whether that’s car washes, promise time success metrics, or more, service managers should have the capability to gauge the effectiveness and efficiency of the shop’s workflow by identifying key metrics unique to the business. When results are tracked and socialized, the culture of the team will change toward a more precise reflection of critical needs and retention opportunities.

Ultimately, dealerships that make the service department a centerpiece of their retention efforts, and do so consistently, are bound to create a strong first impression that’s reinforced over time, service and repair appointments. Leave it to the service department – the bastion of margin preservation during tough times – to be the place you can turn to improve retention and increase profitability.

How Can Dealer-FX Help?

At Dealer-FX, our mission is to help automotive brands and dealerships transform the customer experience by providing leading-edge technology solutions that create an exceptional and efficient service experience. How can we help you?

Related Links