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Most dealership managers know that the service department is their best source of steady, consistent revenue. Yet too often it seems that maximizing the amount of that revenue — and lowering the cost of the operation — just aren’t priorities.

That’s a problem — especially in an unsteady market where customer expectations around convenience and efficiency continue to grow. Every opportunity to increase ROs and improve customer loyalty is vital to sustaining a vibrant and competition-proof service business over the long term. Doing that requires a technology footprint that helps to ensure all steps of the customer lifecycle are met in a timely and efficient manner.

As simple as that seems, it’s not. Technology is complicated, and it’s hard to know exactly what the benefits are and how they help the bottom line. To that end, it’s important to be prepared by understanding the basics of the technology — and having a few tough questions at the ready. That way you can truly see whether the technology fits your service department’s unique set of challenges. Here’s a simple summary of ONE Platform:  

Seven Digital Solutions of the Dealer-FX ONE Platform

ONE Platform manages the complete service customer lifecycle. It connects seven digital service solutions across the entire experience, integrates with vehicle data, OEM systems and most DMS providers. It’s designed to enhance the customer’s service experience and drive the digital transformation of dealerships:

  • Connect: DMS, OEM, and customer service data for targeted messaging
  • Schedule: An online scheduler on your dealership website
  • Check-In: VIN-specific customer information directly on the tablet for an efficient write-up process
  • Inspect: Multiple layers of customer data so techs have all the information they need
  • Engage: Real-time vehicle status updates, OEM recall notifications, service reminders
  • Check-Out: Customer check-out integrated with EasyPay, a mobile payment solution
  • Retain: Post-service messages, personalized invitations and reminders

ONE Platform provides visibility into virtually all service operations — which can improve customer promise times, increase ROs and elevate scores on customer surveys.

ONE Platform by the Numbers
51% Increase in Customer Pay Sales
12% Increase in CSI Scores
$134 Increase per RO From Appointment To Final RO

Stump the Rep: Ten Questions about ONE Platform

The best way to get the most out of your appointment is to engage the rep’s knowledge about the technology. Do that by asking questions and pulling the experience toward a conversation. Here are ten tough questions that should help you get a pretty good idea about the Dealer-FX ONE Platform:

  1. Will ONE Platform make or save my dealership money, or is it just another technology expense?  
  2. How can I improve cycle time and staff efficiencies, including technicians?
  3. How is the customer service journey tracked, and how can it be leveraged to generate additional business?
  4. How does ONE Platform help me interact with customers in the way they expect?
  5. Can you show me how ONE Platform can manage the “digital service department – from almost anywhere?”
  6. How can this technology provide a Group instant access to performance and return on investment?
  7. Can you show me how to text recommendations to a customer?
  8. Explain why or how ONE Platform creates greater efficiencies.
  9. How does the consolidation of products within the platform actually help with support and training?
  10. Walk me through how ONE Platform delivers greater throughput in the service department.

What’s Next?

Click here to learn more about Dealer-FX ONE Platform. 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?

Something special always happens at NADA. For starters, there are always new friends to meet, and old colleagues to catch up with on the show floor and at events.

There’s the chance to learn more about new technologies, and be entertained by some of the best and brightest stars around. After all, with more than 600,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space at Moscone Center in San Francisco, there’s plenty of room to do many things great things — and meet many great people. This year was no exception. In fact, in some ways it raised the bar on what was possible, and pushed the limits on convention entertainment. From laughs with Dana Carvey on Saturday to sincerity with Major Dan Rooney on Sunday, NADA 2019 also focused on charities, the #womeninautomotive video contest and much more.

Dealer-FX: On a Mission for Success

Over at the Dealer-FX booth, we celebrated a very upbeat and successful NADA 2019, thanks to the popularity of ONE Platform, and debuts like our Sales2Service mobile solution. In addition, our very own Greg Dryden, vice-president of client optimization, held a successful education session on Service Department Effectiveness in the 21st Century. It was a great week of learning new things, and of finding ways to improve service business. Maybe the only thing better would be to add an autograph from Hall of Fame Quarterback Steve Young.  

Here’s a look back at our NADA 2019 experience:  

Founder, President & CEO Gary Kalk kicks off an autograph session with Hall of Fame Quarterback Steve Young.

The Dealer-FX booth was buzzing throughout the show.

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.

On August 2, Apple became the first U.S. company to reach a $1 trillion market valuation. In doing so, it crossed an interesting threshold once thought unattainable, at least for anything other than a global energy company.

But then again – was anyone really surprised?

Probably not. Apple is unique, after all, a public showcase of thinking differently. From iMacs to iPods and iPhones, the company has been on a journey defined by creativity and driven by innovation.

Here-are-a-Few-Customer-Experience-Lessons-from-Apple-Trillion Dollar Journey Dealer-FX

Apple is simply different.

But so is Amazon. And it’s no coincidence that Jeff Bezos’ company is in close pursuit of that trillion-dollar line. Their own valuation sits at around $424 billion. What’s interesting is that the two companies share similar customer experience keys instrumental to their remarkable achievements. Indeed, what’s most relevant about Apple’s $1 trillion valuation – and Amazon’s pursuit – are the things we can learn from their shared traits:

Culture starts with shared values

The memo sent by CEO Tim Cook after Apple reached the $1 trillion mark is a good example of a positive culture. You can read it here. The takeaway for service managers is how Apple and Amazon executives have aligned the company’s objectives with human values and hopes. This is critical because the digital transformation taking place in the automotive retail industry requires a culture shift inside the dealership. Technology only works if the team members see its value and are dedicated to making the change.

Technology that redefines the customer experience

For Apple, it’s been about design and the creation of devices that feel natural. For Amazon, it’s using data to anticipate behavior and supply the answer. Both companies blend amazing technology with an incredible human experience. This ideal has obvious application in the service drive: using technology to power human interaction is how relationships are made. It’s a vital component within the dealership sales and service cycle.

Create a need

No one told Apple that people would go crazy over the iPod. They noticed how the customer experience of the typical MP3 player was poor and designed an elegant user interface. Amazon didn’t wait for someone to tell them to create Alexa or apply Big Data to the shopping experience. With that in mind, how can service advisors use information and technology to introduce a need, and sell the ‘why’ to customers? It’s a good way to expand RO values and develop a stronger relationship with customers.

Creating a personalized experience

Your iPhone is personal to you. It doesn’t have to be a different colour (though that’s nice!) because the content is what makes it unique. Likewise, the personalization of the shopping experience is where Amazon gets its power. Innovations like recommendations, one-click ordering, anticipatory shipping, and price optimization make the experience unique – and uniquely valued. Creating a similar dealership service experience requires the timely application of knowledge about the customer’s needs. It also requires the building of a culture that seeks to make the experience more personal.

Someday, other companies will reach a $1 trillion valuation, and Apple won’t be alone. Yet what’s fascinating is that Apple’s success was accomplished in much the same way as it would be at the local dealership: through shared values, the application of leading technology and personalization for the customer.

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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The year 2020 is coming. Are you ready for a technology-enabled world of service, with new customer expectations?

In the car business? Put your seatbelt on.

And while you’re at it hang on tight to the steering wheel, because the road between today’s reality and the likely future is sure to be a wild and bumpy ride. The typical dealer-driven and controlled process of 2018, with few options and an established profit path, is already evolving into a customer-driven buyer’s journey.

 

That’s the type with multiple options, considerable margin pressure, and a heavy emphasis on right-time service levels. It’s not a temporary disruption: The depth and permanence of this change is led by mobile technology, and that has traditional retail operations staggering. In fact, according to Kerrigan Advisors’ year-end Blue Sky Report, it’s driving some generational dealer operators to rethink future plans.

Everybody Take a Deep Breath

At about this point I can hear you thinking: “Yeah, yeah. the more things change the more they stay the same.” It’s true that core fundamentals of retail ops are healthy and established. For example, people will always buy, lease, and service cars from dealerships. The majority will always test drive cars first, and will prefer a dealership service drive to the cluttered and dirty aftermarket option. The process is where change is happening.

And if you doubt that, consider how the popularity of technology-driven options enabled Uber, Lyft and their global peers to create a new transportation channel. Note how ride-sharing services and subscription-based vehicle programs – programs that are now spreading like wildfire to mainstream automakers – are opening the door for expansive and customized options.

Combined with the increasingly sophisticated science of Big Data and connected cars, the automotive landscape in 2020 looks like a data-driven, customer-first enterprise that relies on technology to help humans deliver right-time and comprehensive service.

The Future is Bright

It sure sounds marvelous. Except for one tiny exception: the need to service cars for a profit. You remember profit, right? That thing you had plenty of before interest rates went up, and sales slowed? The reason your service drive exists? If you’re selling new cars for pennies of profit, you’re doing it because it opens the door to more profitable areas of the business. And there’s no better place than the service drive. When times are uncertain, service departments have historically risen to the occasion.

This time might be different. Today, the service drive is also under pressure to Millennial influencers, a persistent technician shortage, and lengthening service intervals. These demands (and others) are forcing the adoption of technology solutions across service departments. The message is clear: get your technology right or suffer low CSI in an area that has always served as an important connector between sales and retention. The year 2020 is right around the corner, and the need for a simple, connected and efficient technology solution for the service department grows larger in the rearview mirror with every passing day.