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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.