Friday, September 14, 2012

The Right Tools for the Job: Internet Technology in the Service Drive

There are many generations of vehicle owners pulling into dealership service drives across the nation.  Furthermore, they can be driving anything from a late model relic to the latest in automotive wonderment.  You pick the letter in the alphabet to define the generation...Boomers, Gen-X, Gen-Y, Millennium-Gen.  That's a lot!

As a service professional, it's your job to pick up your customer's highest expectations and maximizing profits per repair order.  Oh yeah, did I mention you've got to do all that AND get high CSI scores?  A circus juggler might come to mind as you try to wrap your head around it all.  But let me highlight the concept of Effective Communication.  Without a doubt, effective communication between you and your customer is the single most critical aspect of your success, your business, your R.O. averages, and your CSI scores...PERIOD.  Are you still using the telephone to do that?  Let me expand that thouught just a bit.

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I have a Time Magazine from April 1993.  The cover reads, 'The Info Superhighway' (Time Magazine: April 12, 1993 / Vol. 141 No. 15/ www.time.com/web ).  There is a page after page of concepts pertaining to internet technology in the future.  It was all so foreign to the average consumer that it seemed like science fiction.  However, now, looking back on all of that in the rear-view mirror, it's like "(yawn)...what's your point?"

The point is this, when that article came out I was writing service for one of the largest Honda dealers in Portland, Oregon.  The computer at my write-up station had a green-screen for crying-out-loud!  The most sophisticated car in the suite of automobiles available to our customer had 24 on-board computers, very few people had a personal computer at home, cell phones were flip-phones that made phone calls...that's it, and Data, he wass a character on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Nevertheless, the basic elements of service consulting in the dealership service drive haven't changed that much over the last 20+ years.  The tools for communication have.

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The basic tenants of added-value customer service are still the same: courtesy, cleanliness, promptness, professionalism, product knowledge, effective communication, active delivery...all the same.  Yet the products are more sophisticated and so are your service customers.  My boss at that Honda store summed up customer perception like this, he said, "if you're customer has to call you before you contact them by the end of the day then you've lost their perception of a high standard of customer service."  Are you still using the telephone to do all of that?

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I like to get out into dealerships and talk with the pros working on the front lines of service consulting. In fact, the other day I was at Southwest KIA of Rockwall in Rockwall, Texas talking to a few of the writers in that store. It’s a new store with an exciting suite of products. The service area and write-up area are clean and very modern-looking. It’s a really nice store. They have a consultant named Kevin Leary who’s been writing service since 1979. Do you think he’s seen some changes?! Needless to say, Leary is a valuable asset just by his years of experience alone. I was talking to him about some of the modern technology they are using in their service drive. Leary says “We’re reaching our service customers in ways we’ve never dreamed of before.” By that he’s referring to internet technology via emails and social media like Facebook and Twitter as well as texts and data sharing on customer’s smartphones. Leary also utilizes powerful write-up tools like remote pads to do the customer write-up at the car. The remote table also allows him to pull up vehicle and customer history, previous service recommendations, current service recommendations, and any current recall information from the manufacturer for that customer’s vehicle. John Monigold, also a service consultant at Southwest KIA of Rockwall, has developed an email template to interact with his Generation-Y service customers after they’ve visited him. John says he uses modern internet technology to cultivate a high volume of highly favorable CSI review responses by his younger, tech-savvy customers. Leary concedes that he prefers the telephone to do most of his consulting and communication but, he realizes the power and value in internet technology, especially with the younger generations of car owners. Regardless, it is easy to understand why Southwest KIA of Rockwall’s service department has earned the highest CSI averages in their district. Great job!
 
Another service pro I talked to is Richard Ancheta at David McDavid Lincoln in Plano, Texas. With 11 years of experience, Ancheta is the highest producing Assistant Service Manager in the service drive at the Plano store. He also uses email, texts, and data sharing with his service customers as a form of effective communication. He conveys estimates, pricing, progress reports as well as up-to-date warranty and recall information to his customers throughout the day. Like Kevin Leary, Ancheta says that “At the end of the day, there’s nothing more solid than a verbal conversation with your customer…” but the internet and technology via social media and smartphone technology make him vastly more effective in conveying the perception of the highest standards of customer service to his service customers. So, are you still using the telephone to do all of that?

Isn’t amazing how quickly technology in automobiles change? Earlier in this article, I mentioned that in 1993 a “high-end” car had about 24 processors on-board. Since then that number has more than doubled. All of those processors are synched with control sensors and monitors; it is a marvel indeed, the cars we drive today. So why would any service consultant in the modern dealership not want to employ all of the benefits of modern technology to communicate with their customers?  These customers who are likely to be tech-savvy, and at the very least, as sophisticated as the cars they drive. According to Kevin Leary, “It’s important to keep technology fresh and updated.” In other words, is your service customer’s perception of your operation up-to-date and modern, or is it lacking?  Updated, modern technology is often a large expense for dealerships, but that cost is a small price to pay when compared to the loss of customers, revenue, and low CSI in its absence.  Perhaps perception can be improved by a service consultant simply asking their customer which method of communication they prefer, “Email, text, phone calls, or smoke-signals.” Regardless, effective communication is at the forefront of every service transaction, and crucial to the success of your service business. And so, if you are a service professional working in the modern dealership today, are you still using the telephone to do all of that?

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DeliveryMaxx in the Automotive Industry Leader in helping dealerships with customer loyalty, increasing CSI Scores, higher SEO value, published positive reviews, strategic social media marketing, additional fixed operations revenue, more sales, and repeat and referral business.  Our company was founded by “Car Guys”, and we make it a practice to hire the top talent that has automotive dealership experience.  Craig Rodenmayer, the author of this article, has spent years working service in the automotive industry.  His experience allows us to provide programs that are advantageous for fixed operations.

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