Let’s start this one off with an interesting fact: 40% of car buyers in some markets are under the age of 35. This stat is important for two reasons: 1) younger people are buying cars and hang on to them longer (11.8 years according to Automotive News) and 2) this generation views a digital customer experience as commonplace as an Astroturf front porch in a trailer park. Recently, our team watched an online panel of six heavy hitters within the auto retailing industry discuss the impacts of digital marketing and the customer’s experiences had on their operations. Without exception, they all concurred that a digital customer experience is the way of the future. To put a finer point on things, Mr. Adam Arens stated,
“If you don’t embrace digital retailing, you will lose customers. You might not gain a lot of [new customers with digital retailing], but you will lose customers if you ignore it.”
Now let’s pump the brakes and slide a football metaphor across the table: your sales floor is Peyton Manning, but your service department is the offensive line. People naturally love the sales floor: it’s flashy, fast-paced, and tells new customers who you are as a dealership. Simply stated, it’s the cool kid table in a high school cafeteria and it’s the place where many dealership owners cut their teeth. Hey, we love what is comfortable to us; it’s human nature. However, one can argue that it’s the most susceptible to changes in the economy. Circling back to our football analogy, quarterbacks regularly suffer injuries after some 280lb murder machine fresh out of the SEC collides with them at 30 mph. If you replace the ball of muscles and rage known as a pro defensive end with a stale economy, the analogy applies to your sales floor. But the offensive line? These beefy warhorses grind out play after play in the snow and rain to drive the ball down the field. One can say the same about your service department. People might not always need a new car, but they will need to maintain the one they have unless they really like making new friends while riding the bus. While your QB’s performance varies based on the health of the economy, your offensive line of a service department is always busy making the blocks your dealership needs to survive, regardless of the environmental conditions.
During the panel, Adam Arens made a very astute conjecture about the far distant future. We, potentially, could live in a world in which self-driving cars arrive at a service center at eleven o’clock at night and return home by the morning. Yes, this scenario will likely not take place for several decades, but the fact remains that integrating a digital customer experience into the foundation of one’s business is critical if one hopes to avoid playing a desperate game of “catch up” further down the road. Therefore, there has never been a better time to integrate a digital customer experience into the one aspect of your business that will always have customers: your service department. Revisiting a previous point, we could live in a world in which new cars drive themselves to a customer’s home, but that same car will require a service center to keep it on the road instead of exploding into a ball of flames after the brakes seize on the interstate.
Pulling the thread further, we can conclude that vehicle maintenance is fundamentally a “people business.” Your staff can do something machines cannot; they can empathize and think abstractly. These two capabilities are essential when resolving a vehicle maintenance issue. That being said, artificial intelligence can streamline and optimize the conditions prior to the human’s first contact with a problem. Machines can crunch data; tons and tons of data. They can analyze trends and minimize your inventory to reduce customer wait times and keep your staff turning wrenches instead of searching for parts. They can reference previous interactions with a customer and better define the root cause of their issue. Further, they perform initial “triage” and direct the customer to the right staff member, thus reducing the number of transferred calls. Finally, machines can analyze the performance of your staff and establish a “breakpoint” in the conversation, or an ideal point of time at which a staff member takes lead in resolving an issue. These are all fascinating capabilities, but they cannot come to fruition in your dealership until your team integrates a digital customer experience into their daily operation.
Now, let’s widen our aperture and take a look at the holistic benefits provided by a digitized customer experience. Referencing our dear friend Mr. Arens, a digital Nirvana is a magical place in which your team consists of leaders rather than managers. A manager oversees a task and coordinates the logistics necessary to close a repair order. A leader is someone who comprehends the needs of a customer and drives your business to deliver an optimal solution that requires the least amount of time and resources. Integrating a digital backbone within your dealership is the first step towards this Promised Land, but it is a journey that requires the embrasure of one simple fact: humans must team with machines to capitalize on each other’s strengths and to mitigate one another’s weaknesses. And what is the one aspect of your business that will always have customers regardless of technology’s advance? Your service department. Customers could very well purchase a car entirely online, but they must visit a service center to keep that car running. Sorry, Peyton. The offensive line in the back of the building will march a dealership down the field during future seasons.
We here at Auto Labs do not believe in cookie-cutter solutions and understand that we have to nest our solution within the confines of your brand so you can build future iterations of your business upon a solid foundation. Let’s be honest: using a sterile robocall or an impersonal text message to communicate with your customers sends them a message that they are no better than the cheapest solution. We categorically believe in developing a customer-facing solution for your dealership and want to answer three very important questions during our first interaction with you: 1) do you need us; 2) how we can help you, and 3) what can we do to most improve or nest within your business. So give us a call today and let’s get the ball rolling to integrate a digitized customer experience within your dealership now so you will be ready for whatever the future brings. We know that your customers will love our AI-enabled experience as much as Peyton Manning loves yelling, “Omaha!”
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