Technology: When Slow Is Fast, and Fast Is Slow


When service-to-sales first started, it involved little more than a tablet and actually seemed to go pretty well. The vehicle arrived, and after greeting the customer and scanning the VIN, the appointment popped up on the tablet and showed the existing customer.

It went downhill from there.

As we scrolled through the series of screens and continued the walk-around on the vehicle, all the way up to the point where the client signed the tablet and was escorted to the lounge, it was a pretty great experience. But to a service advisor, the process just took more time.

True, it did, but the problem wasn’t that it took longer; the problem was that the advisor thought it shouldn’t take longer.

This is where the understanding of technology’s purpose, and not just the introduction of technology, comes in.

Quicker and Better vs. Quicker or Better

Technology has provided all of us with so many advantages and opportunities, and there are more seemingly every second. But at your dealership you need to make sure that the purpose of the technology gets explained to the team before the technology is rolled out.

Let’s break some of these tools into two simple categories of purpose: Engagement and streamlining.

The tablet that was introduced in the service drive was meant to be an engagement tool. The client is greeted in the service drive and the device allows the advisor to gather and electronically document information and connect with the client at the same time, as well as have the opportunity to examine the vehicle for some basic concerns and perhaps even allow the client to point out some specific repair requests. And of course, it also gives the advisor the chance to make some up-sell recommendations while in the drive.

The tablet also comes into play when we reach the “status report” stage of the process, allowing the advisor to share the findings of the multipoint inspection with the client in a more engaging atmosphere, i.e., without uprooting the client from the lounge to go to the work station, approve the service, and go back to the lounge to wait.

Prior to the tablet introduction: The client comes in and sits at your desk. You get the initial repair or maintenance requests. The client then goes to the lounge. When the MPI results need to be shared, you ask the client to come back to your desk and review the requests, and then after agreement, the client goes back to the lounge.

So actually, your tablet is both an engagement tool and a streamlining tool, especially if additional repair requests are pushed to both the technician and the parts department, and the repair process then continues seamlessly while still engaging with the client.

Another example of a streamlining tool is the electronic version of your multipoint inspection (EMPI) tool. If there is integration between your DMS and EMPI tool, the generation of the repair order automatically populates your dispatch MPI as well as your parts team, so even without the piece of the paper, the process is moving forward. If the additional steps include your technician, he can push MPI results from his work station to the advisor without leaving his work station.

Another example of engagement through technology is big data. This term has been batted about for years, and there is not only a misunderstanding of the term but also a misunderstanding of the purpose of the science of big data.

Every dealership has data. As a matter of fact, you have a lot of data. The purpose and science of BD isn’t in the gathering of it (although this is important); it’s the aggregating the data and using it for your specific purpose.

And one of your purposes definitely should be marketing. And marketing is certainly engagement.

Let’s look at what data you currently have on your clients:

  • Names
  • Delivery dates of vehicles
  • Service histories
  • Value (meaning the amount they’ve spent in sales and service)

So the problem isn’t data. The problem is how do you segment and effectively use the data to personalize the service and sales experiences for your clients.

Let’s face it: The days of having a client fit into your business model are long gone. The days of having your business fit into the lifestyle and needs of your clients is here.

If you take one client and look at all of her data—not just the basic stuff you already look at, but everything, like typical time of arrival, time of day when her closing ratios are higher, days of the week or month that she made bigger investments into service work, services that are typically denied, services that are typically accepted, etc.—then market toward that behavior for the greatest success.

For example, if your client always buys brakes but never buys tires, stop sending coupons for brakes and start sending them for tires.

If your client always gives you a great review when he spends a little and always gives you a bad one when he spends a lot, make sure that you’re providing him with an extra-special experience during those more expensive service visits.

Having all of this data is possible without involving a big data company—but you’ll spend days examining each client’s behavior and launching a strategy from there. Or, you can have someone do it for you.

Let’s face it: The days of having a client fit into your business model are long gone. The days of having your business fit into the lifestyle and needs of your clients is here.

Another tool at your disposal for gathering data on clients isn’t the newest piece of technology; in fact, it’s probably the oldest one: Ask them. Spend time with your clients and let them know that you want their experience to be a special one. Tell them you want to tailor their visit to meet their specific needs, and you’ll see that when your priorities are in line, the experience will be excellent for both of you.

When technology is introduced to your service process, spend time with your team to make sure that they have an understanding of what the technology is supposed to accomplish. It’s not always to make life faster; sometimes, it’s to make life better.

Rex Weaver

Director of Service Innovation at Lehigh Valley Acura
Rex Weaver

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