By Bob Rich, National Sales Director, UVeye
Recent data shows that within the automotive industry there is a disconnect with customers. According to one survey, almost 70% of dealers believed their customers had a high level of trust in them. On the contrary, only 9% of car owners who were surveyed responded that they had a high level of trust in salespeople specifically, but that extends in large part to the rest of the dealership also.
Building an excellent customer experience (CX) is the top priority for most businesses today, and trust is a major component in CX. Done well, it results in less customer churn, higher loyalty, lower advertising needs (and related costs), and more referrals. Poor CX results in the opposite.
For dealerships, it’s all too common for car owners to distrust the staff. One of the main areas it’s obvious is when their vehicle is inspected. Whether it’s a service advisor’s checklist upon arriving for a routine maintenance appointment or the used car manager’s appraisal process when working a deal, there’s a lack of trust. Car owners feel that they’re being upsold on unnecessary items in the service drive or the used car manager is finding phantom issues to offer a lower trade-in price. Sometimes it’s true, but for dealers looking to turn their CX around, it’s a stigmatic hurdle to overcome.
Whether combating a perceived swindle or to simply streamline the customer experience for the right reasons, automated inspections are often the right solution for the dealership environment. Growing in popularity for many reasons, one of the main benefits they offer is a boost in CX, where it matters most.
The continuing trend toward contactless
Worldwide, the trend toward contactless services has exploded, largely due to the pandemic. You only have to look to food delivery services, payment methods, and online shopping for proof. Retail shoppers and car owners alike would prefer as little contact as possible.
To that end, having an all-digital, real-time, automated inspection upon entry to the service drive replaces an old-school checklist approach. It can replace much or all of the contact during a trade-in appraisal. Installed in the service drive or a wash bay, convenient access ensures that all cars can be inspected uniformly paired with high-res imaging.
‘Apple Store’-style engagement works
Consumer protection organizations are blowing the whistle on the automotive service industry’s pay structure. One state-based consumer’s council exposed the typical all-commission pay plans that service advisors work on, indicating that “the majority of service advisors working for car dealerships are paid commission only. In other words, they only make money to pay their bills when you spend money on repairs and other services.” They go on to say the service advisor “has an economic incentive to get you to pay for as many services as possible, even if you don’t need them.”
However, Apple Store has been a model that customers are largely satisfied with. The salary-only, non-incentivized pay gives customers the feeling that their needs come first. Although Apple stores are still retail, and their staff is encouraged to sell hard, it comes across as a no-pressure environment for shoppers.
With automated inspections at dealerships, the same low-pressure experience can be true. It’s no longer the service advisor pushing an added repair such as an oil pan leak, but it’s the evidence of a leak on images from the inspection. The same advisory role applies but absent the perception the service advisor is swindling them.
Inspections as a service boost credibility
This type of contactless technology is more than about selling additional services or convincing the customer that the dealership’s intentions are true. Automated inspections enhance the customer experience through one of the most objective aspects of its technology: high-resolution photos.
Imagine the difference in these two scenarios after a possible trade-in gets a car wash and an appraisal.
- The sales manager performs the traditional inspection including a test drive and kneeling to look under the car. He approaches the shopper and says, “Overall, it appears to be in good shape. It looks like the tires are almost worn out and due to their age, I need to be a little conservative about possible mechanical repairs. I can offer you $10,000.”
- The automated report immediately arrives on the sales manager’s tablet. Reviewing it with the shopper, he says, “Look how clean the undercarriage is! It looks like you’ve really taken care of your vehicle. The measurements indicate three of your tires are at 3/32nds and need to be changed, you can see that ding in the control arm, and there’s only some minor seepage at the transmission cooler lines, so no problem there. Based on the inspection results, the trade-in appraisal stands at $9,200.”
Which appraisal is more credible to the consumer? Which is harder to object to? The same results happen in the service drive as advisors review inspections at check-in with customers. When inspections are utilized as a service for vehicle safety checks and general information rather than simply a selling technique, the resulting credibility will enhance the customer experience.
Detailing centers an opening for automated inspections
An underutilized area in almost every dealership is the car wash or detailing center. Operating at low Effective Labor Rates (ELR), they tend to generate less profit per square foot than other departments. Whether it’s for a paid detailing package or an exterior wash for a service appointment, the car wash can add value to the customer experience without any additional labor requirements.
An automated inspection machine installed in the detailing department can provide opportunities for additional service revenue, be it on the same or subsequent visit, by identifying deficiencies for car owners. At the same time, an automatic inspection with high-res photos prior to the vehicle being detailed or serviced can more accurately filter out errant accusations of damage to the customer’s vehicle that can cost more than the revenue itself.
Whether installed in the car wash or the service drive, automated inspection systems can increase trust in the dealership and promote a better customer experience. In today’s environment, it’s an easy solution to gain back customer trust and dealership credibility.
About the Author
Bob Rich serves as the national sales director for UVeye.