Today’s consumers are surrounded by great technology-enhanced experiences. So dealers need to connect with customers and deliver a more robust technology-enhanced experience.

We need to look beyond the walls of the dealership to understand what consumers like and expect.

In fixed operations, this probably is even more important, as customers see the service side of the business more often than the sales side.

Yet, perhaps more than anywhere else in the dealership, the fixed-ops experience is where today’s technology may fall short.

Too often, when a customer wants to have the undivided attention of service advisers, their attention is stuck looking at a computer on a desk, typing in data and reading back to the customer what is on the screen.

These impersonal interactions lead to missed opportunities with customers and can impact satisfaction and retention.  

For years, the industry has been looking for a better way to work with customers at this point in the process. Fortunately, the introduction and progress of mobile devices over the past decade now enables a mobile-device-equipped service adviser.

Now, instead of being inside a cubicle or stuck in front of a computer, service advisers can meet their customers at their vehicles with a computer tablet. They can quickly complete a walk-around and converse with customers about what services their cars need while also showing them on-screen recommendations.

This growing use of tablets at dealerships is improving the customer experience and the customer’s relationship with the dealership.

Using tablets to interact with customers allows for instant access to every car’s service history and previous recommendations, provides quick check-in and check-out and adds transparency to cost estimates.

Using customer engagement tools to provide updates on vehicles, including text messages, status updates and in-lane and online payments, can also aid in providing an efficient and more-satisfying customer experience.

An example of how quickly customer perceptions and experiences can change at a dealership can be seen at Premiere Volvo Cars in Overland Park, KS.

It began a pilot program in 2017 that allows for easy service write-ups on tablets. This has made the walk-around process more accurate and enables the team to record customer questions and vehicle history in real-time.

Car check-ins have sped up considerably, solving a key customer concern of waiting at the dealership. Service reps now can seamlessly integrate vehicle details from the tablet to the dealership-management system and other systems.

Customers become more involved and educated in the process, and they don’t feel time is wasted in the check-in process.

Employees now meet customers with tablets in hand right when they arrive in the service lane. It completely changes the customer-service dynamic. Because it is an integrated experience, employees can see online appointment information, know why each customer is there and greet them by name. Customers appreciate this.

“When you change from greeting customers with a hat tag and walking them to a desk, to now greeting them with a tablet in your hand, customers think that’s really cool,” says Mike Stone, service manager at Premier Volvo.

“There is a cliche in the industry of service managers staring at the computer creating a barrier between you and the customer,” Stone says. “Used correctly, technology removes that barrier and allows you to engage with customers and involve them in the write-up process.” 

Times have changed. Using a great technology-enhanced experience builds loyalty in an age when everything centers on the customer.

Jim Roche is senior vice president-marketing & managed Services at Xtime.