Insights

How Automotive Service Centers Use Digital Touchpoints to Enhance the Customer Experience

By Eliahu Sussman

May 4, 2018

Digital innovation is changing customers’ expectations about the brick-and-mortar experience. In the automotive industry, digital devices and touchpoints can immediately help improve a number of friction points. By reducing frustration and streamlining processes for both customers and technicians, digital tools can help service centers increase loyalty—and profits. For instance, kiosks and tablet-based devices can help deliver more accurate estimated wait times to customers, provide real-time information to help technicians be more productive, and give customers more information around things like pricing and service options, which can lead to a better customer experience. 

Leading automotive service centers are already using digital touchpoints for self check-in for appointments, to offer a menu of service options that customers can make selections from, and to handle self-service payment transactions. For technicians, digital devices such as handheld tablets and tablet-based kiosks are being used to streamline the processing of service requests, while allowing better tracking and display of important customer information such as service history, preferences, loyalty information, payment details, and more.

Using digital to streamline the customer experience

Automotive enterprises of all sizes–from large dealerships to small repair shops–are deploying digital solutions in response to a growing demand for better self-service solutions and simplified workflows.

At Ford, a digital kiosk lets vehicle owners securely drop off their keys, select a service, and make a payment. This implementation has enabled customers to handle all of the service logistics even after the service center has closed for the day.

But digital integrations aren’t reserved for just the major dealerships and service centers. At small businesses like Matt’s Automotive in Fargo, North Dakota, service techs are using iPads to:

  • view their appointments and service statuses from anywhere in the shop
  • reduce time spent walking back and forth between the lobby and garage to ask questions or make recommendations
  • scan VINs and take vehicle photos
  • eliminate clerical errors from manual data entry

Tools to solve common customer pain points

As in other industries, customer satisfaction is key to retention and word-of-mouth advertising. Providing the best possible customer experience is about more than servicing the vehicle. A recent study uncovered the three most pressing concerns:

  1. Long or ambiguous wait times
  2. Pushy upsells from service center employees
  3. Lack of clarity in pricing throughout the service process

Modern consumer-based technology can enable solutions to each of these pain points. When utilized as customer-facing digital touchpoints, they can create transparency around service options, pricing, and process, creating an exceptional customer experience. 

Kiosks and customer information centers can reduce wait times by providing a self-service option for customers to begin the check-in process as soon as they enter the service center. These touchpoints can also help mitigate anxiety around upsells by integrating suggestions and upgrades within the service selection process. The result is reduced friction between the service center employees and the customers they’re serving.

The presentation of pricing is another cause for angst that can be eliminated with a digital touchpoint. Customers want to know the price of services going in and want to avoid surprises at checkout. Digital interfaces can prevent cost-related anxiety by showing a “cart total” throughout the service selection process and delivering transparency about the price of services on-screen.

Combining these three touchpoint-enabled solutions alleviates customers’ main concerns, improving customer retention and increasing the bottom line for service centers.

Digital touchpoints speed up service center workflows

Getting customers in and out of service centers as efficiently as possible contributes to both a great customer experience and a productive use of resources and personnel. A standard service center is built around a few key services–commonly brakes, tires, and oil changes. The success of the facility is dependent on providing customers with quick, convenient vehicle maintenance and repairs.

In fact, according to this study, convenience is one of the most important reasons customers choose local service centers rather than heading back to a dealership for vehicle maintenance and repairs.

However, in a busy service center pressed for human resources, it can be difficult to juggle customer check-ins, assist customers in choosing between service options, processing payments, and fielding questions, all while remaining focused on completing the work on the vehicle as efficiently as possible. 

At Matt’s Automotive, a customer service rep uses an iPad to process a customer’s service selections in the lobby and then deliver them seamlessly to a technician’s tablet or kiosk back in the garage. In the course of completing the work, if the technician notices worn wiper blades or low tire tread, she can note these on her device in the garage, delivering them back to the service rep, who relays them to the customer. These digital integrations cut down on the time taken to communicate findings, while also reducing the chances of misreading, misunderstanding, or simply forgetting important details in transit. And perhaps best of all, these communications can all be quickly logged into the customer’s service file, allowing for easy recall on the customer’s next visit.

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