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Dan Beres

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The Great Race Against Time!

In today’s society, time is a precious commodity. So much so that consumers make their buying decisions based on how long it takes to complete the transaction. If you had the choice between a $20 oil change that would take 4 hours to complete, or a $30 oil change that would take 30 minutes, which would you choose?

For the automotive industry, time is now front and center, and there is no better proof than the digital retailing movement that has been happening for some time.

At the Automotive News 2019 Automotive Forum, a panel of experts discussed the fact that “time is the enemy of car buying.” Among those sharing their opinions was Paul Walser, dealer principal of Walser Automotive Group and NADA’s current industry relations chairman. He stated that consumers want faster transactions and that it should only take about 25 minutes from the moment a consumer chooses a vehicle to when they leave with it. Currently, his dealership stands at an average of 42 minutes – a great feat in and of itself.

All of this data supports the flood of startups and disrupters that have popped up in the last few years whose sole message and goal is to make the car buying process simpler for consumers.

Does this sound familiar? It should because it’s merely history repeating itself.

So, what does this have to do with vehicle service?

Think back to the good old days when franchised dealerships were consumers’ only option for vehicle maintenance and repairs. Sure, there were always “mom and pop” and backyard mechanics, but it was only about 30 years or so ago that the Jiffy Lubes and large chain independent repair facilities started popping up with… the exact same marketing message digital retailing pushes today: “We’ll save you time.”

As service is the cash cow in most dealerships, how about taking that digital retailing message of saving customers time and also pushing it within your service department? Just as time is the enemy of car buying, it is equally, if not more so, in service. That’s why Jiffy Lubes exist.

While franchised dealers have cornered the market for warranty and recall work, there are rumblings at the legislative level about allowing independents to complete recall repairs. If that were to happen, it would be a severe blow to franchised dealers’ service bottom line.

I realize that keeping up with warranty as well as the millions of existing recalls while, at the same time, continuing to perform routine maintenance is an overwhelming job. But that is why it is so important to continually analyze and investigate ways to make your service department more efficient. This can help increase shop capacity, revenue and keep those loyal customers coming in.

The recent focus has been about making it faster for people to buy cars. But, in the end, consumers will service their vehicles much more often than they will buy them.

So, what can be done? Well, another interesting article in Automotive News covered its recent World Congress in January of this year, which reported that according to innovation experts, speed will make or break future relationships. According to the article, only 22 percent of consumers open email, for one example, but more than 98 percent open text messages. And there’s a vast influx of new data streams that can help the car industry do everything from creating more impactful advertising content to providing pinpoint services in connected cars.

Technology advances are upending every industry, says Howard A. Tullman, executive director of the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and car dealers must take a broader view than 30-day sales cycles to stay relevant in the future.

“We’ve got an enormous flow of data and information, and we have to make it useful and meaningful,” Tullman said. “Businesses in the future will look at needs out there and build systems that are responsive. Make it easy for customers, or they won’t be there much longer.”

It is a good idea to ensure priorities are in alignment for both sales and service when researching ways to save your customers’ time and thereby increase CSI scores and profitability.

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