As we emerge, blinking, out of another lockdown, is this really it? Or are COVID-19 and its variants here to stay, requiring annual vaccines and regular lockdowns? The truth is, nobody yet knows.
The automotive industry, like many others, has been forced to adapt rapidly to challenges brought by the pandemic. Unlike the first lockdown, where many garages closed and the government allowed a six-month extension on MOTs, garages were expected to stay open during the second and third lockdowns, relying instead on COVID-safe working practices to keep staff and customers safe.
A central plank of those practices, of course, is limiting access to the workshop to those who really need it.
Limit access, reduce risk
It’s easy enough to get behind a message like this, but how do we put it into practice? Many workshops are still run on traditional lines — using paper-based tools such as wallcharts, accessing files on a local network, or letting a curious customer see for themselves how worn their tyres and brakes are, for example.
How do you shift these essential customer services off the premises without inadvertently jettisoning all that customer goodwill you worked so hard to build up?
Step 1: give your advisors anywhere access
Anywhere access means that wherever they are, your advisors can get straight on with the task of delivering an excellent, responsive customer experience, without the need for specialist equipment or locally hosted software — from the workshop, home, even (in theory) the local park! All they need is a computer and an internet connection, and the rest can be handled in the cloud. This means that your service advisors no longer need to be based in the workshop to do their work, making it much easier to keep the workshop COVID safe.
Another advantage of adopting cloud-based technologies that enable anywhere access is that many are offered on a subscription basis instead of a fixed fee, which can make costs more manageable and ease cashflow. It’s worth shopping around for a deal that suits your needs — we have found dealers and garages incredibly responsive to our idea of not charging for our app at all and instead, sharing profits on downstream sales. It takes the risk out of the transaction for our clients and reassures them that we are as invested in delivering great service as they are.
Step 2: Bring the workshop to your customers
It’s not uncommon for car owners to question the quote, particularly if it’s a high one, and many appreciate the ability to see for themselves what needs to be done. Workshops can be noisy though, which encourages people a) to lean in to talk and b) shout — and in a pandemic, that’s simply not safe.
Many dealerships are already using video to show customers what’s wrong, but doing so in the dealership showroom. It can be tricky to email those videos to customers instead, as they can be hundreds of megabytes large, which many email providers won’t allow you to send (and those that do get through can so easily end up in the junk folder). Again, the cloud comes into its own here, allowing you to host a video or set of photos online and your customer to view them at the touch of a button.
"Prompt, regular communications are the single biggest satisfier when people are having their cars repaired or serviced."
Step 3: Exceed customers’ expectations
If you’re looking to implement new working practices, it’s the perfect time to look at the customer experience and see how you can improve that too. Our research showed that 86% of aftersales departments feel that customer expectations are rising, 94% of service advisors report that customers expect their car to be ready earlier than is realistic, while 84% of aftersales managers say customers increasingly expect a near-immediate response.
Digital solutions not only make it easier for your employees to work from home, but they also help them offer a differentiated service. Fielding phone calls all day makes it almost impossible to be responsive, but by moving to an app-based medium, they can push out information to customers much faster and more proactively than ever before. And our research confirms that prompt, regular communications are the single biggest satisfier when people are having their cars repaired or serviced.
Deliver a seamless experience
We may not know exactly what the coming years hold, but it seems self-evident that the ability to be flexible is key. Working from home isn’t just about protecting ourselves from COVID, it’s also about embracing better ways of working — and who knows, perhaps even achieving that elusive work-life balance we’ve aspired to for years. As much as anything, employees have realised not just that it’s possible to work from home, but that it’s often desirable.
A solution that provides a better customer experience is an obvious choice, but the benefits don’t stop there. Enabling employees to work how they want can also make you a more attractive employer. And if you can do both, so much the better.
Regardless of whether your advisors end up working from home, the office or a combination of the two, investing in the right tools now will allow them to knock customer satisfaction scores out of the park.
To find out how service advisors can deliver top-class communications — from the spare bedroom if necessary — check out our blog post, Solving the constant communication problem.
And to explore the ideal customer experience in more depth, download our white paper, 2021 Dealership Customer Engagement Report.