There has been a lot of attention paid to opportunities for Connected Car technologies in Sales and F&I, with ideas like personalized shopping, deliveries, and data-based F&I products. But there are also several opportunities for dealers to use Connected Car technologies to improve quality of service, performance, and efficiency in the delivery of both Parts and Service.
This topic is relevant now because Connected Car technologies are finally reaching “critical mass.” Well over 90% of all new cars and trucks sold in the US in 2021 will come with built-in abilities to transmit and receive data, remote software, and vehicle commands. This means that key data about each vehicle’s mechanical condition, driving usage, and precise location can be collected and used to improve operations at the dealership. As always, it is critical to remember that customers must be fully informed and provide their consent for any Connected Car services to be utilized.
In the near term, there are several opportunities to improve the day-to-day operations of the Service and Parts departments, while also improving the customer experience.
The highest ROI current opportunity is to use data from the vehicle to determine when maintenance and service events need to be scheduled. The vehicle “knows” what its mileage is, when it needs an oil change, and when it has diagnostic codes that indicate different needs for service. Customer outreach using this vehicle data is much more timely and often more effective than outreach based on customer behavior modeling or “estimated” mileages.
A connected car can also facilitate advanced planning. By checking periodically on maintenance needs, dealers can anticipate approximately when a customer will need maintenance. The dealer can then plan ahead to schedule service at a time that is both convenient to the customer and efficient for the dealer, smoothing out service operations as well as monthly top and bottom lines.
Finally, an advanced review of a vehicle’s maintenance and service needs can facilitate advanced ordering and stocking of parts to ensure that they are available when the vehicle is scheduled for service. In short, dealers can more efficiently utilize their personnel and operations, while providing more reliable and convenient services for customers.
Several OEMs now include automated maintenance reminders within their Mobile Owner Apps, and similar service reminder programs are offered as well. These types of programs have been shown to increase both customer service satisfaction and retention. The dealer plays a critical role in ensuring that all new vehicle purchasers have their Mobile Owner Apps activated during delivery, along with enrollment in automated maintenance reminders. If your OEM has not yet enabled these services, or for older vehicles, dealers should also look into third-party platforms, which not only offer service reminders, but also theft recovery, emergency assistance, and other services.
Connected Car technologies will allow more advanced capabilities, too. We have already seen extensive use of Over-the-Air software updates by Tesla, but Tesla is not alone in adding OTA capabilities. Every major OEM is working to expand their abilities to update major vehicle systems this way, as well as how to share these responsibilities with their dealers. Tesla and others have also shown the potential for additional revenue from software-based “accessories” and feature subscriptions. These are optional software enhancements that allow the vehicle to be customized versus a base factory configuration. OEM Service and Parts departments will soon be able to recommend and deliver these accessories to an increasing number of vehicle owners.
OEMs are also increasingly developing more predictive service algorithms. These programs process data from large numbers of vehicles to develop models that can accurately predict service problems before they occur. As confidence in these programs increases, dealers will be encouraged to contact customers to schedule service well before a breakdown occurs.
Finally, Connected Car technologies will enable many new remote services. It is easy to locate vehicles and to provide digital keys to give access to an authorized technician. This will facilitate both services at the customer’s location as well as easy pick-ups and exchanges with courtesy transportation vehicles.
Greg Ross leads the Connected Car practice for motormindz, a leading automotive consultancy and accelerator. He is also a Board Member, Investor and Advisor for several Connected Car businesses. Greg led a successful 31-year career with General Motors, where he was a key member of the leadership team for GM’s OnStar business unit. Greg and his team created industry-first connected car partnerships in Wireless, Insurance, Fleet, Infotainment, and Mobile Commerce. Greg is a regular speaker and contributor, discussing the many business opportunities created by connected technology.
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