It was one of those hectic Monday mornings when Jeremy was rushing to work for a client meeting and his car broke down on the freeway. Helpless and exasperated, he managed to somehow get help to tow the car to the nearest service center. Jeremy was running against time and was completely thrown off the gear as service representatives were unable to give him any clarity on the fixes needed and the repair cost, not to mention the long queue of cars ahead of him.
For a “digital-age” customer like Jeremy, this was an experience that left much to be desired. In this age of fast-paced technological transformations, consumer behavior is increasingly influenced by the digital experiences offered by the brands they choose. However, customer experience in the automotive repair segment has not evolved to keep pace with the needs of the “digitally tuned” customers. Providing such digital experiences to customers like Jeremy mandates that there be models that can transcend traditional automotive maintenance and provide seamless connected services.
For the US automotive repair market that is fast-paced, over-served and under-differentiated, customer engagement holds the key. From issues related to services bays to feedback mechanisms, there are challenges aplenty.
Poor Asset Utilization
- In most service centers, service bays are not always utilized to optimum capacity due to swinging volumes of repairs, varied manpower efficiency, and lack of mechanization at the shop poor. This impacts productivity adversely. Franchise finances are locked in fixed investments like service bays, customer reception and waiting area, courtesy expenses like pickup and drop shuttle and snacks. Thus, the cash flow is constrained for an automotive repair center
- Many a time personnel churn, lack of adequate training coupled with poor staff attitude leads to incomplete fixes. This results in repeat jobs, leading to higher number of customer complaints
Cost and Time Gaps
- Post purchase, when a customer comes in for a service task, he looks for representatives who can help address his repair-related queries, offer personalized services at a fair price and honor time commitments. He also looks for mechanisms to share instant feedback. However, it is often seen that customer expectation of cost and time commitments are not met due to inadequate information visibility
The Silver Lining
The current value delivery model needs to be upended to offer better cost and quality of service. Information visibility across the value chain will be a key enabler for this purpose. Connected Automotive Maintenance offers this capability by gleaning information from the running vehicle and linking the vehicle to the cloud of backend systems.
Intelligent cloud-based platforms analyse the vehicle data vis-à-vis vehicle history and rules database to build preliminary diagnosis. This automated diagnosis with suggested solution can be augmented by human experts to give a time/cost estimate and, thus, provide upfront information on the repairs. Over time, same system can leverage analytics to derive insights and alert the customer of upcoming issues so that such car breakdowns can be avoided altogether.
Some problems can be resolved through push of secure over-the-air updates to the vehicle. For the do-it-yourself (DIY) enthusiasts, OEMs can leverage e-commerce portals for parts sale and create Augmented Reality-based mobile applications for user support. This will drastically reduce customer visits to the service center.
Most of the automotive repairs do not require large infrastructure and can actually be accomplished at customer premises. Figure 1 illustrates the key aspects of this.