OEMs are altering the customer experience—so can independent service providers.
There may be a new automotive trend starting at our shopping malls. After a pilot project this past Spring, Toyota Canada opened up three pop-up retail stores in Montreal, Vancouver and Richmond Hill (Ontario) during the holiday season (until the end of January 2017).
These stores feature urban vehicles, interactive VR displays of Toyota’s technology, as well as brand ambassadors as opposed to car salespeople. You can test drive Toyota vehicles in the parking lot during weekends, and the idea of these retail stores is to provide qualified leads to the dealership, as well as engage and inform people about the Toyota brand.
There’s no pressure to buy, and the small space makes it more intimate and less overwhelming than a large dealership showroom. If manufacturers are changing how they engage their customers in the car buying process, are we staying relevant with our clients in the auto repair business?
This year, Genesis Motors launched in Canada with “a modern, human-centred purchase and ownership model.” They’re selling vehicles through innovative ways like “Genesis At Home,” a concierge service where a representative will go through a demonstration and vehicle test drive at your location. There are also retail locations in the works for mid-2017. Scheduled maintenance costs for five years/100,000 kms are included in the purchase price. While many luxury manufacturers have this already, Genesis owners “can have their vehicle picked up for scheduled maintenance, left a courtesy vehicle, and returned when complete.”
Let’s be honest, the dealerships want to keep vehicles coming back to their bays. If they’re changing how vehicle owners experience maintenance and repairs, we may need to look at how we’re delivering our client service. Genesis’ maintenance service model minimizes human interaction and the opportunity to build a relationship. You could counter that by providing a personal touch. Many repair shops offer courtesy vehicles or complimentary rentals. Change may indeed happen to the shuttle service to include vehicle pick up and drop off. Perhaps we pre-book scheduled maintenance. These ideas are already implemented by many repair shops. They’re not new ideas but maybe now’s the time to revisit them and see if they apply to your own shop.
We’re the experts
You know what’s good news? When people are shopping for a car, they want to talk to a technician. How many times have you been asked, “What’s a good car to buy?” They want to know from our experience which vehicles are more expensive to repair, which ones we have seen come through our bays, which cars are problemprone, etc. They’re not going to ask a car salesperson because naturally they’re going to promote the brand they’re selling. Are you a ‘go-to’ for all things automotive and do your clients see you as the automotive expert?
Do you remember GM’s Saturn brand? Saturn tried to change the purchasing experience by offering a straightforward buying experience at the dealerships, and you couldn’t negotiate on pricing if you wanted to. I suppose Saturn was ahead of its time. Manufacturers are changing how they play their game. Is it time that we changed how we deliver auto repair service?