Software lets dealers update service customers via texting

For Ujj Nath, it was the service appointment from hell.

Although he had left his Honda Civic Hybrid with the dealership’s express service staff, three hours later he hadn’t received a status update. When he called the service department, the adviser he had met with was nowhere to be found.

When he returned to the dealership at the end of the day to pick up his car, he endured another 25-minute wait. And his bill didn’t include the discount coupon he had presented.

Nath didn’t settle for complaining. Instead, he applied his digital skills to develop and market software that helps dealerships communicate better with their customers — at every stage of the service process, through payment — via text messages.

Nath’s company, myKaarma, now has 527 dealership clients. They include Norm Reeves Honda Superstore in Cerritos, Calif. — where Nath had his bad service experience five years ago.

“Anytime you want to solve a problem, look at it from the customer’s point of view,” Nath told Fixed Ops Journal.

Texting is popular, fast and convenient. Yet by most accounts, few dealerships use it to keep in touch with service customers.

In this year’s J.D. Power Customer Service Index Study, just 3 percent of the more than 70,000 vehicle owners and lease customers surveyed said they received text message updates about service work.

At the same time, 27 percent of customers with mass market brand vehicles, 42 percent of premium brand customers and 41 percent of younger customers said they want to communicate with their service adviser by texting, says Chris Sutton, vice president of Power’s U.S. automotive retail practice.

Texting also does more than phone calls to build service-customer loyalty, the study suggests. About half of customers contacted by phone said they “definitely will” return to the dealership for paid service, Power says. Among those who get text updates, the rate rises to two-thirds.

“It is an untapped service,” Sutton says.

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See How This Auto Dealership Changed the Whole “Custom Experience”

Businesses today in nearly every industry are dealing with the changing expectations of millennials and other on-trend customers who are looking for a new style of customer experience and customer service.

For today, let’s see what lessons we can draw from an industry, automotive retail (car dealerships), that may not come to mind when you think of businesses with a model that appeals to a millennial mindset. In fact, the default at some old-school car dealerships can be exactly what millennials hate: slow, afraid of digital, nontransparent, and often patriarchal/condescending in how the dealership interacts with customers. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Let’s look closely at what millennials and other customers sharing their mindset are looking for in the customer experience and customer service, and how a car dealership can scratch these itches.  And if a car dealership can do that, so can your business, in whatever industry you operate. 

Millennial customers (born 1980ish-2000ish) are the largest generation in U.S. and world history. They, and others who are quickly adapting a millennial mindset (including, more frequently than you’d think, their parents, who are the second-largest generation, the Baby Boomers), share some clearly identifiable expectations that I consult closely in my work as a customer experience consultant and customer service designer.

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