Scheduling car maintenance goes mobile

Jan. 1, 2020
You may or may not be aware but if you are able to text on your cell phone or if you own a web enabled smart phone, you and millions upon millions of other Americans are riding the wave of a communications revolution that is consuming the world one g
You may or may not be aware but if you are able to text on your cell phone or if you own a web enabled smart phone, you and millions upon millions of other Americans are riding the wave of a communications revolution that is consuming the world one gigabyte at a time.

It is amazing to see the incredible gadgetry that is available for you to carry in the palm of your hand, with everything from satellite navigation to electronic books and videos available from the “App Store” on your smart phone. In the automotive world there are now dozens of Apps that help you locate a gas station, let you track your gas mileage, give you real-time traffic updates and even let you know where you are likely to encounter speed traps.

Two important Apps (among many dozens) that I would note for you are “Car Care” for your iPhone and “aCar” for your Android. Both of these Apps are free and both keep track of your maintenance, sending you reminders as your maintenance intervals approach. Like those little oil change stickers pasted to the inside of your windshield providing a visual reminder, these maintenance Apps send out a reminder that appears on the screen of your phone.

These Apps also monitor gas mileage, support multiple vehicles, stores your VIN number, tag number, insurance policy number, year, make and model of your car, and are able to interpret international units (gallons versus liters and miles versus kilometers).

In a survey done five or six years ago, before most of us had a smart phone and before most of these automotive apps were available, a study was done to understand the automotive experience as seen from the perspective of consumers and it was amazing to note that among all drivers, those little stick-on oil change reminders were among the top three ways in which these consumers listed as most important in their knowing what to do on their cars and when.

Among women drivers it was number one. Do you think it reasonable to assume that an electronic reminder that appears at prescribed intervals on the screen of their smart phone would have a similar effect and benefit? I point this out and highlight a couple of free apps here because I am guessing that if we highlight these apps and encourage our customers and would-be customers to use apps such as these, we might find ourselves the beneficiary of good numbers of these reminders.

Getting customers to come into your shop is one of the most difficult and expensive things you will ever have to do as a shop owner or manager. Typically you will spend four cents out of every revenue dollar on marketing and hours upon hours in creating campaigns, follow-up, revisions, measuring the results and at the end of it all you are going to tell me you need more cars. Where I would not necessarily agree with universal clamor for more cars, I would acknowledge the importance of marketing, even though it tends to be a very iffy proposition and very necessary evil. Done well and consistently, marketing can without a doubt, transform a business but ‘well and consistently’ do not necessarily describe a lot of our efforts along these lines and electronic reminders and our finally getting serious about maintenance are ways that we can enhance our current efforts and they pay today.

Americans as a whole are terrible at doing maintenance on their cars and in large part that is because we of the automotive service world are terrible at reminding customers of what services they have due and even worse at asking for those maintenance sales. Too often we see ourselves as a fast food restaurant, with customers walking in and asking for a specific service and our breaking our necks to sell them that cheap hamburger and get them out the door as quickly as is possible.

Would it be too much for us to offer that biggie fries or highlight other menu offerings we have available or offer an apple pie to go with that burger. Too often, in our sincere efforts give the customer what he or she says they want, we do them a disservice by allowing them to walk in and out of our shops with little or no effort toward informing our customer of services that might be due and repair items that are pending or past due. If we don’t care about the safety and reliability of our customer’s car, why should they or more to the point, if we don’t care about it enough to inform them, why should they bring it to us when they finally discover it is needed?

When they are sitting on the side of the road broken down or their brakes go metal to metal, it is way too late for us to talk to them about the benefits of vehicle maintenance and your care and concern rings a little hollow when they are opening their wallet to a stranger because you didn’t let them know they were past due for a tune-up and they broke down fifty miles from nowhere.

Cars need maintenance, your customers know that. You need to begin to train your customers in how to best take care of their car and own that business. There is no doubt that your customers would rather spend their money on almost anything than car repairs but they are smart enough to know that they rely on their car and that it costs money to keep it safe and reliable.

Get past that fear of broaching the subject of maintenance or rejection and be willing to own your recommendations. That way when they get that electronic reminder or look at that sticker, they are not surprised or shocked and are showing up at your counter, key in hand. They will not get behind maintenance for their car until you do.

If your customers are getting maintenance reminders on their smart phones, where are they driving to have it taken care of? I hope that answer is to you and to your shop.

Those smart phone reminders and apps are an opportunity. Ask for the business!

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