Communication platform aims to solve service pain points for dealers & consumers

Friday, Sep. 15, 2017, 11:51 AM

By Joe Overby
Senior Editor

CARY, N.C. - 

You dropped your car off for service at the dealership and hours later, you have no idea about its prognosis or when the work might be complete.

These frustrations a consumer might have during the vehicle service and repair process come to mind fairly quickly.

And largely, they revolve around notifications that the vehicle is in service and the vehicle pickup process, says Patrick Southward, the co-founder of Singlethread.

“But from the dealership side, as well, there’s a lot of frustrating aspects from an advisor’s standpoint. One, trying to communicate with a customer while that vehicle’s in the shop, whether that (might) be getting services approved or giving those status updates, and so on and so forth,” said Southward, a former dealer himself, in a phone interview.

“So, Singlethread was born around those issues for both the consumer and dealership user or employee,” he said.

The company was founded by Southward and Will Mapes, whose background is in providing technology solutions to car dealers, including time with RouteOne.

Singlethread provides dealers web-based software that’s designed to help them with communication, including providing text-messaging communication for the service department.

The text-messaging platform, which Mapes and Southward say can easily integrate with the major DMS providers, allows dealers to communicate vehicle-service status updates in real time.

Whenever a change is made in the DMS regarding a vehicle that is in service, Singlethread is able to pick up those changes and notify the consumer with a status update.

It also includes built-in estimates, pictures and video. It can also help the dealer educate a consumer on a job that needs to be done. It also includes a mobile bill pay, Southward said.

And now, the company is entering into the electronic inspection space.

“We’ve set out a really good foundation with our text messaging products. The inspection side of things is the newest area we’re making entry in. And a lot of the dealerships around the country are doing their vehicle inspections by hand,” Mapes said. “So, they’re doing them with paper forms and using pens, and checking off different things on the forms. And then those forms are either being handed to a customer — hopefully, at some point — or sometimes they’re not even being completed in the dealership.

“And a lot of it is just based a lot of that frustration,” Mapes said. “If the technician goes through the process of doing a vehicle inspection, which takes some time to do, and then that isn’t being used or isn’t getting to a customer, the effectiveness of that inspection and the amount of times it gets completed and accurately goes down.”

With that in mind, Singlethread is launching an electronic inspection product, designed for easy use, that’s integrated into the existing Singlethread product.

Once the technician finishes the inspection, it allows the advisor to easily transmit that inspection to the customer along with an estimate on repairs, and then get a decision from the customer quickly. The company has been beta-testing the product and, as of mid-September, had plans to roll it out shortly, Mapes said.

It is designed to integrate into a seamless platform, where the dealer can text-message the customer, deliver what they need in terms of service (including having their car inspected), and then give the customer the ability to utilize mobile pay.

Singlethread utilizes an opt-in method that allows the company to track utilization, which they say is at least 80 percent.

“When we first started the program, (consumers) wanted to text message with the dealership,” Mapes said, “because it made their transaction a lot more efficient.

“And dealers sort of adopted it to satisfy the customers, but we’re seeing now a lot of our dealers are really, really pushing on the consumer, even consumers that might say, ‘You know, I don’t really want to text,’” Mapes said.

“And the dealers are realizing how much more efficient it is for them” and so they’re encouraging the customers to utilize texting as an effective way for the consumer to receive estimates, inspections and pay for the service, he said.

“The volume of text messaging has really sky-rocketed this year,” Mapes said.

For those consumers who do have concerns with texting, most want to know they’re not going to be inundated with spam or mass marketing.

“Which of course we do not do,” Southward. “We’ve been asked by dealers, ‘can we send out a blanket text to everybody?’ And we have to educate the dealers at that point, and say ‘Here’s why you don’t want to do it.’ And 95 percent of them agree with that.”

And if the shopper or dealer needs further convincing as to the benefits of text messaging in the service department, consider what Mapes and Southward wrote in a post this March: “Dealerships that use text messaging for their ROs (rather than the phone) can expect to generate more customer pay revenue. In today’s mobile-first environment, customers are more visual than ever. They want to know what’s broken, what it will cost to fix it, and when it will be done.

“Text messaging is easier, faster, and more transparent than a voice call can be. Texting can accomplish these objectives in a matter of minutes rather than dealing with frustrating voicemail and phone tag that may take hours.”

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