Communication Solutions Text Messaging A Must For Modern-Era Service

Albany, N.Y. – February 12th, 2017

For most of us, little has changed more than our communications. My children are more likely to text than call their friends and they’re much more likely to respond to a text from me than a call. The same applies to your dealership; Service customers have communications preferences. Adapt or risk losing them.

According to Ujj Nath, founder of MyKaarma, “... to be effective, dealers must change their communications to allow customers easy access to Service Advisors. Our focus: dedicated communications platforms designed for vehicle-servicing communications.” Texting and communications automation are also being added to Service CRM and digital marketing solutions. What follows is a look at many of the platforms and issues related to innovation advancements in digital communications:

Text Messaging

Over a dozen firms are marketing texting solutions to dealers, from leading DMS providers to high-tech start-ups. These dealer solutions providers (DSPs) know that 90 percent of incoming text messages are read within three seconds of being sent, with a final read rate of 98 percent. The addition of texting is particularly helpful when the vehicle owner isn’t answering calls, his car is torn down in the bay and his approval is needed to move forward. These solutions also aid dealers by confirming appointments, reminding customers and reporting repair status.

Patrick Southward, co-founder of Singlethread, noted, “vehicle-owners can approve work, decline work, even pay for Service all by text message." And with text messaging service, customers don’t have to fight through a switchboard to reach their Service Advisor.

Voice, Voicemail and Email

Calls from the Service Department often go to a customer’s voicemail, while calls to Service often go on hold. Voicemail messages are not heard for hours and emails get a response in 90 minutes, on average. It’s widely held that text messaging is more convenient than voicemail for 95 percent of folks. In fact, dealership use of voicemail is now reported to be falling. The point is not to do without phones, voicemail or email, but to add text messaging to the mix.

Text Messaging Uses

Service Departments are applying text messaging to:

  • Confrming appointments when booked and reminders a day or two prior to appointments.
  • Service Lane check-in (acknowledgement of customer arrival); delivery of: descriptions of repairs needed with photos/videos of worn or failed components, as well as completed Multi-Point Inspection form; description of ASRs (additional Service recommendations); completed estimate with pricing (including ASRs); vehicle-owner authorization of work (via return text); notifications at least that the vehicle is ready to be picked up and, with some solutions, an automated message with each stage of the process.
  • Payment after delivering the repair order and invoice with a link for one-click payment

Payment

With some solutions, when work on the vehicle finishes, the customer receives a text notice containing an itemized bill. Customers can review their bill and ask their Advisor questions, click payment approval and pick up their vehicle directly when they arrive at the dealer, bypassing the cashier. The intersection of texting and payment is a major opportunity, whether the services are provided via integration between a text messaging platform and a dealer’s own merchant payment services or a solution provider delivering both a communications platform and a payment services solution (such as MyKaarma).

Permanent Record

Digital communications platforms maintain a record of “conversations,” which eliminates any need for customers to explain a problem or ask something twice. The texting process leaves a written record between dealer and customer, avoiding situations where it's the customer's word against the Advisor's. These communications may also be archived to the DMS.

Results

Communication platforms deliver a range of benefits directly to dealers. MyKaarma’s Ujj reports that voicemail declines over 80 percent and average authorization time falls to 10 minutes.

Ismael Meskin, Kimoby co-founder, said the volume of incoming calls to the Service Department drops drastically as the result of automatic appointment confirmations and follow-up texts. Additional benefits and metrics provided by several leading DSPs:

  • Show percentage climbs to 80 percent for customers receiving appointment reminder texts.
  • Appointment outbound calls reduced.
  • Advisors save hours on eliminated calls.
  • Quicker approvals.
  • Technician productivity boosted.
  • Increases of $20 or more per RO.

Bryan Anderson, founder of Captivated, notes that dealers’ customers are facing “unwanted phone calls, voicemail or too many emails.” He urges dealers to let customers connect with Service without putting them through ‘Press 1 for Sales ...’ or other inconvenient processes. Several DSPs reported moderate increases in Service-customer satisfaction that texts are less intrusive than phone calls.

Parts and Accessories

Communications platforms are also being used to text retail customers that special order Parts or Accessories are ready for pick-up (or installation by Service). On the wholesale side of Parts, texting is gaining popularity for buyers requesting availability and pricing, as well as notification by the dealer that a shipment is on its way.

Future Directions

Kimoby’s Ismael Meskin described the implementation of “AI-powered Sentiment Analysis” which automatically analyzes vehicle-owner (text) responses for signs of dissatisfaction and, as appropriate, sends alerts to dealer personnel. This capability is powered by a “CSI Machine Learning Engine” which learns to improve its assessment of customer replies over time based on users flagging incorrect alerts.

Integration

It’s common for Service appointments in the DMS to be transferred to the communications platform (enabling automated generation of confirmation texts) and for the communications platform to transfer text communications to the DMS to archive. Increasingly, Service suites are integrating with communications platforms related to appointments or completed MPI forms and ASRs.

Wrap-up

I concur with Captivated’s Anderson on the bottom line: “texting is efficient, convenient and prevalent.” Service Advisors spend too much time on the phone. Technicians also waste time waiting for customer authorizations. Late and insu cient communications lead to customer dissatisfaction. Lack of any record of communications prevents conflicts from being resolved painlessly.

My recommendation: all dealers should consider adding text messaging to their Service-customer communication mix by implementing a regulations-compliant communication platform. This is a solution that will benefit nearly all dealers.

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