LAS VEGAS – A move 10 years in the making, Australia-based Infomedia’s Superservice cost-estimating and repair-analytics system arrives on U.S. shores this week.
Key to the software, officially introduced to the market at the National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention here, are licensing deals that provides Infomedia access to an OEM’s entire parts catalog.
That VIN-specific information is digitized and made available to dealers over the Internet. The data can be used to quickly build accurate, reliable price quotes and conduct revenue-generating multipoint-inspection reports for service customers, Infomedia says.
Infomedia got its start a decade ago, with Ford Australia dealers its first clients. It made its way into Western Europe and other global markets, while waiting for the right opportunity to enter North America, says founder and Executive Chairman Richard Graham.
The service now is available in 185 countries and 34 languages, with customers totaling more than 120,000 users.
“We’ve been getting to this point for 10 years,” Graham says of the product’s U.S. debut. “We went around the globe first, then came to North America. This is a tough market.”
A long list of auto makers, including Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, General Motors, Jaguar-Land Rover, Mitsubishi and Honda, now is onboard and supplying Infomedia with parts data. In the U.S., the company has deals with GM, Toyota and Chrysler so far.
The system is designed to help dealers retain service business after the new-vehicle warranty runs out.
“A dealer loses 25% of his customer base each year as warranties expire,” Graham says.
Other methods to encourage vehicle owners to return for service have not worked very well, he says.
Some dealers have invested heavily in lavish waiting rooms with beverage bars and other amenities in an effort to add appeal. Many attemptto match methods employed by aftermarket repair shops, offering fixed pricing menus and adding quick-service lanes.
But all that simply has eroded margins without improving customer retention, Graham contends.
Consumers continue to avoid dealer service departments because they believe prices are inflated, and they often don’t understand precisely what they are getting for their money, the Infomedia executive says. What customers want is a facility they can trust, he says.
“They dread the late-afternoon phone call where they find out the repair cost is higher than expected. Those are the problems that need to be fixed, not adding cappuccino machines.”
Superservice provides customers with an on-the-spot, detailed printout of the repair work to be performed, including the cost of individual parts. Infomedia believes its software is the only package on the market that tears down the wall between the parts and service departments.
“This is a game-changer,” says Jason Thorpe, who oversees technology for Infomedia. “Now the service technician doesn’t have to wait for the parts department (for a price quote on repair materials).”
The software also guides the technician through a multipoint inspection of the vehicle, a process Thorpe calls “triage.”
“If someone comes in for new tires, the (Superservice’s) data would project they might need brakes too,” Graham explains.
The system monitors each technician’s sales performance and sends a report to the fixed-operations manager and dealer principal so department activities can be tracked.
“Not every service is sold the same day,” Graham says, noting the software keeps the inspection information on file and prompts service staff to contact customers between visits and discuss potential problem areas the next time they bring their vehicle in for repairs.
“Follow-up is one of the big wins of this system,” he says, estimating dealers can increase their parts and service revenue $10,000-$15,000 per month.
Dealers also benefit on the cost side, Infomedia says, because price-quoting is a more-efficient process that doesn’t require input from the parts department. It also eliminates the type of knowledge-drain that happens when experienced write-up personnel leave one dealership for another.
“We put that knowledge in a box,” Graham says.
Cost of the service to dealers is $199 per month for two concurrent users and there is no long-term contract commitment. Additional logins are $49 each and installation cost is a one-time fee of $395. Because the system is Internet-based no special hardware is required.