Mobile service is here to stay, and dealers need to get on board now or risk losing competitiveness, panelists say during a Ted Ings Fixed Ops Roundtable MyKaarma session. Creating a mobile service business plan is vital, they add.
“The long-term picture is that mobile service is here to stay,” says panelist Jim Sabino, fixed operations director at All American Ford Lincoln of Paramus, NJ. “It is not a fad or wave. Those who don’t want to spend the money (on a mobile service offering) are not looking at the big picture, they are small-minded.”
Customers want convenience and providing it can pay big dividends, says Sabino.
Mobile service is changing from a luxury offering to an expectation, says panelist Mark Mickens, director of retail services and market-research and retail-strategy firm ES3. But don’t rush into a mobile offering without a business plan, he says.
“We encourage our dealers to make a business plan for mobile service (because) at some point it is going to have a bottom line to it,” says Mickens, a former fixed operations manager at Mercedes-Benz of Paramus.
Ed Roberts, COO, Bozard Ford Lincoln in St. Augustine, FL, agrees. “Early on you wanted to take care of your customers (by offering mobile service),” he says. “Now you want to break even.”
If you don’t know where your breakeven is, you don’t know what you need to do to make mobile service sustainable, says Roberts.
Dealers should track their mobile business daily, says Mickens. A dealer should evaluate how much money is made each day and determine what was different about days where more money came in, he says.
Mobile service needn’t be confined to maintenance services such as oil changes or tire replacements, panelists say. Recalls are an area ripe for mobile service, for example.
Ford figures 70% of all recall work can be done from a mobile service truck, says Sabino. That includes routine maintenance and also reprogramming areas such as airbag modules.
That boosts customer satisfaction. “I don’t know too many people who are excited about coming to a service department,” he says.
Mobile service can also help alleviate a service department problem facing most dealers: capacity restraints, says Roberts. Starting in the fourth quarter of this year, Bozard Ford Lincoln is going to shift as much service diagnosis work to mobile as possible, he says.
For example, a customer calls in with a non-urgent problem, but the dealership can’t get them in for service. “I will send a mobile tech to them to diagnose the vehicle, then we order the part and it becomes a repair when they come in. There are tons of opportunity to plan the repair,” he says.
MyKaarma, the company that gave the panel its name, offers a variety of mobile phone-based fixed-ops services, including text-based service scheduling and updates, mobile service lane inspections and mobile payment.
Another panel carried the mobile theme farther – to fixed-ops marketing. People don’t print out service coupons anymore, says Fixed Ops Digital CEO and panelist Owen Moon.
“The call to action has to be mobile,” he says. Fixed Ops Digital recommends sending the service offers out via mobile device.
“You have to go after where the customer wants to interact,” says Moon. “Mobile is definitely the way to do it.”