When Will Leeper had the air-conditioner compressor replaced on his 1997 Audi Cabriolet last week, he didn’t just get a call from the service representative telling him it was time to pick up his car.
He also got a text message on his smartphone from the Lewisville Volkswagen mechanic who actually did the work. The message provided Leeper with a link to a 2 1/2 -minute video, in which the mechanic, Robert, described what he found on the car while it was up on a lift.
“I’m so excited because Robert not only addressed the problem that was the reason I brought in the car, but he also added a narrative as he did an inspection of the tires, the brakes, the undercarriage, the CV boots,” said Leeper, a Farmers Branch resident. “This is going to be huge for customers. It takes away the fear of the unknown and gives you peace of mind that what they’re telling me is right.”
A handful of Dallas-Fort Worth area car dealerships are training mechanics to use video equipment so they can communicate directly with customers and take away some of the mystery of what happens when a car disappears into the bowels of a service department.
‘It’s a little different’
Lewisville Volkswagen began using the cameras about three months ago. Mechanics were provided iPod Touch devices mounted on unipods, and were trained on how to shoot short videos while walking around a car and providing customers with a narrative description. In most cases, the mechanics themselves don’t appear in the videos, but their voices are heard as they point out the parts of the car that are being checked.
“It’s a little different, but once we realized how well it works it just got easier,” said Wyatt Foster, a tech in training at Lewisville VW.
The importance of the service department of a dealership is, that’s the best way for dealers to build customer loyalty.
Lee Chapman, Dallas Fort Worth Metropolitan New Car Dealers Association.
Foster added that the videos often help service advisers — the employees who greet the customers when they bring their cars in — understand what the car needs so they can better convey that information to the customers without any facts getting lost in translation.
Mechanics at five other affiliated dealerships in the Metroplex will begin using the videos in the coming months, said Corbin Beck, a Lewisville VW service adviser.
Coming to Tarrant County
Fort Worth area dealerships are considering using similar techniques to improve their service areas, said Lee Chapman, president of the Dallas Fort Worth Metropolitan New Car Dealers Association. He said the concept is so new that he isn’t aware of any Tarrant County dealerships that have adopted the practice yet.
For example, at Classic Chevrolet in Grapevine, mechanics take photos with iPads, said service director Mike Zorn. The photos can then be shown to customers in person, or sent to their phones by text, he said. The practice has been in place for about three years.
Dealerships have long battled the perception that their service bays aren’t a good value for customers. Deserved or not, some dealership service areas have a reputation for charging too much and making unnecessary repairs.
It takes away the fear of the unknown, and gives you peace of mind that what they’re telling me is right.
Will Leeper, Lewisville Volkswagen customer
And yet, the service department is a crucial factor in customers’ decision about which car to buy or lease. Drivers who lease their cars, for example, often pay in advance for oil changes and other routine maintenance — so when they sign on the dotted line for their vehicles, they often are entering into a three-year relationship with their dealership’s service department.
“The importance of the service department of a dealership is that’s the best way for dealers to build customer loyalty,” Chapman said.
Of the service videos, he said, “I think that’s the wave of the future.”