Contributed by Bob Chabot
Are You Ready for the Generational Shift?
The shop of the future must engage, manage and harness change
"Our industry is on the cusp of fundamental changes that will present us with challenges we must be prepared to meet," stated Tony Molla, Vice President of the Automotive Service Association, in his keynote address at the Mobile Air Conditioning Society's 2016 annual convention and training event. "The automotive world is a much different business environment today than it was just five years ago; it will be even more different five years from now."
Is Your Shop Positioned Where it Needs to Be?
At over 80 million strong and possessing more than $1.3 trillion in direct buying power, millennials and younger generations live and communicate in a connected world using smartphones and the internet. They have never known a marketing world limited by just two dimensions — face-to-face and hard-wired communications. (Image — MillennialMarketing.com)
"Shops face an accelerating pace of change that has made the assimilation, management and use of ever-increasing information and data essential," Molla explained. "In large part, this is due to the proliferation of electronics and software in vehicles, and throughout the driving and service environments. Internal combustion engines (ICEs) will continue to power the bulk of the vehicles you will service, but expect a convergence between ICE, hybrid and other drive technologies."
In particular, Molla noted software is poised to control more functionality and will empower telematics, connectivity and vehicle service in ways that may seem like science fiction today, but will soon be your reality. Moreover, shops will have to manage issues such the Internet of Things and cybersecurity for the first time in our industry's history."
"The only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge," Molla emphasized. "Training can no longer be approached like it's a patch you apply to fix a technical, management or some other shop glitch or shortcoming. It will be the vector to gaining new information. Integrating a 'learning culture' as a continual and dynamic process into your business is now critical to surviving and prospering. Shops need to identify meaningful training resources, then build and maintain a training plan, with goals for all employees."
"Unique to our time, social media has become a business mainstay that will become even more important as the key means to communicate and grow relationships with your customer base. It's the new 'word of mouth.' Being adept with social media will be the primary means of staying in touch with and being relevant to those who fuel your business."
Using Social Media to Reach Current and Future Car Owners
Shops are not the only ones seeking to become social media savvy to span the generational shift to future car owners.
Automakers are also leveraging social media platforms to reach the current and next generation of vehicle owners, who may not be communicating in ways that worked in the 1970s. Examples range from recalls to marketing.
Before you click om the YouTube 60 second ad above, which is geared to millennials, guess how many seconds actually show the vehicle. (Video — General Motors Corp.)
"Customers are better informed than ever before," Molla emphasized. "They use an increasing amount of online research, rating tools and personal social media before they ever talk to a shop. The criteria that matter to them include trust, product/service recommendations, convenience, your professional appearance, certifications and other qualifications, as well as value (a much broader term than price)."
"These are all factors in the level of service and competencies that shop customers will expect in the years ahead," Molla noted. He then cited several examples of modern shops integrating best practices in these areas to help them meet the future challenges that
accelerating change is imposing.
"Information is king," Molla concluded. "In the growing digital business environment, being able to provide customer service where, when and how they want it will be the differentiator. Expect to see ongoing consolidation in the industry — more multishop organizations, increasingly specialized service and the integration of alternative vehicle, ride-sharing, self-driving and other emerging trends."
"But most importantly, our industry must continue to collaborate in good faith. We need to work together as an industry to address the challenges of the 21st Century. That's how we will all move forward. That's also when our industry is at its best."
[Editor's note: For the latest diagnostic and automotive service insights, read MOTOR Magazine's March 2016 issue.]