Mobile Devices are Changing the Auto Repair Industry
By the time you read this, the number of mobile-connected devices on the planet will exceed the number of people. Mobile is the fastest growing industry in history and its impact on the automotive sector is obvious from Bluetooth devices to apps that stream from your phone directly to your car's speakers.
Industries have been forced to adapt, including those that aren't typically associated with the world of high tech. A slow, but growing field of this is the auto repair sector. TBC Corporation, a tire manufacturer that also owns several auto repair shops across the United States including Midas and Merchant's Tire, among others, has taken a vested interest in mobile's role in the future of the auto repair industry.
"Most automotive service and maintenance is invisible," says John Cappriotti, vice president of web and commerce at TBC says in a company video. He goes on to say that people aren't always aware of the maintenance that needs to happen or the benefit of the repair itself. Typically when cars need servicing, people drop them off and pick them up a few days later without much knowledge of what goes on in between.
By making repair shops more transparent through mobile, communication between the customer and the repair shop becomes a beneficiary tool for both. TBC first started implementing mobile tests by offering geo-targeted promotional coupons. Customers were then encouraged to book service appointments through their mobile device so that they could be notified exactly when the vehicle was ready to be picked up. The tactic follows the trend of how a growing number of mobile users are booking online. Mobile sales increased 43 percent from 2011 to 2012, and mobile site traffic increased 69 percent in the same period.
For further incentive, TBC's repair shops started offering geo-based discounts to local restaurants such as pizza parlors to encourage people to remain in the area. This is very much a commerce strategy and one of the benefits from a company perspective to mobile devices. Not only does communication increase, making the experience more informative and enjoyable for the customer, but it also boosts company proceeds. When they realized a significant portion of the bookings were coming from iPads, some stores incorporated them into their front desk processes.
Beyond this, augmented reality is also coming into play. TBC is currently experimenting with apps that allow car owners to hold their mobile cameras up to their vehicle to see warranty, recall and maintenance information for specific parts. Cappriotti says the potential for mobile devices in the auto repair sector are limitless.
Despite this, many businesses are slow to embrace mobile applications and services. In a conference held by IBM in Toronto, it was reported that the reason many companies, especially small independent auto repair shops, are hesitant to adapt mobile technologies and applications is not because of cost, but that they don't see the benefit.
In these cases, some auto repair shops have begun embracing social media as an alternative tool to reach customers through their mobile devices. Favour Auto Repair in Greensboro, North Caroline has an active account, posing numerous tweets a day and more than 2,300 followers. Many dealerships are doing the same. Ford Service, the maintenance and repair portion of auto manufacturer Ford, has more than 18,000 followers.
It's only smart for repair shops, even small ones, to jump on the mobile wagon. Not only is the number of mobile users continuing to climb, but 90 per cent of users keep their devices within arm's reach at all times. The customer is literally in the palm of their hands.