A decade ago, the only tablets that appeared in tire dealerships were bound sheets of paper. And the writing instrument was a pen or pencil.
How things have changed. Today, if tire dealers routinely don't use a tablet — defined today as a mobile computer with a touchscreen display — they can be losing a significant piece of business.
Today's tablets — not to mention all other devices and technology available at your fingertips — have the potential to increase your market share not only by retaining the customers you have, but also attracting others from dealers refusing to move into the 21st century.
According to Fixed Ops Journal, a sister publication of Tire Business, iPads are an integral part of the workday for service advisers at Vaden Automotive Group's 10 dealerships. Advisers use the tablets, loaded with a cloud-based software, to perform a multitude of tasks, including scanning VIN numbers and customer data instantly.
They also use tablets as an educational tool, showing videos to customers so they understand the process for repairing their vehicles.
One of Vaden's supervisors said using a tablet has increased revenue by 23 percent per customer-pay repair order at his firm's dealerships over the last two years.
That can buy a lot of tablets.
Today's customers, most of whom own a tablet and smartphone themselves, expect tire dealerships to use those devices just as they use them.
When they research the dealership, whether on a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone, they expect the website to be current and adapt to the device they are using. If they can't browse the site on their mobile device, the dealer probably has lost them for good.
According to J.D. Power Customer Service Index Study, 27 percent of today's vehicle customers prefer to communicate with dealerships via text message. That number jumps to 41 percent of young customers and to 42 percent for owners of premium brands.
Expect those numbers to grow exponentially in the future. J.D. Power found just 3 percent of more than 70,000 vehicle owners and lease customers surveyed receive text messages from auto repair shops.
All this technology might result in unbudgeted expenses for software, updated devices and/or technology infrastructure, including increased bandwith, connectivity and WiFi coverage.
But it's incumbent upon shop owners to stay in front of the technology curve. As one software executive said, "You don't go backward in technology."
So if you have your feet in the sand now, it might be time to put your business in the cloud.