A picture is proving to be worth much more than a thousand words to growing numbers of dealership service departments that are using videos and photos to show, not tell, customers what ails their cars and trucks.
The use of such images in text messages, emails and other communications is generating big increases in service revenue and rates of repair approvals by customers, fixed ops managers say.
Service technicians at McDonald Automotive Group, which operates six dealerships in the Denver area, began using Quik Video in early 2016. The goal of adding the product was to make the repair process more transparent to customers, said Chris Coxall, the group's vice president of fixed operations.
"It's hard to debate a show-and-tell," Mr. Coxall said. "When you can show a customer a worn brake pad, it becomes a reality. The repair then becomes a no-brainer."
At the group's Audi Denver dealership in Littleton, Colo., the rate of customer-approved service recommendations, based on issues revealed during multipoint inspections, rose to nearly 47 percent in 2018. That compares with a closing rate of about 23 percent in 2016, before the company started using Quik Video.
"Our six service departments are turning in average increases of 21 percent in revenue generated," Mr. Coxall said. "Historically, we're told that a 7 to 8 percent annual increase is exceptional. Our parts sales have increased proportionately."
Bean Automotive Group, which operates four Miami dealerships, began using video/photo technology last spring, as part of a customer relationship management system supplied by CDK Global's ELEAD1ONE.
"Things that customers usually say 'no' to suddenly become things they say 'yes' to," said David Pemberton, the Bean group's corporate business development director. "We're building a better level of trust with customers, and that trust is building volume.
"It's crazy how the simplest things get approved, like cabin air filters, which is our biggest upsell," Mr. Pemberton said. "We don't even need to send a video — just a picture of a technician with a jet-black cabin filter gets almost an automatic 'yes' every time."
The Bean group now requires all service technicians to use video technology, Mr. Pemberton added.
Seeing is believing
Quik Video, created in 2013, now is used by about 340 U.S. dealerships, said Jack Gardner, the company's CEO. An average-sized dealership pays about $1,000 a month for the service, he said.
"This technology empowers consumers to make [service] purchasing decisions with confidence," Mr. Gardner said. "A consumer who gets a video leaves the dealership with a completely different attitude, because they understand what they spent their money on."
Using videos, Mr. Gardner said, will boost a typical dealership's closing rate on recommended service by 25 to 30 percentage points.
ELEAD1ONE dealership customers that use videos typically double both revenue and acceptance rates for recommended service, company partner Mark Queen said. The service has more than 500 U.S. dealership customers.
The cost of the ELEAD1ONE technology is difficult to break out because it's built into a CRM package. "It's about $3,000 a month for everything from soup to nuts, but if you simply want video in your technicians' hands, it'll cost about $1,295 a month," Mr. Queen said..
"Customers believe what they see more than what they hear," he said. "Video is already used a lot on the sales side, so it makes sense to use it more in service."
Other suppliers that offer repair-video technology include myKaarma, VinSolutions from Cox Automotive, Reynolds & Reynolds and Authntk Walkaround Videos.
Proceed with caution
Before a dealership invests in video and photo technology for its service department, it should determine whether it can do the same things more cheaply in house, said David Lewis, who runs a consulting firm that trains fixed ops employees.
A dealership can create a free YouTube channel as a platform for uploading videos and photos that technicians shoot on cell phones, Mr. Lewis said. Technicians then can text or email links to customers, he adds.
"I agree a thousand percent with the value of the technology," Mr. Lewis said. "But I'd first invest in the processes and procedures. Make sure your technicians not only are capable of doing it, but will do it regularly.
"If you can develop a track record that shows it works, then you can decide if you want to invest in the technology and all the added data and analytics it provides," he said.
Service customers appear to prefer, and typically respond faster to, videos and photos embedded in text messages, fixed ops directors say. That quick response leads to another benefit: Technicians can make more money because they're more productive.
Technicians at McDonald dealerships typically had to work on 4.5 vehicles a day to generate eight hours of work, Mr. Coxall said. But with Quik Video, he adds, that number has shrunk to 2.5 vehicles.
"There's not as much wasted time pulling cars in and out of the shop while [technicians] wait for upsell approvals," Mr. Coxall notes. "When we launched Quik Video, we had around 25 technicians. Now we have 48 and are continuing to hire. It's a good problem."
Quik Video also has helped McDonald avoid potentially expensive litigation, Mr. Coxall said. In one case, a customer threatened to sue Audi Denver after a car crash, claiming the dealership had not warned her that her tires were worn out.
But an archived video showed a technician pointing out the worn tires. Records also showed that the customer watched the video seven times before she declined to buy new tires.
"It was a pretty short conversation after that," Mr. Coxall said. "And I've got 20 or so more stories just like that."
Mr. Coxall said the video technology his dealerships use is the next best thing to allowing customers to see recommended-service items firsthand in a service bay.
"Our internal data shows that our service departments could achieve an 80 percent acceptance rate for upsells if we could take customers to their cars and show them what needs to be fixed," he said.
"Obviously that's not feasible. But video helps us close that gap."