Video recorded multipoint inspections have taken on added value in the service lane since the coronavirus pandemic sparked anxiety over face-to-face interactions.
DePaula Auto Group in Albany, N.Y., began sending videos of the inspections to customers of its three dealerships in mid-2018. That has resulted in better customer interactions and an increase in customer-pay.
"With paper, they couldn't necessarily believe it," said Thomas Restino, vice president of fixed operations at DePaula. "But with video, you've made a believer."
Before the pandemic, Restino said, the videos earned his shops an increase in customer-pay business of about $95 per repair order. During state-mandated stay-at-home orders in April, DePaula's repair order count was down 37 percent. "But our customer-pay per ticket was up 36 percent from April of 2019," Restino said.
He attributes that partially to video communication. The dealership also performs pickup and delivery. And because there were fewer customers, advisers could spend more time with each one discussing their service needs.
All communication was electronic. Restino plans to continue using extensive contactless services and anticipates most vehicles will get video inspections going forward. About 90 percent of all vehicles that come into DePaula's Alfa Romeo-Maserati, Chevrolet and Ford-Mazda dealerships currently get them.
To establish the practice, DePaula offered a small financial bonus to advisers and techs to do the videos using camera phones provided by the group. Employees took to them quickly.
"They sell more, and the more of them they do, the more money they make," he said.
The group's service advisers and techs meet every morning to review their videos. In Restino's view, the ability to present a problem is more important than technical knowledge.
"The transparency of the video is going to sell for you," he said.
The goal is to have more than 80 percent of customers watch the video inspection, Restino said. Whether a customer watched and for how long is tracked. The group has hit the target reliably at the Chevrolet and Alfa Romeo-Maserati stores but is still working on it at the Ford-Mazda location.
DePaula uses a video product called iService, which Restino said costs each store about $1,000 a month.
Software providers have noticed a considerable increase in demand. Cox Automotive said use of its digital presentations within Xtime Inspect increased 40 percent year over year in March and 53 percent in April.
"It's been an interesting time for dealers who wanted to use more digital tools but thought that getting customers to use them would be challenging," said Tracy Fred, vice president of operations at Xtime. "We're seeing a great deal of dealer and customer agility."
Fred expects that after COVID-19, customers will come to expect such interactions, and dealers will want to provide them.
"Just in our everyday lives, we're seeing changing expectations of how consumers engage with businesses," Fred said. Alternatively, she added, "Dealers see an opportunity post-COVID because they're seeing better results."