Tablets speed up the write-up at Chrysler dealerships
DETROIT -- Chrysler Group has turned to tablets, joining other automakers in helping dealerships use the touch-screen computers to diagnose vehicle problems, review service histories and help sell services and service contracts faster than before.
Mopar, the global parts and service brand for Chrysler and parent Fiat S.p.A., has introduced Wi-Advisor -- a tablet computer-based program that service advisers can use to show customers what is wrong with their vehicles and how much it will cost to fix them.
Wi-Advisor uses a small wireless device that plugs into a vehicle's onboard diagnostic port, downloading service codes from the vehicle and transmitting them to the service adviser's tablet computer. The tablet simultaneously uses the vehicle identification number to download owner information, service history and other available data for the service adviser.
Traditionally, customers drive into the dealership's service area, exit their vehicles and approach a service writer, who often is behind a desk. The service writer gathers information from the vehicle owner, leaves the desk to inspect the vehicle, notes any needed repairs and the vehicle identification number and returns to the desk to enter the information.
At its most efficient, traditional service writing takes several minutes. But tablets can streamline the process.
"In 15 seconds, the tablet will display all of the service history of the car, the maintenance plan, the odometer and the identity of the customer," said Pietro Gorlier, global Mopar brand chief. "It will shorten the time of write-up to seconds."
Chrysler will roll out its Wi-Advisor system beginning late this year. The company has tested it in about a dozen dealerships nationwide starting a year ago, Gorlier said.
Chrysler won't say how much it will charge dealers for Wi-Advisor, but tablet prices have dropped hundreds of dollars over the past two years. A typical Windows-based tablet can be had for about $300, while an Apple iPad starts at about $500.
Chrysler dealership employees who have tested Wi-Advisor are using the tablet as a ready-made aid to a number of transactions, Gorlier said.
Armed with the downloaded information, "you can show the accessories available, you can offer a maintenance plan, you can have your walk-around recording the comments of the customer," Gorlier said.
In a walk-around, the customer shows the service adviser what's wrong with the vehicle, or what the customer would like to have done. Wi-Advisor then automatically files the information into the dealer's data management system and can advise the parts department of what will be required for any repair.
Don Fleming is the service director at Allen Samuels Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram in Fort Worth, Texas, which was the original Wi-Advisor pilot dealership in November 2011. The dealership now uses a dozen tablets -- 10 Windows-based, and two Apple iPads -- to welcome Chrysler Group vehicles that roll through the service lane, Fleming said.
"It changes the customer's perception, and it changes the write-up procedure entirely," Fleming said. The tablets "force the service adviser to spend more time at the vehicle with the customer, and the customer's most comfortable place in any dealership is next to their own vehicle."
Fleming said tablets have had a subtle psychological effect on interaction between consumers and service advisers.
"It puts the adviser physically next to the customer, instead of at an opposing position behind a desk. That allows you to share that information face-to-face and builds your credibility," Fleming said.
Hyundai, GM and Ford
Other automakers are working to integrate tablets into their dealership service lanes. Hyundai Motor America, for instance, is rolling out tablet-based applications for its dealer service areas.
Ford Motor Co. is working to integrate tablets and tablet-based applications into its service lanes, but a rollout is several months away, a Ford spokeswoman said.
General Motors launched a tablet-based version of its Service Workbench software to enable its dealership service advisers to meet customers beside their vehicles to begin service write-ups. More developments on the year-old system are expected soon, a GM spokeswoman said.
Dealers have recognized that tablets are valuable tools in their service areas.
AutoNation Inc., the nation's largest dealership group, has launched an effort to integrate tablets into the service lane and elsewhere throughout its 215 stores. The group's $50 million project will enable service advisers to see a customer's purchase and service history, as well as any rejected repair work, automatically as they greet customers in the service receiving area.
Gorlier said the tablets are likely to transform interaction between customers and service advisers, especially as more automakers adopt the technology.
He said: "You're really going to have a complete transformation within the dealers."
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