Regional service director, Castle Automotive Group
Hayley Navarro enjoys the challenging, changing, innovative environment at Castle Automotive Group, where she is regional service director for five dealerships in Indiana.
“I’m in stores every day,” she said, typically engaged in training dealership employees, but she wears a lot of other hats. Navarro also pinch-hits for dealerships as necessary. She can fill in as a service manager or a front-line employee, such as a service adviser.
“I’m training technicians, service writers, anybody under the fixed ops umbrella, from porters to managers,” she said. “I try to assist with any facet I can, whether it’s software, DMS — the dealer management system dealerships have — or training on the Castle way of service writing.”
In a nutshell, the “Castle way” revolves around transparency and the use of technology to simplify and speed up the customer service-visit experience, Navarro said.
For example, Castle dealerships are phasing in the use of digital tablets for tasks such as sharing a video of the customer’s multi-point inspection and letting customers see for themselves what the dealership found that needs attention.
“Seeing is believing,” Navarro said. “We want to be as transparent as possible.”
The dealerships in Navarro’s territory — one of two for the Chicago-based group — are Subaru, Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram, Buick, Ford-Lincoln and Mitsubishi franchises.
Dealer principal Joe Castle was an early mover in digital selling and marketing. He also is CEO of SocialDealer.com of Oakbrook, Ill., a social media agency designed for the automotive industry that he founded in 2009. It offers social advertising and reputation-management services for dealerships.
Navarro joined Castle Automotive in June 2020 as a fixed operations trainer and took on her regional role in July 2021. She spent the previous eight years at two different dealerships, as a service adviser and then service manager.
In the Castle group’s service departments, one important innovation is that one person is the customer’s contact person throughout a service visit, Navarro said.
“We used to have — even in some of our stores, they are still adjusting to this — a greeter who greets you at the door, and says hello. Now, the customer doesn’t understand this is the greeter, and ‘only’ the greeter,” she said.
“Then the greeter says, ‘You’ll be working with Sam, he’ll be your adviser. Only, Sam is tied up, so you’ll work with Steve.’ The customer has to wait,” she said. “It bogs down the whole process. We’re getting rid of all that.”
Instead, the service writer who will handle the customer meets them at the door with an iPad, which is used for a walk-around and to prepare the repair order, Navarro said. And instead of a “greasy piece of paper,” she said the iPad can be used to share the results of the multi-point inspection and any recommended additional work. Billing and payment also are done digitally.
“We’re investing heavily in technology,” Navarro said, to create transparency, and to fight the negative stereotype of, “Car dealers, oh, they’re just trying to rip me off.”
— Jim Henry