In the automotive service world, there has been considerable debate about the dichotomy between the old-school methods we're comfortable with and the new-school practices many of us predicted are just beyond the horizon.
By now, most dealerships have heard proposals to install kiosk stations in our service departments. And while many of us either declared our approval or disdain, most have remained somewhat ambivalent to the idea — biding our time as we sit back and allow others to take on the perilous test subject role.
As some dealerships still put pen to paper each day, others are working diligently to ensure future customer experiences can be conducted in the metaverse.
The majority of today's service advisers continue to write repair orders from a desktop computer, filling out their multipoint inspection sheets on handwritten, carbon-copy paper. Others have fully embraced the digital world, writing customers up on hand-held tablets and completing their inspections electronically.
But who's to say which of these methods is correct? And who will come out on top in this ongoing old school vs. new school battle?
The answers we receive may not necessarily be what we are expecting. And if we fail to land on an unequivocal decision, our biggest failure may be that we are viewing this question as a binary matter. That is, a question that will eventually force us to choose one method over the other, disregarding the losing side in favor of the victor.
But what if this isn't a question of right vs. wrong? What if, like many things in life, the truth is somewhere in the middle? What if the gray area is exactly where we need to be?
We are encountering an entirely different type of customer in our service drives these days. And it's not because millennials and Gen Z's are being incorporated into our world. People from all walks of life, of every age group, are coming to our dealerships daily asking how to use the numerous technologies and systems available to them in these impressively modern vehicles that make their lives easier.
People want to embrace technology. They want accessibility. They want convenience. They want their vehicles to be fun.
And when they arrive at our dealerships, they want to see our employees exhibit the same level of passion for their gadgets. They don't want to hear service advisers remark about how they prefer the old days when vehicles were less complicated and not so over-engineered.
But customers also want to walk in and know they can deal with a real human being; someone they can actually relate to and with whom they can have a conversation. Someone they can trust.
You don't need a psychology degree to conclude most people enjoy having interactions with others. And you don't need a software engineering degree to know technology will only become more and more integrated into our daily lives. The dealerships that find a way to embrace both worlds and keep them consistently blended and seamless will undoubtedly pave the way for the future of fixed operations.
Customers have been telling us what they want for as long as we have been in this business. And with the added benefits of social media, online reviews and surveys, we now have more access to their wants and desires than ever before.
But it's up to us to listen. If we continue to believe the old ways are the antithesis of the new, ultimately we may not be equipped to respond in the manner they're hoping. And in the end, it would be the customer who loses.