My SUV needed some routine maintenance recently: A set of new tires, a few windshield chip fixes, an oil change, new front brake pads and a check-engine light that has been on for too long.
All of that took five trips to two quick-service chains in a month. The technicians changed the tires and sealed the chips but ran out of time for the check-engine light, so I returned the following weekend for a diagnostic test and a brake job. The four trips to drop off and pick up my vehicle, and four rides to the store and back, were time-consuming, but not unusual. This past weekend, I swung through an oil change lane to get that last item handled.
But what if there was a more efficient way to handle service?
That question came to mind after reading the recent issue of Fixed Ops Journal, which told stories of dealerships trying new things to compete with independent shops and the quick-lube chains that repair many older-model vehicles like mine. Automakers and franchised dealers are increasingly responding to the rise in independent mobile repair services that use technology, such as mobile apps, to offer house calls in volume, across many U.S. markets. Ford's pilot testing of a mobile service van that sends technicians to customers — not the other way around — caught my attention.
If I had the option, I'd be willing to pay a premium for a service like that.
When I think about how I make service decisions, convenience outweighs price, and chain stores so far have the advantage. They're closer to home than my nearest dealership, which means a vehicle repair takes less time out of my day from start to finish, and I tend to hear from them about a promotion just when I start thinking about my next oil change.
Granted, not all of the work my vehicle needed could be done remotely. But if technology and innovation were able to level the playing field on factors such as distance and time spent waiting, leading to fewer trips and higher satisfaction, it could be an opportunity for dealerships to reconnect with customers who strayed once their vehicle warranties expired.