The product developed with Cox was inspired by another, seemingly dissimilar industry: pizza delivery. There are certain undeniable parallels between the processes of waiting for a vehicle to be serviced and waiting for a pizza to be delivered, Asbury CEO David Hult told Automotive News. Before Domino's Pizza rolled out its pizza tracker technology in 2008, "You ordered a pizza and you wondered where it was, when it was coming," Hult said. "Pretty much like when you service your car, unfortunately. You drop your keys off, and you haven't heard from anyone what's going on."
Domino's pie tracker allows customers to digitally trace their pizza's progress from the initial order until the moment it arrives at their door. The automated shop tool Asbury helped develop functions similarly.
Situated within Xtime, a Cox-owned leading provider of dealership service scheduling and workflow software, the tool updates customers on every stage of their vehicle's repair in real time. Hult said Asbury likely will be the first group to use the technology but that it wouldn't be limited to the retailer. Cox Automotive declined to comment for this report.
The tool will send text alerts to customers, who can then access the vehicle status on their cellphones, Hult said. When a vehicle is ready, the customer can choose to pick it up or opt for the dealership's delivery service. Customers can even pay for the repairs on their phones via a secure link.
The tool also is likely to cut down on phone calls to the department, freeing service advisers to focus on the customers in front of them, Hult said. About 70 percent of inbound phone calls through the service center are customers checking the status of their vehicles, he added.
"It's going to have a meaningful impact to differentiate between us and the independents," Hult said.
The automated shop tool is expected to go live at a pilot Asbury dealership in June and then roll out to the retailer's other stores later in the summer.
Another technology investment in the service drive is bearing fruit for Asbury. In December, the retailer installed a self-service kiosk in one of its stores. Within 30 days, after good results, Asbury installed three more kiosks at the same location.
"Customers love it because it checks them in so much faster than a traditional person checking them in at a store," Hult said. "It's very visual and transparent."
At the pilot store, between 80 and 90 percent of service customers opt to use the self-serve kiosks, developed by software provider GoMoto. The process takes under a minute, Hult said, when a traditional check-in time takes five to seven minutes. On the kiosks, customers can see previous appointment information as well as upcoming service work their vehicles require.
Asbury plans to expand the kiosks beyond the pilot store, though Hult didn't reveal the timetable nor the number of stores slated to get the self-serve technology. Asbury would not disclose the location or the brand of the pilot store.
GoMoto has produced dealership kiosks for several years. The software provider partnered with Ford Motor Co. in 2017 to pilot self-serve kiosks at a Ford dealership in Michigan.