Parts and service departments in dealerships across the country have faced many new challenges these past few years. And in many cases, those challenges have extended to their partners and vendors. For instance, because of shortages in both parts and staff, dealerships now expect a higher level of service from their partners and vendors. In what ways have dealerships’ need shifted when it comes to reconditioning? How is the advent of electric vehicles affecting products and service offerings? To get answers to these questions and others, Automotive News spoke with Mike Black, the chief executive officer of Dent Wizard, a leader in automotive reconditioning programs and services that has become a trusted partner to more than 5,000 dealerships.
Automotive reconditioning in dealerships: Adapting to new challenges
Insights from the CEO of Dent Wizard
Q: With the growing list of changes facing dealerships, specifically with the parts and service departments, how have dealer needs shifted when it comes to reconditioning?
Mike Black: The major shift we are experiencing alongside our dealer partners is primarily driven by the expectation of reduced cycle times and the ability to offer additional services, such as paintless dent repair and wheel repair through the service drive as a convenience and an additional vertical service. Time matters to everyone and leveraging our services to the retail customer through service provides a real convenience to the consumer and an opportunity to improve margins for our customers.
Q: Customer needs and expectations continue to evolve, and as a result, the auto retail business continues to evolve at what seems like a faster and faster pace every year, especially post-pandemic. What’s your approach to innovation and staying ahead of the curve?
Black: We take great pride in our ability to innovate. We have shifted over the years to provide multiple reconditioning services that allow our customers to leverage our scale, geographic footprint and trust Dent Wizard to be their reconditioning partner. This allows our customers to leverage one partner to fulfill their reconditioning needs while they focus on sales, service and parts. It’s a recipe for success for all parties
Q: Servicing and reconditioning an aging, high-mileage fleet seems like a trend that will only grow in importance over the next year, even if we see newer vehicle inventory and lower used-car prices. What can dealers do to make sure they’re able to buy and sell older vehicles efficiently and profitably?
Black: Our customers buy and sell vehicles. They want to ensure those vehicles are as clean as possible, so they can yield a solid return. This includes ensuring their vehicles are cosmetically appealing and mechanically sound. We have found that every dollar invested in cosmetic reconditioning yields $2.50. This is a solid return, which allows our customers to recoup their investment and provide their customers with a nice vehicle. We do this every day across thousands of customers and we turn these vehicles much more quickly. What is the value of turning quickly? Quick turns reduce holding costs and ensure our customers have the proper inventory levels required to meet demand.
Q: We’ve heard a lot lately about dealerships implementing automation tools across their operations to help improve efficiency and boost scale. How imperative are in-person and one-to-one relationships between dealerships and their partners?
Black: They are critical! Having a contact name and number, or an automation tool, versus having that one-on-one relationship with a partner, brings two very different dynamics to the business. One-to-one relationships build connections and ultimately trust, which allows vendors to become true business partners. We pride ourselves on our local team support and overall customer devotion, which is one of our core values. Not every dealer is the same and by building a true in-person partnership, we better understand the complexities of their business and provide a customized solution to help improve efficiencies. We have built a great team that ensures we provide world-class service every step of the way.
Q: We know that service and parts departments have been busier than ever and we also know that cycle times have been affected by shortages and staffing challenges. What kinds of solutions and services can help dealers alleviate these challenges?
Black: Shortages and staffing challenges have affected so many of us. We realize that cycle times can affect a dealer’s customer satisfaction index (CSI) as well, so we look for simple ways to add ‘extras’ for their customers. For instance, by leveraging Dent Wizard’s service-drive program, we can help by enhancing our customers’ experiences by providing them with the same reconditioning services that we provide for the used-vehicle inventory. The ability to provide quick-turn cosmetic repairs while a customer’s vehicle is already in for service is a fantastic way to provide a high-level service – and exceed their customers’ expectations while at the same time generating a supplemental revenue stream for dealers.
In addition, a dealer should consider a partner that allows them to remain focused on their inventory and customers versus managing a multitude of vendors. Having one partner will help streamline, simplify and expedite their process and reduce their cycle times.
Q: How does data help you manage your dealer products and services?
Black: Data provides insights. Insights provide intellectual capital and knowledge that we leverage to expand our footprint. We leverage data to educate ourselves around cycle times, repair costs and consolidated reconditioning metrics. We leverage industry data to help us better understand market conditions, competitive pricing ranges and a whole host of other metrics that help us maintain proper staffing levels.
Q: As electric-vehicle (EV) market share grows, how do you expect the service department to evolve?
Black: Although many maintenance elements will remain the same, such as tires, brakes and heating-and-air and electronic systems, servicing an EV will shift the landscape of the service department. New equipment, such as charging infrastructure, and training will be necessary. I believe that service departments will continue to take care of their customers and provide the services that are needed for their vehicles.
Q: As the car business – and customer needs – have expanded over the past decade, we’ve seen a huge influx of new vendors to the auto-retail space, especially when it comes to service. What should dealers look for in a partner?
Black: I believe there are many components that a dealer should look for in a partner. The first is its people. We believe it’s all about the people. Our team of “wizards” is what separate us from the pack. Across the board, our leadership team understands the importance of ensuring that we bring service mindsets and teams of great technicians to our customers every day. The second is commitment. We remain focused on serving our customers. The world continues to change. Our people have learned to adjust to new technologies and new ways of delivering outstanding service levels. They also know that change is inevitable – but our commitment doesn’t waiver.
Thirdly, we’re a true partner that supports our customers. We’re not just someone that delivers a service, but a partner that understands their businesses and has the conversations required to understand what is needed – and delivers innovative solutions that work for both parties. The best dealership partner is one that can continue to evolve as the retail business evolves – and continue to improve along the way. That’s what we’re focused on and that’s what we’ll continue to do for our partners.
ABOUT THE PANELIST
Chief Executive Officer, Dent Wizard
Mike Black is the chief executive officer of Dent Wizard. He’s held numerous roles at the company, including president, chief operating officer, senior vice president, regional vice president and managing director. Black currently is tasked with the development and implementation of Dent Wizard’s strategic objectives. https://www.dentwizard.com/about-us.aspx