Are we Deskilling our People with Information Technology?

With the growing need, or should we say demand, from our manufacturer partners for us to incorporate technology into the customer journey are we taking away that good old relationship building skill called conversation?
Most brands are now insisting on showroom systems utilising iPads but as the consumer what is likely to develop a greater sense of trust and obligation and ultimately inclination to purchase a car? A sales adviser who spends the time talking about the wants and needs when it comes to your next vehicle or someone who passes you a tablet and says “can you just fill this in?”
There is a similar story in our service reception areas. At one of my last operational roles I looked at just this issue when trying to understand why, over a long period of time, we had seen a shallow but steady decline in customer satisfaction ratings, something not unique to this partcular site. One of the things that stood out when I looked at the analysis was the huge amount of time these people spent looking at screens.
In fact at this particular dealership the service advisers needed to open 16 different screens or applications to complete a day’s work both correctly and in a "compliant" way. Is it any wonder then that what our customers see more of when visiting our dealerships is the back of a monitor instead of a friendly smiling face?
Now of course I’m being a little flippant but in real terms to a greater or lesser degree these scenarios would play out in almost every franchised motor dealership in the UK. I’m not suggesting for a moment that some of the programmes and applications don’t add something to the efficiency but how many of the screens are being used when your people should be looking customers in the eye and having a meaningful conversation to enhance the transaction or at the very least the long term relationship?
So what do we do to ensure there is a balance? Take a step back for a moment and ask yourself how much time is spent coaching & training our people good customer handling skills relative to the IT & Process skills we train into them. Where the figure is anything less than a 50/50 split there lies the issue and it will, eventually, result in a decline in customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. You will become a transactional goods and services business rather than a relationship business.
If you need further proof of this to convince you to make a change stop for a minute and look at those smaller niche brands who have a more collaborative relationship with their dealer network or even those dealers that are more rural and have failed to embrace technology at the same pace as others. You could even go a step further and look at the independent sales and servicing networks. There is a strong likelihood that in all of these types of businesses the staff know the customers by name (and vice versa) and that those customers and their families buy goods and services regularly from the dealer and keep coming back year after year and furthermore would also almost certainly feature highly in customer satisfaction ratings (assuming the right questions are being asked but that’s a whole other story!).
So what is the solution? Take a look at your data capture and administrative processes in your dealerships. How many of them can be taken off of the frontline customer facing staff and be done “back of house”? Look also at the timing of data capture. I bet you do it as soon as a customer makes first contact to either buy, service or repair i.e. you completely ignore what they called you for in the first place! Employ dedicated admin support to do this rather than an additional service adviser or sales adviser after all it’s likely to be a lot more cost effective to your business with the job getting done right and those frontline people becoming more productive. Coach and Train your teams each and every day to appreciate the value of conversation and interaction using third party experience exercises and observational feedback.
Article reproduced from Auto Retail Network - Written by Darren Williams MIMI MIoD
Elements provides specialst operational support and training for just these kind of issues. For further information e-mail us via the link below.
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