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There is nothing more frustrating to a customer than being told a repair will take X amount of time - only to be informed later that it will take longer. To those who work in busy dealership service departments, this happens frequently. Customers come in for one thing and, during the multi-point inspection, additional issues are found. Or, as can sometimes be the case, a technician cannot quickly diagnose an issue.
How often have you had a customer arrive in the service drive saying something is wrong, but the technician cannot replicate it? It happens all the time. And it’s frustrating for both the customer and the dealership.
OEMS have adopted technology in today’s vehicles at an incredible rate. And, most technicians simply don’t have the training to repair some of the problems that arise from this new technology. Most technicians weren’t trained to be electrical engineers or to approach vehicles more as computers than as purely mechanical machines. While technicians are adept with tools, wrenches and manuals, sometimes they need to communicate with expert manufacturer technicians to properly diagnose and fix a problem. That can take hours, effectively tying up a bay that could otherwise be productive.
Well, help is on the way. According to a recent article in Automotive News, two manufacturers are exploring ways to speed up the process, free up service bays and get customer vehicles back on the road faster.
Both Audi and Porsche are experimenting with new technologies which will allow instant communication between dealership technicians and expert manufacturer technicians. Audi plans to utilize mobile robots equipped with microphones and television screens enabling expert manufacturer techs to see, hear and interact with dealership techs in real-time. They can, in effect, look at the vehicle together and work in partnership to efficiently address the problem. In this case, the OEM technician no longer needs to rely on the dealership technician to explain the problem.
Porsche, on the other hand, has chosen the augmented reality route and is providing technicians with AR (augmented reality) glasses. This enables the same experience as Audi. But, in addition, also allows for overlaying specs and diagrams for the technicians while working on the vehicle.
The great thing about this instantaneous collaboration between OEMs and dealership technicians is that problems will be diagnosed and repaired faster, enabling the service department to run smoothly, more efficiently and at capacity.
Furthermore, I hope that this new technology enables expert manufacturer technicians to instantly alert a dealership technician about an open recall – perhaps even before a TSB or recall is widely disseminated to dealerships. This would reduce the time needed to repair that recall and increase overall compliance – which is a huge problem.
As vehicle manufacturers increasingly adopt and integrate more high-tech components into today’s vehicles, there is no doubt that dealership technicians will need assistance. These innovative solutions from Audi and Porsche should assist service departments in diagnosing, and repairing the problem at hand, as well as identifying that new recall or TSB a technician or service advisor isn’t yet aware of.
I certainly hope other manufacturers test and implement solutions that free up technicians and bays while, at the same time, ensure that any and all recall repairs are completed to keep consumer vehicles safe to operate.
These innovations are a win-win when it comes to dealership shop revenue capabilities and customer service satisfaction. As technology continues to develop – which it is at an incredible rate – both dealers and manufacturers should be taking advantage of it. That’s the simplest route to a bright future filled with happy customers, busy technicians and efficient shop capacity.