Innovation – Is it Just a Cliché?

In a recent article by the Australian Financial Review, it states that half of Australian firms believe that innovation is merely a buzzword. The survey results also show that 23% of companies aren’t innovating at all.

Innovation

Innovation – What Does it Mean to Us?

It’s no secret that the term “innovation” has been overused, especially in the technology sector. Sadly, this has led many industry players to lose sight of the meaning and importance of the concept. It’s very easy to write-off innovation as just another cliché or buzzword – but the real challenge comes from making it tangible and infusing it in everything an organisation does.

Here at Infomedia, we choose to invest in innovation and make it a core part of our values. We’re always striving to be a unique kind of company, with a different view of the world. We use an innovation mindset to help guide our attitudes toward product development, customer relationships and performance expectations of our global teams.

While our vision is to solve big problems, our approach facilitates progression, not perfection. I’m a firm believer that improvement and growth comes from change, and having an innovation culture is mission critical for success.

Building an Innovation Mindset

To make innovation a part of our DNA, we’ve built a framework that challenges the way we view ourselves, our capabilities and our goals. This framework ensures our innovation priorities are focused and aligned with our business strategy. It enables us to harness not only our internal ideas but those of our global customer base – with a defined pathway for investment and action on worthy ideas.

The importance of this mindset also applies to external factors; the way we communicate and the type of discussions we have with our customers is equally important to foster innovation. This ensures our customers get involved in the innovation process early and get to shape the ultimate outcome.

Our Customers are at the Heart of our Innovations

One of our favourite ways to innovate is to collaborate with our customers. We put our customers at the centre of everything we do and they’re at the heart of our innovation process. With customers in 186 countries, we are presented with many innovation opportunities.

Some of our best product innovations have come from asking our customers: “What are your challenges?”

We encourage an open exchange of ideas and have multiple pathways for collaboration. Our team have a deep level of understanding of our customers’ challenges, and are well positioned to ask the right questions and innovate quickly.

What About the Breakthrough Innovations?

The best breakthrough innovations usually have a disruptive business model. This is sometimes a barrier to success if the current market participants are not ready for it – no matter how good the product innovation is.

In the retail automotive space, dealerships are under pressure to provide the complete ownership experience to vehicle owners, while lowering their operating cost at the same time. When I visit dealerships, I don’t hear them calling for ‘breakthrough’ innovations. They want the simplicity of cloud solutions, with smart interoperability to improve sales processes and customer satisfaction.

When we scope ideas and challenges, our goal is never about ‘disruptive innovation’, it’s about solving problems. We don’t want to build software solutions that disrupts a dealership’s process or workflow – we want to improve it.

Innovating with Purpose

We have a long history of innovation at Infomedia, and the key considerations when we introduce new technology to our global customers are always relevance and purpose.

One of Infomedia’s earliest innovations is the Microcat Electronic Parts Catalogue (EPC). In today’s retail automotive landscape, some might see EPCs as a mature product. Dealerships and Parts Departments use it to look up and order the right parts – nothing more, nothing less.

However, we look beyond what an EPC is designed to do, and think about how to evolve its value to meet ongoing business challenges. Reinventing its purpose allowed our innovation team to explore new and creative ways to leverage technologies. For example, we discovered mobility as an unexploited innovation opportunity for EPCs.

After months of hard work, I’m very excited to announce our latest innovation: Microcat Messenger. It’s a mobile messaging app that integrates seamlessly with Microcat Live EPC. It empowers a dealership’s Parts Department to chat with their trade customers about their parts queries, look up parts information and place orders – all in one convenient location!

Microcat Messenger provides a new way for a Parts Department to interact and engage with trade customers during the buying process. It caters to the next generation of shoppers who use technology, social media and digital platforms to research, interact and shop.

The addition of Microcat Messenger turns Microcat Live from an EPC to a powerful parts selling tool. Dealerships can now turn their Parts Department into an online retail store or e-commerce platform – now that’s innovation!

Innovating and Winning – Not Just a Cliché!

In short, I believe that innovation is imperative for the ongoing success for any company. To us, innovation isn’t simply about adapting and staying relevant. It serves as a good reminder for us to push ourselves to grow, improve and do things better. An innovation mindset challenges us to think outside the box and create cutting-edge solutions that meet the needs of our customers.

So is innovation just a cliché? No, I think it’s best practice. The companies that innovate will win, but they’ll only win if they focus on their customers!

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It’s not all about the price

When I joined Infomedia, one of my first goals was to get closer to the automotive industry and our customers. I set out a plan to visit our dealership partners across the globe to gain a better understanding of how they work and the growth drivers of their business.

One of the topics that I’m highly passionate about, and that we discussed about at length with OEMs and dealerships, was customer experience. In a world where there are many competing brands and services, I believe it’s never been more important to sell experience to your customers.

So, I also spent a lot of time talking to dealership customers, my friends and my family about their experiences when it comes to vehicle servicing.

My takeaway from these discussions is that vehicle servicing is not all about price. It’s also about creating a positive customer experience through transparency, service efficiency, mobility and technology optimisation.

Understanding your customers

Many dealership customers shared with me about what they evaluate during a visit to a dealership.

Customers care if the Service Advisor:

  • is courteous, knowledgeable and able to address any problems
  • communicates the need for additional repairs in a clear and timely manner
  • delivers a final invoice which matches the quote
  • has the car ready at the promised time

I also listened to many stories of customers feeling confronted with technical terminology; which made them feel uncertain, anxious and fearful about cost.

Their feedback highlights the importance for Service Advisors to communicate clearly and transparently, to ensure customers are fully informed and in control of their service experience.

Beyond the quality of repair, customers often remember their interactions with Service Advisors – this has a tangible impact on their perception of your dealership and brand.

The keys to customer experience

customer-experience

I have seen firsthand that many Service Advisors already do a great job.

Despite this, a large percentage of customers choose not to service their new vehicle from the dealership they purchased it from. Many factors contribute to this, but a recent study by JD Power indicate price and trust as key reasons for customers leaving dealerships for independent workshops.

As mentioned earlier, many customers feel confronted with technical details; resulting in them feeling uncertain, anxious and fearing about cost. Many call “their guy” (aka an independent repairer) to get a better price. Independents are known for lower labour rates, but many don’t have the capability or capacity to accommodate a customer’s demanding schedule, provide loan cars or have access to up-to-date factory repair information.

Independents often agree to the service at a lower price; but when an unforeseen repair part is required, it results in the overall service requiring more labour, more time and more budget.

So, is it really all about price? In reality, price is not always the differentiator. However, the independents do a great job managing their customers’ expectation by talking through the work that needs to be done, showing them replaced parts and providing a more personal service.

Is there a lesson here for OEM service dealerships? How do we combat the perceived notion that independent repairers are superior when it comes to price and trust?

Dealership Service Advisors need to minimise customers’ fears and anxieties by communicating effectively, providing transparent pricing and empowering the customer to feel in control.

Technology is the keystone for today’s service strategies

The last ten years have seen technology companies introduce service sales software to aid dealership staff improve their customer experience.

Here at Infomedia, we’ve been at the forefront of industry innovation. With expertise in both parts and service domains, we’ve built software that:

  • improves communication with customers before, during and after the service has been completed
  • quickly generates service and repair quotes that are accurate, professional and easy to understand
  • provides transparency by sharing the technician’s photos and videos of repair work
  • provides customers with information that reinforces the value of genuine OEM servicing

The right technology can help your customers believe their best experience and value is with you. It allows for a more personalised service and faster repair process for the customer.

Service efficiency

I recently read a case study shared by Hyundai Motor America which concluded that customers are most willing to say “Yes” to service recommendations within the first 15 minutes of their visit. The faster the repair recommendation is delivered, the greater likelihood of the customer agreeing to the repair.

superservice_murphy_-2826Therefore, being able to quickly generate a personalised and accurate account of a vehicle’s needs is a ‘game changer’ in OEM Service Department sales.

Our Superservice platform facilitates this important objective, and is used by many Hyundai dealerships globally.

Power of mobility

My dealership visits and discussions with automaker influencers also highlighted the need to attend to a new generation of digital savvy service customers, who:

  • prefer text and digital communication to phone calls and printouts
  • appreciate automated alerts and status updates so they stay informed
  • want to use a mobile app to view service recommendations, with supporting photos and videos
  • want to be communicated on their terms so they stay in control of the transaction

This is an area where franchised OEM dealerships can take the lead against the aftermarket. Dealership only solutions like our Superservice platform enable a measurable improvement in customer satisfaction for these shoppers who demand a ‘mobile-first’ experience.

Increased sales – the benefit of good customer experience

I believe that with the right technology, dealerships can easily improve the service experience by being more open and transparent with customers. This leads to an increase in customer trust, which in turn, grows parts and labour sales.

How do we know this? One case study from a dealership in the U.S. showed that our Superservice solution:

  • adds nearly $200 to each vehicle’s service transaction
  • converts 44% of the service recommendations on the same day as the inspection report was delivered
  • closes an additional 24% in parts and labour sales; when photo or video evidence is delivered along with the estimate

As the saying goes, seeing is believing!

So while price is perceived to be a factor in the consumers’ ranking of a service provider, in reality it’s more about perceived value. Dealerships need to adopt service technology that facilitates better communication and creates transparency in the selling process. In doing this, your customers will feel engaged, educated and believe in the value of genuine OEM servicing. They’ll remember you for being trustworthy and trying to help.