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These Digital Tools Helped Tire Dealers Thrive in the Pandemic

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City Tire, which is based in Springfield, Mass., utilizes the mobile point-of-sale software offered by ASA Automotive Systems.

One good thing that has come from the COVID-19 crisis has been the acceleration of digital tools in the workplace, and that includes at tire dealerships across the country. We wondered what tools and features dealers have added and relied on most in the last year.

For a bit of context on the digital transformation of 2020, McKinsey & Company says its survey of executives shows from December 2019 to July 2020, the digitization of customer interactions accelerated by three years across the globe. (In Asia-Pacific, it was a four-year acceleration.) In that same timeframe, the 41% of customer interactions that were digital ballooned to 65% in North America. (The results of the full study are here.)

That's a lot of change in a tiny timeframe. How did tire dealers do it?

MTD turned to point-of-sale providers for a story in our May issue, but this exclusive excerpt on the MVP options of the year didn’t make its way into the print edition.

Steve Brouillard, general manager and vice president of business development at Andreoli & Associates Inc.: There have been several software capabilities and features that our clients are further utilizing, such as text-to-pay, digital vehicle inspection and car-side check-in. These options allow our clients to offer a variety of options to manage touchless services and communication to their customers. In addition, our HITS point-of-sale software is cloud-based, (allowing) all our clients to be mobile. Some clients have expanded their operations by adding mobile on-demand vehicles to service vehicles at the customer’s home.

Ashley Hopkins, director of enterprise operations for ASA Automotive Systems Inc.: The pandemic accelerated the shift towards a more digital world. ‘Tire shops near me’ searches have increased drastically. Last year, we heard our dealers saying their customers are looking for a frictionless experience. Whether it’s requesting a quote, scheduling appointments, purchasing and payments — they want to be able to do everything online.

We worked with our dealers to find out If their customers can find them online when they are looking for tires and auto repair services and get what they need. 

Analyzing our dealer needs and the new customer behavior, we added new digital tools designed to drive consumers to the dealer operation with modern methods.

We launched an automated messaging platform designed to serve as a virtual automotive service advisor. It sits on the dealer’s website and engages with users who visit their site. We have well over 50 locations using the artificial intelligence-powered messaging platform. It’s helping our dealers convert more online customers looking for automotive service by answering all their questions, providing real-time quotes and booking appointments 24/7.

The most popular features that our dealers added last year were texting services to update customers on the progress of a repair and vehicle status, a text-to-pay option and digital inspections with detailed notes, images and recommendations that can be texted or emailed to customers.

Tim Cifelli, chief revenue officer at Bolt On Technology LLC: Anything that helps boost productivity and customer communications and relationships, such as our digital vehicle inspections, appointment integration and text-to-pay services.

Jay Adams, president of MaddenCo Inc.: We continue to push paperless transactions. Customers are also adding integrated credit card processing and texting features. Our mobile apps have been popular recently as well. 

John Fischer, vice president of sales and marketing at Mam Software: Our program, Carside, enables dealers to greet a customer at their car and check them in without ever having to have them come into the shop. Vehicle status is communicated with customers through texting and payment can be made through our text-to-pay process, which enables customers to pay for their invoice right from their smartphone.

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