Consumer-facing automotive technology has progressed by leaps and bounds over the past few years. Staying ahead of consumer demand — and consumer knowledge — has become an increasing challenge. We’ve gone to our dealer panel to ask them how they keep their staffs current with emerging technology.
AutoSuccess: How do you keep your salespeople, both younger and older staff members, up to date on changing technology?
Andrew DiFeo, GM of Hyundai of St. Augustine: The OEM provides a significant amount of training for the consumer-facing technology in their vehicles. Also, all of our staff has smartphones, so we lead by example and have them connect their phones to some demo vehicles to make sure they understand how to do it and the importance of doing it. We make sure it’s not something brought up in the delivery process; we’ve found success by using it as a selling feature, building value in the vehicle and showing off that technology to the consumer, whether it’s in the demonstration or test drive. We also sync the consumer’s phone before the sale is done to show them how easy it is and how powerful the technology is.
Chris Saraceno, VP and Partner of Kelly Automotive Group: The OEMs all do a good job with online training, regional events and in-store training focused on changing technology, and our management team typically discusses any and all technology features in our sales meetings. Utilizing the inherent skills of our staff, however, is crucial. With the 20th century core sales team still in place, and with a new 21st century salesperson entering the marketplace, we’ve found our best general practice is to use a job-shadowing mentorship approach in creating a seamless learning environment between these two generations. This allows for both groups to evolve with the technological changes in the marketplace.
Mike Good, GM of Street Toyota: Technology is developing so quickly — today’s break-through advance quickly becomes yesterday’s newspaper headlines. Management and eCommerce departments regularly attend conferences like Digital Dealer, NADA, MozCon, DrivingSales and others to scout out new developments. It then becomes sales management’s direct assignment to convey up-to-date information on dealership-adopted technology to sales associates. Several years ago, we identified an employee with a passion for automobiles, gadgets and technology. We made him a product trainer. Now, when a new feature or gadget is introduced, he focuses specific training on that. It’s uncommon in most dealerships, but gives us and others duplicating this approach a “one-up” advantage in this complex and ever-changing environment.
Kimberly Cardinal Piscatelli, Vice President and Partner of Cardinal Honda: In most dealerships, sales teams run the gambit from Millennials to senior citizens. The requirement of technology and product knowledge, however, isn’t graded on a curve based on age. Consumers are expecting a sales team fluent in today’s technology. It is surprising that, while our Millennial team members may consume more technology, it doesn’t make them tech experts. Their senior counterparts are training for the same event — the perfect delivery with the perfect survey score. Manufacturers provide product training Webinars and videos. While a good start, they do not replace live demonstrations and first-hand driving experiences. A hands-on approach will give your entire staff the tools needed to explain the latest technology, even to those consumers who come in armed with their flip phones.
AutoSuccess: What challenges does new technology play in the service department, and how do you keep your people up to date?
Andrew DiFeo: A lot of times with this technology, the connectivity portion of it falls on the sales department to be really aware how to deal with consumer issues and how to solve them. If the consumer is in the service drive, though, the service advisors also have to be well versed on it. Again, we lean on some OEM training. Some of the challenges are the consumer thinking the tech is broken when, in fact, it might have just not been explained to them properly. Our service advisors have to overcome that — it’s simply an educational issue. The other thing to keep in mind is that sometimes the technology on the automotive side doesn’t update as rapidly as it does on the smartphone side of the business. This can cause some issues when there’s a new operating system update for a smartphone but the vehicle’s technology hasn’t caught up yet.
Chris Saraceno: The most challenging area as it pertains to service department technology is the cost to acquire new tools and certification for our technicians to stay in pace with the advances in future automobile diagnostic systems. It’s necessary, though, to keep pace with the demands of the technology to keep customers satisfied with the service we provide.
Mike Good: New technology creates opportunities, not challenges. The auto industry needs to embrace advancing technology and then use it to facilitate exceptional customer experiences. For example, technicians make “quick” customer videos in the shop sent directly to the waiting customer’s cell phone. They show the inspection process and visual evidence of recommended repair or maintenance needs. Customers love it. From a training standpoint, much of the new tech is safety related and involves lots of components — cameras, sonar, radar, etc. — that must be calibrated perfectly for everything to work properly. Manufacturer support is vital here, providing our technicians with specialized training and tools. From our end, keeping turnover low makes life easier, as these features tend to build on each other, making it important for a technician to have a solid foundation while avoiding the “help wanted” ads.
Kimberly Cardinal Piscatelli: The ever-evolving technology in today’s vehicles requires technicians to wear many hats. The most talented technicians may not have the tools necessary for today’s rapidly changing technology. Yes, they can diagnose a rattle, clunk or screech with a flashlight and a good ear. Yes, they can fabricate and weld. But, can they diagnose problems with the infotainment system, vehicle communications and vehicle safety systems using OTA (over the air) remote software to update the vehicle display and connectivity systems? Requiring all technicians to continue their education has never been more important. Beginning with the basic electrical systems and continuing all the way through the latest tutorials on telematics, there is no way around it: Today’s technicians must be willing to learn new tricks.
If you have questions or are a dealer who would like to be considered for the panel, please contact us at [email protected].