The automotive industry still has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to digitizing the aftersales sector. If you want to retain customers in the future, you should act.

“We’ve always done it that way.” You hear that a lot. But the question is: How much longer can you do it that way? Because it’s impossible for things to go on like this forever. The German poet Friedrich Schiller more than 200 years ago said: “They who do not move with the times, will be removed over time.” But you don’t have to look back 200 years to find examples of Schiller’s thesis.

In the 1990s, Nokia developed into the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile phones. In 1996, the Finnish company presented its first internet-capable mobile phone, and at the beginning of the new millennium a first prototype with a touchscreen. Nokia was the world market leader and had the technology to consolidate its position as global champion. As we know, Nokia soon became a global loser. Among other things, because it mistrusted its own innovation and instead relied on an analogue keyboard. And because it was too late to develop a (non-competitive) operating system instead of relying on the superior Android. Customers went from Nokia to Samsung and Apple. A classic case of: They who do not move with the times, will be removed over time (Nokia, of course, still exists. But not as a global champion.).

Embracing the culture of digital change

What can be learned from Nokia’s example? As Amalia Sterescu, world-class leadership consultant, told, “In a world dominated by digital transformation, leaders should understand that operating with the old mindset will not help their companies face customer behaviour changes or new types of competition — more aggressive and more diverse.” The ability, Sterescu continued, to constantly challenge the status quo will enable companies to embrace a culture of change. Does this also apply to the aftersales in car dealerships and garages?

Those who invest in digitization make more profit

The short answer: It applies to every trade. To some sooner, to others later. As always, however, the earlier you change, the better for the long-term business perspective. So-called “early adopters” were there yesterday where late bloomers will be only tomorrow. And that is already paying off for car dealerships and garages. In a survey published by at the beginning of the year, 47 percent of German car dealers said they “have invested more in digitization. With success: companies that are willing to invest digitally were able to exceed their sales targets more often than their competitors.”

More customers thanks to digital tools

A similar picture emerged recently at a discussion held by the industry medium “asp – Auto Service Praxis” as part of the “Automechanika Academy”. Workshop owner Carlo Platz from Leipzig said: “Since the company was founded six years ago, we have grown to 40 employees and 23 lifting platforms. We would not have managed that without the use of digital tools.” His customers are also expecting digital touchpoints in the workshop area. An example: Platz has set up an online appointment system on his website. Another: His company is present on the online portal Reparo, where garages can introduce themselves to potential customers.

Gateway Google: good ratings help

But there is of course another way to present yourself online. And you don’t even need your own website for that – Google reviews. Every company can be rated by users of the search engine giant. And there are good reasons to be rated. Because Google users google everything – including car dealerships and garages, of course. If you don’t show up, you won’t be found. It’s that simple. On the other hand, if you show up and you have good ratings, you’ve got a good chance of attracting new customers. And it should go without saying that consumers who move in the digital space want to be picked up digitally. Just like the following fact: Even if the average customer of car dealerships and garages are not yet digital natives: They will be. And then it’ll be too late for “We’ve always done it this way”.

But it’s still not too late. The aftersales business of car dealerships and garages is still looking for “early adopters”. Andreas Serra, Managing Director of the DAT subsidiary Promotor XD, summed it up in the “asp” panel discussion: “We have the problem that digitization in garages is still at the stone age level in some cases. In aftersales, you are now at the level where car sales were 25 years ago.”

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