A Blessing and a Curse

Traditional channels of communication and learning are still among the most effective. (Photo: Huw Evans)

The Information age has its benefits but also its drawbacks.

Today it seems, you can’t get away from talk regarding “the connected world” or the “Internet of Things.” The automotive industry in particular seems bent on embracing a future where cars drive themselves and in general, serve as little more than extension of the family home or business environment.

For the collision repair industry, this new connected world means a radical rethink in the way we do things, from how a vehicle collision is reported to how the claim begins, to how the repair is undertaken and most importantly how the customer interacts with the whole process.

Like many things, I feel that connectivity via the Internet is both a blessing and a curse. On the blessing side it provides us with access to information and ideas that was simply not feasible a generation ago. Through the development of software and supporting hardware, businesses can also in theory, engage with their customers like never before. Data sets allow us to monitor behavioural patterns of individual consumers, such as what they buy and when they buy it and in theory at least tailor a product or service to their specific needs.

Call it the age of digital personalization—the ability to leverage technology to appeal to our most narcissistic of tendencies and give us what we want right now!

While it is nice to feel a little gratification now and then, I feel in some quarters, trying to achieve such a goal all the time ultimately benefits nobody. If customers are constantly being bombarded with solutions or products that appear “tailor-made” to their individual needs it becomes very easy for us to start looking inward rather than outward.

When consumer expectations become so high and information so accessible, it can be very difficult for businesses to meet those expectations. In the automotive world; retailers, service repairers and collision facilities are already experiencing this.

Technology has become such an enabler that we tend to want something right here and right now. And when we don’t get it our world falls apart.

I was talking to a shop owner last week and he recited an incident when a customer of a luxury SUV wanted some repairs done to their vehicle. This customer was quoted a price and then a family member said to this customer that they were being overcharged. The customer then called the shop back and screamed at a representative that they were being deliberately overcharged.

What essentially happened; is that a member of the customer’s family had gleaned information from the Internet and had then determined for themselves, that the customer was being overcharged. Meanwhile the shop had provided a quote for repairs based on using good quality parts, materials and a fair labour rate for the work required.

Ultimately, the situation was resolved when the customer came by the shop and sat down with the shop owner on a one-to-one level. The shop owner was able to explain that while the quote might not be the cheapest, the parts used and the work performed would be of a high standard, since the shop had built and earned a reputation for quality work and service. The customer understood and the job was performed, with very satisfactory results for all involved.

I think there is a danger that we can become to over reliant on technology and inter connectivity as a tool to look for answers and solve our problems and it’s important to remember that as much as things change, the more they stay the same.

Often, the most difficult customer disputes or misunderstandings can only be resolved the old fashioned way, by simply talking to one another.

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