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What does the future look like?

I recently attended an informal forum composed mainly of retail automotive aftersales managers. Many of us are what you would call “industry veterans” meaning we’ve been around since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. We were lucky to have some younger attendees who contributed some excellent insights and opinions to make the whole exercise very enjoyable.

A lot of the conversation centred on the arrival of EVs and what impact this will have on dealership aftersales operations and revenues.

It was pretty much agreed that :

  • EVs and other non-ICE technology is coming

  • The costs involved for dealers to train and equip their service departments will be considerable

  • Some consumers are excited by the prospect of EVs, others not so much, and the majority possibly don’t really care at this point

  • Automotive manufacturers have the knowledge and ability to roll this out

  • The younger members of the current workforce will easily up skill and embrace these changes

  • Retail dealership business owners might struggle to find an acceptable return on the required investment

  • Customer interaction with dealers will become more automated and less face-to-face

  • Change will happen whether we want it or not

The future will be automated

For me, one of the more interesting discussion points involved the increasing use of non face-to-face customer communication. Things like automated service check-in and collection kiosks generated strong feelings both for and against.

The reality is that we’ve already seen this happen in many other areas of out life, such as:

  • Banking - ATMs and online banking (in fact, ATMs look to be on the way out as society mores even more towards cashless)

  • Travel - Online airline booking and check-in; automated luggage check-in etc

  • Telcos - Tried speaking to a person at your telco lately? Text based chat and other app based solutions are taking over

  • Utilities - Again, online and app based communication is the norm

  • Supermarkets - Automated self-checkouts are now taking over from the human operated version we’ve had forever

Is any of this good or bad?

Really I don’t know. Most of it is inevitable so we’ve go to try and adapt. There will always be some people who want to deal with people and some who are happy to avoid people wherever possible.

For me, I like to have a choice.

Most times I’m okay to do stuff online or via an app, but for those times when I need / want to speak to a human, then please have someone available who knows what they’re doing and who can actually resolve my problem.

Going forward, these customer facing humans will need to be even more exceptional. Just having a pulse and some command of the English language will not be good enough. Businesses will need subject matter experts with excellent customer service skills and the authority to fix things.

So what does the future retail automotive dealership look like?

In my fantasy world they might look something like an Apple store…


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