It’s been a trend in the recent year to send an associate to a customer instead of having the customer come to the shop for a “mobile service”. Dealerships have been working tirelessly to ensure that our customers feel safe and welcome in our stores all while working to do the same for employees and keep the ship sailing smoothly. This has been the theme amongst all departments, allowing customers to test drive on their own, no contact pick up for parts and now “mobile service” for the service department. When thinking about the concept, I immediately saw red flags and a huge knot of logistical tape to cut through before any program like this could become something profitable.
The first few issues that come to mind are cost, insurance, staff and logistics. We all know how expensive it is to run a service department. Most dealerships have spread the cost of PPE amongst their service bills, which helps to alleviate some portions of the burden, however there are portions of time that we don’t get back. We all know that time is money in this business. Working to sanitize a vehicle, whether that is the tech, or the porter is time away from another task that we are already asking to get done, at warp speed none the less if the customer is a waiter.
Sending a tech out on the road is risky and needs to be set up perfectly if we are going to capitalize on this endeavor. We all know that there are days of smooth sailing at a dealership, but with so many moving parts and variables, most days are just straight up organized chaos. If we are sending a tech out on the road, we must be ready for accidents, not just with their vehicle but with the customers. We also need to be prepared for problem customers, parts issues and emergency repairs that need to be made that we are not ready for. I have had more than one vehicle come through “Express service “and have $1000 of vital safety recommendations before it leaves. How do we capitalize on this?
If we are sending someone out for a mobile service, is the vehicle getting that thorough of a check out before it is put back on the ground and returned to the customer? What if it is 100 degrees outside that day or freezing cold? Is the technician safe in their environment? Do they need to worry about “Fluffy” next door charging them from a “fence” that doesn’t exist? Will the customer be willing to stay in their house and let the mechanic work, or will they be outside giving them a dissertation of the vehicles history and asking a million questions so they can fix it themselves later?
When it comes to scheduling and logistics, how many technicians are going to be mobile? Are these techs certified with a specialty were they only work on specific cars? Can we afford to have this tech gone half or the whole day on the road?
Is there an advisor dedicated to assisting the tech/techs that are out and setting up the next job? Is there specific training needed for that advisor, will they be losing/gaining money based on their pay plan that the dealership has set?
Just sitting down to discuss this topic puts me in a tailspin as a former advisor seeing 100 cars a day at my old shop. I feel like we already go above and beyond for our customers in the dealership (as we should). But how far is too far? I know some dealerships will pick up your vehicle for you and return it when the service is done. That is a task, let alone having a trained technician out on a joyride to work on your vehicle, hoping that we have all the necessary parts to do the job.
So, I think the “Mobile Mechanic” trend should be just that. A trend that goes away, just like beanie babies, the Furby and UFO pants. It seems like a good idea in theory, however there are so many tools and resources that mechanics need to do their job that some shops already struggle to provide. Let’s keep our technicians safe in our shops, and give the service managers a chance to do their jobs without a “he said, she said” scenario that we know would inevitably happen, and already does happen in shop.
Keeping everyone in a central location creates a great space to work as a team to complete our goals. Communication is already a classic issue that arises every day, we don’t need to be more of an issue when someone is out of the shop on the road. We also don’t need to lose business if someone calls out, advisor or tech. With the team shop environment, the work eventually gets done and there is minimal to no loss of profit. Let’s focus on keeping everyone in the shop working efficiently and let this trend fall into a distant memory.