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Utilizing Apple CarPlay in Service Departments

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A longtime service manager explains the keys to swiftly assigning work to technicians

Brad Stegemann, admittedly, is no tech expert. But, when the service manager’s customers have questions, he seeks answers.

That’s why, a couple years ago, when customers at Germain Honda of Ann Arbor were confused by the Apple CarPlay feature, Stegemann often jumped in their vehicles eager to learn alongside them. And, before long, he became quite knowledgeable about the technology—a fact customers have come to appreciate.

Doing that, Stegemann says, “makes people more comfortable. And it leads to a closer relationship, I think, with the customer.”

Teaching customers the ins and outs of infotainment systems like Apple

CarPlay—technology that allows customers to link their smartphones to their vehicles, which then presents many of an iPhone’s on-screen functions on a vehicle’s dash—has modestly helped Germain Honda’s customer retention, Stegemann says. But, on a larger scale, he adds, helping customers master their vehicles’ infotainment systems and overall technology is likely to become a larger part of service department employees’ role as time rolls on.

“More and more technology is getting rolled into these cars, (and) if they put the technology into the cars, you’d better know it,” he says. “A lot of people are afraid of learning new technology, and if you’re shying away from it you’re not going to get any better at it. Dive in. Look at it, learn it.

“If you’re not prepared to answer the customers’ questions you’re going to look a little foolish.”

That’s rarely an issue at Germain Honda these days, as the service department staff has embraced the challenge of learning all about technology like Apple CarPlay. Stegemann, whose department has a 92.5 CSI score, breaks down how a service staff can become experts about infotainment technology—and keep many customers loyal to the facility as a result.

Watch OEM Videos.

Stegemann insists it doesn’t take extensive training to master technology like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which are compatible with multiple OEMs’ vehicles. In fact, when he needs to brush up on certain elements of Apple CarPlay, Stegemann simply turns to YouTube and watches two- to four-minute tutorials on the subject.

“Honda has posted a lot on YouTube on how to use it,” says Stegemann, who typically helps at least one customer per week set up Apple CarPlay in their vehicle. “I’ll watch those videos, and every time I watch them I learn more. They’ve done a really good job with those videos, and they can be helpful.”  

Attend New Car Training Sessions.   

At Germain Honda, like many dealerships, it’s common for dealership employees to take part in new car training sessions when new models are rolled out. And, like at many dealerships, those new car training sessions feature an audience almost exclusively made up of sales staffers … except for Stegemann. He learned long ago that, by attending such training sessions, he can quickly master today’s intricate vehicle technology.

Stegemann feels dealerships should have at least one or two service department representatives attend new-car training sessions.

“Because,” he says, “somebody’s going to buy that top-of-the-line touring van that’s got a lot of new options. And you should be familiar with it, because they’re going to ask questions … and, if you’re not prepared to answer the customer’s questions, you’re going to look a little bit foolish.”

Let Employees Borrow Vehicles.

What better hands-on training than allowing employees to take vehicles for an occasional test drive? That strategy is utilized at the dealership, where Stegemann’s employees are allowed to take rentals and loaner vehicles out for test drives to get acclimated to their features.

In fact, that’s a tactic he encourages.

“Let employees borrow cars—then they get to know the ins and outs of the [infotainment] system better,” Stegemann says. “If you’ve got loaner cars and they’re sitting there one night, let an employee take it home an experience this [technology] and become more familiar with it; it’s just going to make for a better relationship with the customers.”

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