Service centers, resellers need new sales approach for telematics to succeed

Jan. 19, 2016
If the aftermarket hopes to successfully compete with OEM-based telematics solutions, they will need to up their sales game, says Peter Yorke, CEO of Voyomotive.

If the aftermarket hopes to successfully compete with OEM-based telematics solutions, they will need to up their sales game, says the CEO of Voyomotive.

The company is developing proprietary hardware, software and cloud services so that consumers can easily connect their vehicles. Voyomotive's solution combines an OBD-II port device and smartphone apps that allow drivers to monitor fuel use, fault codes, event alerts, and location tracking, and also provides remote start, lock/unlock, and immobilization functions. The company completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund its next round of prototyping and testing in November.

According to the company, by directly sharing vehicle diagnostic information with mechanics, it can increase "efficiency for vehicle owners and productivity for service centers."

Voyomotive is already making its mark in aftermarket circles. In November, the Auto Care Association and Equipment and Tool Institute (ETI) announced that the company was selected as the 2015 Aftermarket Telematics Challenge winner at AAPEX. The company also received the 2015 SEMA Launch Pad Award, SEMA Global Media Award, and was a runner up for Best New Packaging Design at SEMA.

"What we've learned from interacting with the industry at SEMA and AAPEX and the Connected Car Expo, is that there is a lot of interest from potential resellers for having this technology for sale," says CEO and co-founder Peter Yorke. "A company providing aftermarket alarm or stereo systems would like to have this product. We are begging to set up our wholesale distribution network in advance of the product launch with Bluetooth in 2016."

Unlike tools that report generic codes, Yorke says that Voyomotive offers more comprehensive communication with the controllers in the vehicle as well as the ability to read proprietary manufacturer codes as well as generic ones.

"That's something you typically have to go to a service center for today," Yorke says. "We give you the DTC codes, and an explanation of what it means and the nature of the problem. That empowers the consumer. It's not always a definitive diagnosis, but it's an important piece of information to have in terms of who you are going to contact and the service costs involved."

Currently, Voyomotive customers have the option of e-mailing DTC codes and metadata about the car to the shop of their choice. "Eventually this will be worked into some type of integrated garage customer relationship management (CRM) system that can do automatic scheduling, or be published into something like Google AdWords so shops can bid to repair the car," Yorke says.

"Service centers want to use this for customer retention and be first on the list within the app," he adds. "We're having interesting conversations with car dealers who want to have this type of program for user retention. There are thing we can do to make it easier for resellers to receive the information through our application programming interface (API)."

For the aftermarket, the diagnostic piece is the end game, but Yorke points out that no telematics solution can gain traction in the consumer market unless it offers more than diagnostics.

"You have to have other consumer offerings to wrap around this so someone will pay money to put it in their car," Yorke says. "No one needs a diagnostic application until they really need it. We have to have a really compelling feature set that will change the way people interact with their cars on a daily basis, like lock/unlock, start/stop, immobilization, etc. Within that you can embed a really good diagnostic capability so its there if they need it."

Service centers will need to prepare and train their employees to serve this newly empowered and educated customer, in addition to being able, from a technical perspective, to accept and use diagnostic data from one of these solutions.

"First, you have to start with the mindset that customers are about to be much more informed about their cars than they were previously," Yorke says. "Second, be prepared to start receiving and processing digital information in advance of the car arriving."

Service centers will need to design new workflows so that vehicles with this advanced diagnostic capability can be integrated into the scheduling system, parts can be ordered, and space can be made in the shop. "You also have to communicate with the customer," Yorke says. "You may need to get on the phone and let them know they don't have to come in right away."

Service writers and other staff need the sales training to be able to effectively offer a diagnostic solution to customers, while also emphasizing the features of the solution that drivers will use on a daily basis.

"This is where the role of the service center as reseller is critical," Yorke says. "The staff has to be able to do consultative selling. If the car is in the garage right now, and a trusted service center advisors says, 'By the way, here's something that will allow us to provide better service and is useful to you,' that becomes a critical part of educating the market."

Staff will not only need sales training for the solution, but also need to be knowledgeable about privacy concerns. "We give owners a lot of control over their own privacy," Yorke says. "We were the only solution at the Connected Car Expo in Los Angeles with a data kill switch, for example."

The advantage that aftermarket solutions will have is that they provide more flexibility and control for vehicle owners than OEM solutions currently offer.

"There are applications from the car companies that give you some, but not all, of this information," Yorke says. "What they don’t do is give that information to the car owner. They direct you to a dealer. The aftermarket, which is much larger than the dealer networks, needs a counterstrike option. We can provide an open network, and the car owner can decide where they want the data to go."

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