The next time you take your car to the dealership for service, you may not have to speak with a service advisor.
Instead, you’ll tap – and swipe.
Several car manufacturers – most recently VW – have begun trying out virtual service advisors at their dealerships. These are touchscreen kiosks – like the ones at most airports that you can use to check yourself in and get your boarding pass.
VW is experimenting with the idea at two of its dealerships, where customers can not only check in – and leave the keys to their car – but also get their keys (and their car) after the service has been performed.
Jon Meredith of Volkswagen North America says the virtual kiosks are “not here to replace (human) service advisors.” Rather, the idea is to increase throughput at busy dealerships by giving customers the option to use the virtual kiosk if they’re in a hurry.
But one wonders whether the temptation will arise to increase the dealership’s profit margin in a hurry – by reducing the dealership’s payroll.
This has already happened at many supermarkets as well as big box retail and hardware stores such as Lowes and Home Depot. Human checkers have become an endangered species. What was once an option – the self-check lane – has become almost your only choice, as the the only other choice is to wait much longer to get to the one or two human checkers who are still manning a register.
At some stores, there’s no longer even that option. All the checkout lanes are self-check lanes, supervised by a vestigial human employee who soon won’t be.
It makes sense, from the standpoint of the big box store – and probably a car store, too.
Meredith said the first-generation kiosks installed at a Volkswagen dealership in Pasadena, California can “write up” between 10 and 15 customers per day.
Imagine the savings. Instead of having to pay six people to interact with people, get rid of the six people and have the people – the people paying you money – interact with a touchscreen.
Blame expensive government.
It costs a fortune to set up and operate a store – whether it’s a big box retailer or a car store. Taxes, compliance costs, licenses (i.e. government permission) to do business, etc.
Plus what it costs to keep people around as employees.
Especially what it costs to “cover” them.
Probably one the biggest single reason for rise of Kiosk Fever is that businesses don’t have to buy Obamacare for a touchscreen. And given how little a touchscreen costs vs. what it costs to cover say six humans, the decision to replace as many of those humans as possible with a touchscreen becomes an understandable one.
Perhaps even a necessary one – if the business wishes to remain in business. This has become difficult in no small measure because of rising health care costs, especially for lower-tier employees like checkers.
If a kiosk that doesn’t have to be “covered” can accept a customer’s keys – and return them when the car is ready to be picked up – why pay (and pay to “cover”) a lot boy to do the same?
Why pay a service advisor?
A kiosk can handle practically everything a human service advisor can – in the manner of phone tree systems that prompt you to push 1 for yes and 2 for no. They also serve the purpose of firewalling the quarrelsome customer from the business, with which the customer has to do business. If he wants his problem handled. If there’s no human option, what choice has he got?
Not many put up with phone trees for the fun of it. They deal with it – because it’s the only way to deal with it.
That may soon be the deal at your local dealership, too.
Push 1 if this is a warranty-related claim. Push 2 to schedule an oil change.
And they ask me why I drink.
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