The Ideal Candidate for Telematics
There are car owners out there who will drive around with their check engine light on, not only wondering what the issue is, but also if they will end up on the side of a road with a broken car. Parker Swift, CEO of Mechanic Advisor, was that car owner at one point.
After driving a 1998 Volvo that had a check engine light on for the longest time, Swift remembers questioning whether every noise he heard was coming from his car or if that burning smell was coming from his engine. But he wasn’t the only one, according to CarMD, “more than nine million U.S. drivers have ignored their car’s ‘check engine’ light for three months or more.”
That feeling of fear encouraged Swift to start Mechanic Advisor in 2006, a company that is a full-service marketing platform and offers a telematics device. Mechanic Advisor helps repair shops find new customers and helps existing customers return to their preferred shops to perform regular maintenance and necessary services.
With the rise of telematics, Swift gives some insight into who the ideal candidate is for these services.
Any customer could essentially be a candidate, but in most cases, usually high-value customers are the ones that the shop considers a really good customer. We see it a lot with families. For example, a college kid who’s been given a car through the family and Dad is super concerned that his son or daughter is going to forget to put oil in the car or isn’t going to remember to get their brakes checked, so they give him a device. It’s great for someone who doesn't necessarily understand the maintenance that goes into a car. It’s also a good tool to give to someone who is driving around with a check engine light for so long, like I once was. It’s a great way to protect your second-largest asset next to your home, your car.
The idea of telematics is to provide the customer with a tool that gives them a little more information and education about their car that they might not have. It then shares that information with the repair shop so the customer can have a little bit of detail as to what might be happening with his or her car. The repair shop is then looking at that same level of detail. It allows the customer to feel that they have some information to go off of as opposed to you calling the repair shop saying you have a check engine light on and the person on the other end speculating and giving you a list of all the things it could possibly be.
Most telematics providers work directly with the repair shops by wholesaling the device to them at a cost that essentially allows the shop to just give it to the customer. You download the app and connect to the device. The app doesn’t have to be open to get information from the device. It’s through Bluetooth. There is no GPS tracking so we don’t track where the car is being driven, we just track how far is it being driven. Once a shop has purchased the devices through us, we have an education process that includes a two-hour consultation. We use shops that have been the most successful with telematics as examples to other shops. A lot of customers don’t like the idea of being tracked, so we’ve created pamphlets and displays that go on the front counter of the shops and outline the misconceptions that the devices don’t do, like tracking.
The easiest way to explain the benefits is to a customer who doesn’t have peace of mind. There is a sense of panic that comes with not knowing when to come in. Often the issue is that people are busy. A lot of people ignore the small issues for a very long time and they become big costly repairs. Most shops prefer you come in and address your smaller issues more often than waiting a year and letting a small issue become a big issue. The smaller services and more frequent customers are easier to manage. If the car has a big repair, it may end up at a shop for days or weeks and takes up a lot of room, whereas a small repair can be there for an hour.