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Innovation in Action

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Innovation doesn't always have to be introducing an earth shattering new piece of technology. Sometimes, the most effective innovations are small tweaks to your processes that help fill a customer need. Here are four examples within each segment of fixed ops that showcase how innovation came to be—from identifying the need to the execution of the idea.

Innovation in the Service Department

Keeping up with customers’ expectations is essential in order to be able to compete

Mark Ventrillo only recently joined Peacock as its fixed operations director, but he brought with him an impressive background that includes 25 years of experience in sales, service and dealer development. Before joining Peacock, he was the service director and general sales manager for Hendrick Automotive.

“There are smartphones, and smartwatches, and now there are smart cars—they let people know when the appointment is needed,” Ventrillo says.

Service departments that fail to take advantage of these capabilities and collecting the information will be left behind.

“You need to be able to email or text [customers],” Ventrillo explains.

With the technology that’s available now, Ventrillo says it’s like webMD for vehicles. Service departments can get information about vehicles before they even come in, plus, they can send alerts out to customers and create additional touchpoints and bring more people in.

The Need: Texting information to customers and providing videos is what customers expect now, so in order to succeed, service departments need to be doing this. Ventrillo estimates that over 80 percent of his service customers take advantage of this, especially millennials.  

“They communicate better on iPads than they do in person,” Ventrillo laughs. “It’s crazy.”

But in all seriousness, today’s consumer expects results quick, and doesn’t necessarily need personal interaction the way they once did, Ventrillo says.  

The Response: Technology is here to stay, so Ventrillo has found a way to incorporate it into his service department.

In fact, Ventrillo just finished up training the last group of his technicians on iPads.

 “You have to be able to adapt in service, morsoe now than ever before, Ventrillo explains.

The ability to scan cars is also something on which Ventrillo places a huge focus. One of the reasons is because of the amount of cars that have had flood damage that isn’t reported.

“You need to be able to scan those vehicles and let people know that they’ve been in floods,” Ventrillo explains.

The Result: The iPads allow technicians to show customers exactly what is going on with their vehicles, which helps add to the bottom line.

“It definitely sells more work,” Ventrillo says.  

Today’s consumer doesn’t have the time to wait around, even to pay, so creating conveniences like being able to pay online and authorize work electronically has been one way that that Peacock Automotive has answered its customers’ needs in a big way. It’s also been a way to attract the younger market.  

Innovation in the Collision Repair Center

Finding future potential in overlooked areas can help set your business above the rest

Most people would have looked at the building and seen it for what it was—an abandoned beer distributor—and thought nothing more. But not Warner Peacock, owner of Peacock Automotive Group. Peacock saw an opportunity.

The building was perfect. At 36,000 square feet, and six minutes from the Peacock Automall (the headquarters of the Peacock Automotive Group that houses eight dealerships), the South Carolina building was the perfect future site for the Peacock Collision Center.

Peacock found a way to see past the exterior of the building and see its business potential. He found a way to provide a service for his customers before they even knew they needed it.

The Need: Not only was a collision repair center filling a need for customers, it also made sense for Peacock Automotive because it kept customers in house and created an additional profit center.

“He [Warner] saw the opportunity for revenue,” Jauch says. “We were sending customers out to a different vendor, now the customer stays within the family.”

Another reason for the collision repair center was it was a safe bet. Jauch explains that unfortunately, people will always get into collisions and need work on their cars, so a collision repair center is a service that will continue to be needed.

Before making the final decision, Peacock Automotive made sure there was a need in the market for an additional collision repair shop and that the business move made sense, Jauch explains.

The Response: Once Peacock decided he wanted a collision repair center, Jauch says it moved fairly quickly. The center, which opened in 2014, is what collision repair manager Joanie Iaco describes as a “dream shop.” Take a tour of the facility here.

Iaco started her career in a Lexus collision repair center in South Florida, which she really enjoyed, but said Peacock is great because everything is housed in one 36,000-square-foot facility rather than being split up between different buildings, which is what she was used to.

Not only is the collision repair center massive and an attractive and convenient option for Peacock Automotive customers, it also has found a way to get additional customers through its list of 14 certifications and the fact that’s it’s the only Audi certified collision repair center in the area.

“If you have a luxury vehicle, it needs to come to us,” Jauch says.

When it comes to selecting the certifications, Iaco says it’s all about figuring out what the need is for customers. It also makes decisions based on the equipment and training it already has. For example, the collision repair center has most of the equipment needed for the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) certification already, so it’s working toward getting that.

“Audi and Porsche will use the same stuff, and that can be used for JLR,” Iaco says. “It’s about growing on top of what we already have.”

Not only has the collision repair center widened its customer base, it’s also helped solve operation issues. Before, the cars that were sent from the manufacturer were being sent to the auto mall for the PDI process. Because the auto mall is on a frontage road, it opened caused traffic. With the opening of the collision repair center, Peacock saw an opportunity to free that road up by sending vehicles there instead to have photos taken and be detailed.

The Result: The collision repair center has been a success for Peacock and according to Jauch and Iaco, there’s still more opportunity there.

“I have room for more techs and cars. I come from a shop where we would work in shifts,” Iaco says. “This is a really booming community, and I’m hoping to be able to do shifts again.”

Iaco also says the collision repair center is looking to add even more certifications to its list.

Innovation in the Parts Department

 Identifying a new customer base is an ideal way to bring in additional revenue  

Mark Ventrillo, director of fixed operations for Peacock Automotive, says his start in the industry actually came out of his hobby, which was collecting British cars. 25 years later and this hobby actually served as the inspiration for a parts department overhaul that has helped not only clear out inventory but create an additional revenue stream: e-commerce.   

The Need: Peacock buys a lot of stores, according to Ventrillo, and many of them are older, which means they tend to inherit a rather large parts inventory. Parts that are just sitting on a shelf do no good for dealerships and aren’t meeting any need for customers that are coming into the store. However, they might meet a need for a new customer base, which was the thought process behind Ventrillo’s idea to start selling these overstocked parts online.

The Response: “Being that I was a hobbyist, I’m always looking online,” Ventrillo says. “I saw all of the parts and with DropShift available, I put it all together.”

Ventrillo is still working on the initiative but he is working on getting online parts sales up and running at all of the locations.

The Result: “When it’s there and sitting stagnant, it’s not doing anyone any good,” Ventrillo says of the overstocked parts inventory.

By selling parts online, you’re liquidating parts and picking up money that wasn’t there before, even if it’s not a big percentage, he explains.

Another bonus, you’re filling a need for people that are looking for parts and creating yet another touch point for customers.

 Innovation with Added Services

Once your staff is on board with your new idea, you need to execute it in the right way to ensure success  

Around two years ago, Carousel Motor Group, a 7-location luxury dealership in the Minneapolis area. started offering after sales items, an idea Wayne Pisinski, vice president of fixed operations with Carousel, worked on for about a year and a half prior to executing it.

The Need: Pisinski got the idea after reviewing expenses.

“I was reviewing outside service for protective paint film; it was a significant amount of money,” Pisinski says.

The Response: After that realization, Pisinski figured it was worth looking into, as well as a couple of other services that Carousel had been paying outside companies to do.

“I thought, if we put all of that together, it’s definitely a business,” Pisinski says.

In the end, he decided on protective paint film, wheel repair and PDR. He decided the best way to do it would be to launch one at a time and build them up until they were successful.

The first service was paint film. The reasoning behind this was that Pisinski felt the cost of entry was reasonable and that training was readily available.

“It felt like the easiest baby step to take,” Pisinski says.

 Pisinski originally planned on having it up and running in a quarter, but it ended up taking a full nine months.

 “We stumbled a few times,” Pisinski explains.

Once Pisinski was happy with the process and started to see results, he launched wheel repair and then repeated that process before launching PDR. He decided to do PDR last because there’s a lot of competition in his area for that type of work, so he felt as though chiseling out a marketplace seemed a bit challenging.

The Result: The three services have helped bring in additional revenue, and currently the group is looking to add more services. Right now, it’s looking at doing minor touch-ups on bumpers and interiors.

“That’s what we’ve done. We’ve taken what was an expense and turned it into what is now $2 million in revenue per year. In the past, we would have been writing the check. Now, that check is to us,” he says.


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