Meineke Car Care Center’s brand identity focuses on convenience, reliability and transparency for its franchises and consumers, says president Danny Rivera. Rivera shares with Ratchet+Wrench how the brand will continue this in the foreseeable future by investing in technology, rolling out new initiatives and taking inspiration from the fast food franchise model.
What are the biggest changes you see coming to Meineke in the next year?
For several years now customers have grown to expect convenient service at the touch of a button. That desire for convenience has translated to the automotive industry and allows us to eliminate barriers to vehicle service by creating programs that promote convenience. Now, instead of calling to schedule an appointment, customers can schedule an appointment online.
An example of what Meineke is doing with this is the e-inspection process we’re currently piloting. With the e-inspection, customers receive a digital vehicle inspection that is easier to understand than the traditional paper-based process. By delivering the inspection electronically, we’re able to share more information with our customers. If they need their serpentine belt changed, a video can be attached that shows exactly what it is and its function. The end result is heightened trust with the consumer because they’re empowered with information in a format they understand, helping them make an educated decision about vehicle care. Completing a vehicle inspection on tablets instead of on paper streamlines the inspection process.
We have refined how we capture data from each transaction to create a more intimate and tailored relationship with our customers. For example, instead of telling every customer that hasn’t been in a center in three months they need an oil change, we can look at customer data (ex: miles driven, recent behavior, age of vehicle and manufacturer recommendations) to communicate more accurate service needs. That way, when customers come to our centers, they know exactly what services they need to keep their car on the road.
We’re also going to be recognizing customer loyalty through Meineke Rewards, which is a point system that is centered around convenience. Customers will get rewarded for work done to their cars. They will get a point for every dollar that is spent and those points can be accrued and traded in for services on an a la carte-type menu.
Why did Meineke decide to do the e-Inspection and the rewards app?
The e-inspection program was established to dramatically improve the customer experience at a Meineke while streamlining the inspection process for our centers and customers. It is intentionally designed to empower customers with a lot of information using pictures, easy-to-read writing and full transparency on vehicle issues.
The overarching goal of the rewards program is to provide as much value for our customers as possible while fostering loyalty. When you think of it, it doesn’t make sense to get rewards for buying coffee but not for taking care of your car. The rewards program was also developed to give our centers deeper insights into our customers so we can continue adapting to their needs based on their behavior. This allows us to continue refining the way we interact with customers, directly answering consumer demand for personal conversation.
How have these initiatives been received?
When we roll something out, we look at two things: How does the consumer react and how does the shop react? The soft launch of the rewards program was upwards of 70 percent of our shops, which was pretty aggressive for a soft launch. February’s hard launch saw 85 percent involvement from our shops. As of March, we had 100,000 consumers enrolled after just one TV spot.
Both of these initiatives are centered around technology. Why is technology so important to Meineke?
Technology makes life better. It allows us to access an infinite amount of information, we can speak to people anywhere in the world, and accomplish tasks faster and more efficiently. When it comes to cars, there’s a great opportunity to integrate technology that will streamline how people interact with both their vehicle and their car care partner. Not many have this figured out. I’m confident Meineke will in the months and years to come.
The day will come when a customer can wake up to their phone reminding them of a vehicle service need, informing them of the closest Meineke center and sharing the next few available time slots for that service. Imagine if the same app gave the customer an idea of how many rewards points they’d get for the service—that’s the type of service we look forward to offering.
What else is in store?
We are working on an initiative to introduce a connected car concept to consumers. The best way to describe it is it’s like Fitbit for your car. It’s for consumers who want to understand their vehicles better—what they do, how they work. This year, we plan on having between 50 and 100 stores that will start to play around with the concept. Full rollout will be based on the results of that program.
Our goal is to provide convenient, reliable, transparent service to our customers. The connected car initiative will provide the data and connectivity necessary to create a world-class customer experience. At the end of the day, it’s about keeping customers in safe, road-worthy vehicles. We’re not just in the automotive repair space; we’re in the business of providing peace of mind.
How do you see franchises changing or evolving in the future?
The most successful franchised businesses in the future will leverage technology while simultaneously streamlining and standardizing daily operations. By staying close to consumer demand and getting ahead of it when possible, and leveraging technology to foster intimate customer relationships, franchises will remain relevant. For Meineke, our system has an advantage smaller automotive businesses don’t: We can leverage our size and purchase power to push through important, complex initiatives like the mobile app, e-inspection tablet and more. Our goal is always to provide convenient, reliable and transparent service to customers while evolving to meet consumer demand.
In 5–10 years, the Meineke connected car app will tell customers when they’re due for service, what parts are needed, and how driving habits impact the services and parts needed. The app will tell customers how many rewards points they have, and if any of the services they need can be performed for free with redemption. To date, no one in our space has championed the seamless integration of car, driver, and car care partner. We’re excited to develop this program.