Toyota Motor North America’s digital retailing service Smartpath makes it easier for shoppers to buy and finance their vehicles online. Now the brand is rolling out a new service platform, which more than one-third of its dealers have already committed to support. On this episode of Inside Automotive, host Jim Fitzpatrick is joined by John Myers, general manager of retail transformation for Toyota Motor North America and Matt Heydon, group manager of retail transformation for Toyota Financial Services, to discuss these new platforms and how dealers are getting involved.
Myers notes that Smartpath originated ten years ago out of a desire to prepare Toyota and its dealers for the market of the future. Even a decade ago, it was clear that customer shopping preferences were changing under the influence of e-commerce brands like Amazon. New generations of car buyers prioritized convenience, making the typical, hours-long dealership experience obsolete. “We really started to dig deep and talk to our dealers about what the customers…wanted the shopping experience to be,” Myers explains. Over time, several themes emerged from these conversations: transparency, efficiency and trust. These three values were missing from Toyota’s sales and financing operations, which is why Smartpath was created to accelerate the process for both dealers and shoppers.
The advantages of using Smartpath are twofold. First, since they have extra insight into the process, customers are happier with their purchase and more likely to recommend their dealers to friends and family. Second, since the platform simplifies and streamlines the financing process, dealers spend less time talking with each customer, allowing them to take more clients and close more deals. Seeing how smoothly and effectively the new service was integrated into Toyota’s dealers, the automaker decided to apply the same principles and ideas to the fixed operations departments with a new platform titled Smarthpath for Service.
“Obviously, a consumer will buy a vehicle or lease a vehicle once every three, four, five years, but they’ll service their vehicle one to two and even three times a year depending on their mileage,” Myers remarks. By getting these clients in and out of the dealership faster, technicians can handle greater work volumes and boost customer service scores. Toyota Motor’s Smartpath for Service achieves this through a four-step process. First, customers schedule their appointment online. Then, on arriving at the dealership, they perform an electronic check-in, letting the service team know they’re ready. Next, the technician will work on the vehicle, recording short updates for clients to view issues and track progress. Finally, once service is complete, the customer checks-out and takes their vehicle home. “It streamlines everything,” notes Heydon, “and it also allows specifically the dealership to have full visibility of what’s occurring with that customers, and overall it offers a better customer experience.”
Toyota is encouraging dealers to join the Smartpath for Service program so they can unlock greater revenue, higher customer ratings and improved fixed operations efficiency. “This was built with our dealers for our dealers,” notes Myers, adding that many OEMs have yet to develop a platform with the same functionality and impact. By emphasizing a digital service experience, the automaker and its retailers are gaining a head start in the car market of tomorrow.