Viewpoint: Telematics and vehicle relationship management

Technology companies are capitalizing on delivering automated CRM tools to make their mark within the technology industry. There also lies a similar opportunity for automakers in VRM (vehicle relationship management).

The recent buzz around VRM is catching its stride; however, the term has yet to be clearly defined with respect to priorities for the owner, dealer and automaker. Just as CRM tools lead to improved relationships between enterprises and their customers, VRM tools like remote diagnostics and preventative alerts lead to improved customer loyalty, opening up opportunities for a broader relationship with the customer and extending that relationship beyond the point of sale.

In order to fully understand VRM, it is critical to first look at vehicle owner needs.  According to a recent survey by DMEautomotive, 70 percent of consumers don’t know they need to replace their car battery until it’s too late; however, only nine percent indicated that a technician recommended a replacement. When vehicle owners do need repairs, they often research repair shops for cost and convenience before they go in for service. 

Owner loyalty

This leaves significant opportunity for increased dealer consideration, particularly with personalized recommendations, coupons and discounts either before or at the time service is needed. Dealership experiences reflect directly on automakers, enhancing or detracting from owner loyalty, so automakers benefit by assisting in the execution of these service recommendations and offers. 

The degree to which automakers and dealers can make the vehicle “easy to own” will drive the highest level of owner loyalty.

As automakers consider the benefit of built-in VRM solutions, they must consider the elements that directly benefit the driver and impact owner loyalty. Successful VRM solutions are deeply integrated between vehicle, dealer, and automaker, are cloud-based, and scalable. They deliver over-the-air updates to the vehicle, vehicle health reports to owners, and regularly monitor vehicle status. They take it a step further by ensuring the right experience through the right delivery mechanism, whether by e-mail, Web, mobile phone or vehicle head unit.

VRM solutions

So, what does a VRM solution look like in today’s vehicle? At Tweddle, we see this as the monitoring and maintenance of the vehicle such that it benefits drivers by giving them greater insight into the overall health and performance of their vehicle and taking care of necessary vehicle updates.

One simple example is over-the-air updates, enabling automakers to manage configurations of both In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) solutions as well as other control modules on the vehicle network. This ensures drivers have constant access to the most up-to-date technologies within their car, saving everyone involved time and money. 

The current sweet spot in VRM capabilities is in vehicle diagnosis and remote repair as it benefits the driver, automaker and dealer. Billions of dollars in warranty costs accrue to global automakers annually. The consumer is often taxed with fixes whose solutions could have been easily implemented with an over-the-air software update to a vehicle module, eliminating the inconvenience and cost of a service appointment.

Early diagnosis of vehicle status

Vehicle network monitoring can feed critical information directly to the dealer that allows an early diagnosis of the vehicle’s status, enabling the dealer to properly schedule the likely repair and ensure they have the necessary parts to support the customer on the first visit. 

Additionally, the monitoring of vehicle status enables the OEM to collect relevant vehicle data much earlier in the warranty analytics process, empowering their engineering and manufacturing organizations to respond quickly to field issues and significantly reduce warranty cost. 

Connecting the vehicle network also empowers drivers to address simple vehicle issues from their head unit, drives effective and efficient service business to dealer repair shops, and increases dealers’ ‘fix it right the first time’ scores.

As we continue examining VRM, its impact to automaker, dealer and driver, and where it’s headed in the future, there seems to be an endless amount of exciting applications to these solutions. These include personalized service offerings from the dealer to the driver, dealer-delivered incentives in conjunction with service reminders, and usage-based insurance telematics rewarding drivers with safe driving.

At Tweddle, we feel the future is bright for VRM. Where do you think this technology is headed?

Andy Tweddle is CEO of Tweddle Group.

For more on Tweddle, see Q&A: Telematics meets Tweddle.

For more on VRM, see Industry insight: The connected car and Industry insight: Telematics and apps.

For all the latest trends in connectivity, visit Content and Apps for Automotive USA 2012 on December 4-5 in San Diego.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Telematics Munich 2012 on October 29-30, Telematics for Fleet Management USA 2012 on November 13-14 in Atlanta and V2X for Auto Safety and Mobility Europe 2013 on February 19-20, 2013 in Frankfurt.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: In-Vehicle Smartphone Integration Report, Human Machine Interface Technologies and Smart Vehicle Technology: The Future of Insurance Telematics.

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