It’s another year, which means it’s time for another Consumer Reports annual reliability survey. Whether or not you agree with the results, the folks at CR do make a valid point. Much of the satisfaction of the overall vehicle comes from the satisfaction of the infotainment system. Infotainment systems are the components of the car that received the lowest scores in reliability from those surveyed, and I don’t believe it’s because they’re actually unreliable. On the contrary, I think it’s lack of knowledge on how to use them is the ultimate problem.

A few months back, I had an opportunity to get an early demo of Apple’s CarPlay system in the 2015 Hyundai Sonata. In order to use that system, the driver must connect his or her iPhone directly to the vehicle with a Lightning to USB cable. Hyundai, along with any other manufacturer that works closely with Apple, will tell you that the requirement of plugging the cable in is an Apple requirement, and not a pitfall of their infotainment system. The cable requirement does have an added benefit to Hyundai; according to surveys of their customers, many people find it easier to plug a phone directly into the car than to attempt to pair it via Bluetooth.

Consumer Reports also cites difficulty pairing Bluetooth as one of the big complaints about infotainment systems. I’m a technologically-savvy Millennial that currently works in the automotive space, so I don’t find infotainment systems that difficult, but some do take getting used to. But with the average age of a car on the road at 11.4 years, many people buying new cars these days have no idea about the complex infotainment options that are offered. In my opinion, the problem isn’t with the manufacturer, but with the dealerships (since laws prohibit dealerships doing a Tesla or Apple Store model, you should still try to think like those stores). Here’s how I’d go about getting around them.

  • Train your salespeople. Properly. Not only should a salesperson know the inventory on the lot, but they should also know how to use the infotainment and other technologies in the car. They should be able to demonstrate them to a customer. They should be able to demonstrate them without prompting from the customer. Recently, an engineer at Ram pointed out to my friend Kristin at InDeepH2O that the RamBox is great for groceries. Being able to point out useful features of the car and infotainment system that the customer probably hasn’t thought of is a great way to sell them on the feature (and make you more money).
  • Pair the customer’s phone! This should be a no-brainer. When I buy a device at an Apple store, the rep usually offers to set it up for me. Why can’t a salesperson go ahead and pair the customer’s phone to the Bluetooth in the car right then and there? It’s really simple, and is one of the biggest complaints about infotainment from customers. Why not just solve the problem right there and walk the customer through it?
  • Hold regular training sessions. Have an infotainment Q&A once a month where you invite people in to see a presentation or ask questions. It gets them back into your dealership, building a positive relationship with the customer, but it also helps them work through any frustrations they may have. Again, I can go to classes at an Apple Store, I should be able to attend classes at a dealership. Cars are complicated devices, and an event like this can be a very cost-effective way to improve customer satisfaction.
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Part of the reasoning behind Elon Musk not wanting to franchise Tesla dealerships is because he knows that salespeople won’t be trained properly about his cars along with the other vehicles that dealership sells. If the customer is more comfortable with the infotainment system before going home the first time, they’ll be less frustrated and will score the vehicle higher on these types of surveys. They’ll also score your dealership higher in satisfaction when it comes time to take those surveys as well. Think about it.

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