Improve the Driver Check-In Experience and Increase ROI for the Dealerships
The Xtime scheduling software was built in 2006 and it needed an a total overhaul. Their mobile and desktop applications are geared towards the both the consumer audience to schedule their vehicles and the dealerships to manage those appointments. Over 1 million appointments each week are generated with this software.
The first project on the roadmap was ServiceTab, a tablet application that replaces the paper form that the service advisors use when the driver pulls into the drivelane at the dealership. The product needed to surface the scheduled appointments and handle the unscheduled, or “walk-in” customers as well.
Make sure the Service Advisors embrace the ServiceTab product as much as they do the desktop application.
Stop the Bleeding
I had to find out why the dealerships would embrace the ServiceTab product for the first few months and then abandon the tablet and resort to paper – even when their manager was demanding the advisors to use the Xtime tablet to check-in drivers.
The tablet was supposed to make it easier and faster to check-in the customer when they arrive. I had to confirm these original goals are still the same goals for the redesign or if they learned anything different since the product was being used by over 200 dealerships already. For example:
- Was it more important to have a faster check-in or a more accurate check-in?
- Was it more important to get price approvals from the customer on the tablet instead of run back to the computer?
- What did the driver expect from the tablet?
Nobody really knew and said this was my mission to find out. So I had to simply update the goal because the dealerships loved Xtime but did not like the tablet.
I reviewed the analytics from various dealerships and ran reports on users and ROI. I was trained on the product and then had initial ideas of how to redesign ServiceTab but I needed trusted insight from Service Advisors for inspiration. I had to find out WHY the advisors embraced ServiceTab temporarily and then create a series of questions that I needed answered by both internal stakeholders and advisors at the dealerships.
Selling the UX Process
The original assignment was to redesign the tablet application. When I said, “great, which dealerships am I visiting?” They were curious why I needed this before designing the product. They needed to have me run through the process and explain in detail how I was going to execute this and how long it would take. I had to also remind them that the original design process failed and they need to embrace some UX best practices and methodologies this time around.
“Customers do not know how to build software, but they do know to share their workflow needs.”
They approved the initial budget and research timeframe so I had to get some good data from the initial dealerships visits. Game on. To begin, I drafted out a formal test plan (or project brief) that outlines the goals and strategies while also allowing the document to grow as a single source of truth for the research, reports, videos, insights, and prototype links. This was done on Confluence so all departments can have access to the data and prototypes at all times.
Before the Dealership Visits
It was important to get some fresh perspectives about the product and WHY each person would want a redesign. What’s working and what’s missing? What would they do if they took over the product?
I went to the sales and field consultant teams first because they work directly with the dealerships directly – and closest to the core personas than anyone else at the company. Second, I went to the customer support team to find out what big ticket issues keep showing up and also where they put product ideas that are not bugs and tickets. Next, I went to the product manager and get some insight on why these changes are not being addressed and what he would do if he could start over from scratch. Last, I interviewed the key executives who have vested interest in the success and find out why they think this product is not performing well. It’s a good way to get them involved in the process and also see if there are any hidden agendas or sacred cows that I need to know about.
Now I have their feedback, it’s time to see if the advisors and service managers feel the same way about the product and it’s potential.
At the Dealership
The advisors are busy from when they walk in the door at the dealership – often at 6AM – and there are vehicles waiting for them before they arrive. To get 5 minutes of uninterrupted time from them is near impossible. The phones are always ringing, customers in the waiting room are asking them questions, new service appointments are pulling into the drivelane, walk-in customers are waiting to squeeze in, technicians are asking them about the repair orders, and managers are curious about customers who had issues in the last few days.
The last thing they want is a researcher in their grill. I had to be respectful of the work they had to conduct and get questions answered in small 30-second chunks of time throughout the day. Collectively, I may have had 30 minutes of time with each advisor at the dealership over a span of 12 hours. Most dealerships have about 3-6 service advisors but larger dealerships and luxury brand dealerships will have more advisors because they have a one-on-one relationship with the driver and vehicle. In all cases, it’s tough to get their attention and the advisors who knew the most pretended to be the busiest.
Observation Day Schedule
|5:00AM||Travel||Leave hotel and get the best donuts around.|
|6:00AM||Service Desk||Ask the advisors what they do to start the day and why. Observe the morning rush.|
|7:00AM||Drive Lane||Take photos and videos of the process. Make detailed notes of each check-in and how long each check-in takes.|
|8:00AM||Drive Lane||Get trained by the advisor on how to check-in a customer.|
|9:00AM||Drive Lane||Shadowed by the advisor to check-in the drivers with ServiceTab.|
Shadowed by the advisor to check-in the drivers with paper form.
|11:00AM||Drive Lane||Now, having a deeper understanding of the process, make detailed notes. Watch vehicles from check-in to completion.|
|12:00PM||Reception||Tamale time! This is a good time to ask technicians questions who don’t feel like they have the ability to contribute.|
|1:00PM||Service Desk||Ask advisors and manager questions I did not have time for during the hectic morning.|
|2:00PM||Service Desk||Observe process of all vehicles and customers from today and yesterday.|
|3:00PM||Drive Lane||Observe how much ServiceTab is used after check-in. Watch advisors juggle 20-30 vehicles a day.|
|4:00PM||Shop||Observe how the technicians and the advisors work together to complete the work and get approvals from drivers.|
|5:00PM||Drive Lane||Wonder how the advisors do this everyday. This is exhausting!|
Observing the flow of some dealerships, it would sometimes take 40-50 minutes to check-in a customer and have them drive away with the loaner vehicle. I saw this as a huge opportunity to make ServiceTab handle some of these tasks and internal notifications that were being done by photocopies, printouts, sticky notes, and text messages.
The dealerships are valuable customers for Xtime and I have to be a good representative for the brand and also make sure I enhance any current relationships with the field consultants or sales department. I always make sure I build rapport with the participants so I can get approval from their sales contact to reach out to them via email after the visit and go back for future user testing. My grandmother taught me the best way to make friends is with homemade tamales. She was right.
After the Dealership Visits
Now that I got the initial observations from the current product, it’s “go time”! After a few weeks of time and a few rapid prototypes built, it’s time to validate the findings at high-volume dealerships where the relationship – and sales contract – is of importance to the company.
After the two reports and seven prototype updates, the executive team and the engineering team felt very confident this was priceless data that will make the new product a success. Now it’s time to go to new dealerships with the prototype and validate the findings.
By working closely with the product manager, I also have enough data to show how long the process will take from concept to launch. I also recommended that he come with me to the new dealerships so he can hear the feedback also.
Research & Planning
- Conduct stakeholder interviews
- Create detailed personas
- Develop test plan
- Recruit participants
- Write research questions
- Get budget approved
User Test & Design
- Wireframe screens
- Create flow charts
- Design prototypes
- Get feedback on prototypes
- Create elegant UI designs
- Build pattern library
- Collaborate with product managers
- Work closely with developers
- Monitor progress with team
- Verify core issues were addressed
- Track success metrics after launch
Without divulging important information that is proprietary to Xtime, I discovered the users wanted pretty typical things. But there were patterns that started to show that made it obvious that 3rd-party integrations would be a key part of the redesign.
After creating the prototypes and knowing this was going to work a lot better than the current product. The engineers built the product on the iOS platform since it could get to market faster and they would not have to manage two codebases. Plus the iPad and iPad mini form factors and cases available were bundled together at Xtime based on what I saw working best at dealerships.
“This beats the paper form in so many ways. Now I can greet the customer by name, checkin a walk-in customer, document the primary concern for the technicians, sell tires in the drivelane, have customer sell themselves on the best service package, and capture their email and phone number in case it changed.”
Service Advisor, BMW South Motors
The magic wand was creating the “shared experience” for both the driver and the advisor where they could look at the options and prices on the tablet. If the driver could see it on the tablet it did not feel like they were being sold and trusted the data. Once the advisor left the drivelane to get pricing, the driver would talk themselves out of any additional services.
Now the tablet is like a public catalog and the driver can feel they are in control of the situation and can make smarter decisions. The observations I made after the new ServiceTab was deployed were very positive from both drivers and advisors.
While observing the redesigned product at dealerships, I heard this frequently, “What do you think I should do?” the drivers would ask the advisors while looking at the good/better/best options for their service interval. This proved the trust between driver and advisor was achieved. Now the Service Advisor is excited to walk out with the tablet each time the customer drives up because it’s a game-changer and profit maker.
The Service Manager is can now see the value of the product and can see metrics based on time on tablet and ROI with the customer.
The Xtime internal stakeholders are seeing an increase in usage and fewer cancellations due to the fact that this is now better than the paper method and shows increase ROI in the drivelane.