Dean Harrison is president of Maximus Auto Group, a New Albany, Ind.-based F&I product and training provider with dealer clients throughout the United States. Agent Entrepreneur sat down with Harrison to get an inside look at MyCar Mobile, an app the company developed to help dealers connect with Millennial car buyers and, with time, build the brand loyalty most marketers say is lacking in younger generations.
AE: What’s on your mind as we begin the New Year?
Harrison: I’m very interested in Millennials and how they interact. They are the next generation of car buyers and they’re really starting to come into their own. What can we do as a product administrator to target Millennials so dealers can maintain them as customers down the road? If we can figure out how to treat Millennials, we’re doing a great service to our dealers.
AE: Do you agree with those who say Millennials have less brand loyalty than prior generations?
Harrison: There’s research that says Millennials actually are very brand-loyal. And we all know Millennials like ease and convenience. They want ready access to data and information. I believe we have an opportunity, through online and social media platforms, to provide that. So the question is not whether they have more or less brand loyalty but how dealers can build loyalty in their own brand.
AE: How do they do that?
Harrison: Interact with young people on their level. Eighty-five percent of Millennials have and use smartphones. One in five are using it exclusively for Web browsing. They’ve given up the desktop and the laptop. In response, we developed an app we call MyCar Mobile. When a Millennial buys one of our F&I products, our app makes it easy to learn more and makes the claim process very easy. They’ve got access 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Millennials don’t want to pick up the phone and call somebody when they have a problem or a question. They want to get the answer from their smartphone. If they can, they will reward the provider with loyalty. And we custom-brand the app to the dealership. So every time they use it, they think of the dealership, because the dealership’s name and contact information is front and center.
AE: And the app has to work.
Harrison: It has to work and it has to be easy to use. We built MyCar Mobile so that anybody can pick it up and use it. A first-time user can find and hit the “How to File a Claim” button. It knows what products and what coverage each customer has. And not only can they can do everything right on their mobile device, the dealer can use the app to send push notifications back to the customer. As soon as the customer files a claim, they see that their status changes and they know they’ll be continually updated by push notifications.
AE: Are they introduced to the app at the dealership?
Harrison: Ideally, yes. We have to make sure the dealer does a good job of communicating that the app is available to them. They can download it from the Apple or Android app store while they’re still at the dealership. If an F&I manager has time, they can go over it with them.
It’s a very good customer service tool. Some customers still want to make that phone call and talk to a live person. If that’s how they want to interact, that’s fine. They’ll just use the “Customer Service” button. If they want to talk to their dealer, they will see their contact information.
I want to allow customers to interact with us, however they want to do it. And you’re absolutely right. It should be introduced at the store because dealers should want their customers to have the app. Get it installed on their smartphone. Tell them what it can do and how to do it.
AE: Where exactly did the idea for the app come from?
Harrison: It came from my desire to provide the best customer service in the industry. We looked at where customers would be in the future. How can we provide dealers with the right level of service? All the research we’ve done tells us this is where the customer is gravitating. They are moving toward the mobile device.
AE: Do you believe Millennials could ultimately buy more F&I products than older customers?
Harrison: Look, budgeting is a way of life for Millennials. They’re coming out of college with almost $30,000 in debt. They’re forced to budget. They don’t have a lot of discretionary income. They may not be aware of unexpected expenses that can occur. We’ve all had flat tires or lost a set of keys. Today’s keys are expensive, and we are seeing an increase in key claims. Many Millennials don’t realize how expensive these items can be, so we need to focus on how they can budget for these out-of-pocket expenses.
Another area I think is very important to consider is that they are very well-researched. Many of them may be aware of what GAP is, but they may not be aware of how valuable it can be. Credit.com recommends putting 20% down on your new-car purchase because cars typically lose 21% of their value in the first year. However, according to an Edmunds.com survey, the average Millennial is only willing to put $3,000 down on their vehicle purchase. We know that the average new-car transaction is over $33,500, so if Millennials want to stay in line, they would need to put $6,700 down — and that’s before taxes and fees.
With the right presentation, Millennials should absolutely be great customers for F&I products. But they want to be educated. They don’t want to be advertised to or marketed to. They want to be educated and make educated decisions.
AE: The app sounds like an expensive project. Why take the risk?
Harrison: Building a full-featured, full-functioned app takes a lot of time, effort and development cost. The decision for me was not so much based on how quickly we would make that money back. I pushed for the app because I knew this is where I wanted our company to be.
I came out of the retail industry. I sold cars and I sat in the F&I office. I know that, if the product doesn’t perform up to the customer’s expectations, it’s a bad deal all around. I never wanted to put one of my dealers in that situation. So, ultimately, moving forward with MyCar Mobile was a pretty easy decision, because it’s the right thing to do for our customers and our dealers.
I’m optimistic that our investment will pay off for everyone involved. In our industry, change is constant. Our customers are always evolving. I want to be able to provide the tools dealers need to keep up.
And let’s face it, many dealers are set in their ways. They can be slow to change. And I think one reason may be that they don’t know how. What is the next step? If I can help a dealer in that regard, if I can make it easier for the dealer to take that next step, that’s what I want to do. We’re going to assist the dealers in this process and help them get back some of the brand loyalty they’ve been missing.