CAR DEALERSHIP COMMUNICATION
Date & Duration
Sept - Oct 2020
Going into this project, I had a slim understanding of the car dealership process. I was able to conduct a pertinent interview with the owner of a dealership that proved crucial for the development of the project. I used this to narrow our scope and guide the rest of the process. My responsibilities included, but were not limited to, creating experience principles, aiding in the development of our service blueprints, and creating lo-fi mock-ups of our design in Whimsical.
Shelby Benton, Shantanu Kashyap, Ria Sali, Kaitlyn Tran
What I Learned
This project taught me a lot about working a lot with very little. When our project brief provided very little direction, I learned that constraints are your friend. This project seemed to be a turning-point in my UX education, and I was able to see all the knowledge I had acquired over the past three years be put to use. From utilizing new methods, new tools, and new project management, this was a huge growth opportunity for me as a designer.
The Problem & Goal
The team worked as "consultants" for Toyota throughout the duration of this project. Our classmates acted as the client and provided the brief to us. The problem they presented to us focused on the communication between Toyota dealerships, and its impact on the customer experience. Our goal was to design a communication platform that aids in the alignment of their vision for customer experience, thus, resulting in a more consistent experience across dealerships.
Dealer Portal is a communication platform that focuses on trade deals that happen between dealerships. Dealer Portal allows car salespeople to view and change the status of their own inventory for other dealerships to see, and to see the status of other local inventory if they need to arrange a trade deal.
Trade deals can directly influence the customer experience because the availability of inventory can impact the time in which a customer receives their car, and whether the salesperson can provide accurate and timely information to the customer.
When the salesperson wants to check their own inventory, they click the top half and are greeted with the next screen.
When the salesperson wants to check inventory of another dealership, they click the bottom half and are greeted with the next screen.
Salesperson can search for a specific car.
Salesperson can easily access recent searches.
Salesperson can change the status of the car they are currently showing.
Salesperson can view the status of other cars at the dealership.
Salesperson can search for a specific car.
Salesperson can easily view the status of the car they wish to receive from a trade.
Salesperson can view the distance and detail of the car.
Research & Methods
To begin, the team created several guiding questions that would aid us in focusing our research. These were based off of questions we had from the brief, along with questions we had about the relevance of the problem. The questions were as follows:
Why do dealerships need/want to talk to each other?
Why would they partner with other dealerships?
How does this impact the overall customer experience?
How do dealerships currently communicate?
Comparative Analysis | to analyze other industries' communication platforms
We analyzed platforms that other industries use for intercommunication purposes in order to see why these platforms are used, how they are used successfully/unsuccessfully, and to uncover relevant insights as to how these platforms contribute to their overall customer experience.
Health Information Exchange (HIE)
Multiple Listing Service (MLS) -- my contribution
Nitto Tire Dealer
Honda Information Network
Polaris Ride Ready -- my contribution
Geographic location may have different restrictions on user information
Industries can have competition but still share information
Discussion forums are useful for employees to talk (informally)
The customer experience benefits by creating a central location for all pertinent information
Chat rooms for inter-dealership communication primarily deal with incentive charts, data, etc.
What | Informal, 20 minute interviews
With Who | I interviewed 1 car dealership owner & my teammates interviewed 2 car buyers
Goals | By going into our interviews with several goals, we knew what we wanted to get out of it, which streamlined our research process. These goals were:
Understand communication processes between car dealerships
Understand pain points of the car buying experience
Indenfity service gaps
Insights | The insights that I uncovered from my interview with the dealership owner proved to be very influential in our ideation and brainstorming. We narrowed our scope to trade deals because of it. These insights were:
Dealers conduct trade deals in which they switch cars and car parts between dealerships
They do about 8-10 of these a month
There is rarely any other communication outside of these exchanges
The customer experience is only considered for individual dealerships
Phone calls, emails, and texts are their primary forms of communication
Surveys at Kia Hyundai keep individual dealerships accountable
There is a money incentive to dealerships based on their survey scores
Experience Principles | guidelines that we plan to commit to
Based on our secondary research and interviews, the team created experience principles that acted as a guide for our future ideation. These became points of reference for us as we began to flesh out one idea, and enabled us to check that we were focusing on desired outcomes. Our most pertinent experience principles included:
to commit to a transparent and streamlined buying process
ensure that inventory fits customer needs
provide information and sales in a timely manner
The success of each of these experience principles' can be impacted by trade deals because availability of inventory can impact the time in which a customer receives their car and whether the salesperson can provide accurate and timely information to the customer.
Service Blueprints | current and new
All of our research insights up until this point informed our creation of a service blueprint of the current dealership process. The blueprint helped us pinpoint a part of the service that directly contributes to the customer experience. This helped us figure out where we felt we could make an impact, since we aren’t able to completely change the competitive nature of car dealerships. We focused on when the salespeople check their own inventory and may need to arrange a trade deal with another dealership.
Current Service Blueprint
New Service Blueprint
After creating our solution, Dealer Portal, the team revisited the service blueprint and updated it to include the impact of our solution. As you can see, Dealer Portal changes the way car dealerships communicate with other dealerships. The significantly improves the overall service and car buying experience because the time it takes for a customer to receive their new car is lowered, customers are given accurate information about inventory, and salespeople are updated immediately about availability.
Prototyping & User Testing
The team sketched throughout the project. Once we finalized a solution, I was able to begin wireframing in Whimsical. We conducted user testing, then iterated on our design. Because the team was focused on how our solution impacted the service, we chose not to dive into higher fidelity prototyping. An interactive hi-fi prototype was not our end goal.
The team sketched in conjunction with each research method and their various insights. A few of my sketches are shown below that highlight the dealer portal transformation.
What | Expectation vs. reality testing
With Who | 4 users
Structure | Gave participants a scenario (imagine you are a car salesperson...) and showed a specific feature to see how they interpret its purpose and capabilities
Goals | By going into testing with several goals, we knew what we wanted to get out of it, which streamlined our iteration process. These goals were:
Determine if users understand the concept
Discover how they interpret the system's capabilities and features
Insights & Iterations | Insights that we received from this testing allowed us to iterate on our designs. Some insights were:
confusion about top vs. bottom half of screens -----> made separation more distinct
discrepancies between status and car color -----> gave cars a hover label to distinguish
would search for type of car first, not location -----> portal automatically shows closest location
One of our final deliverables included a plan for implementation to describe how Toyota would be able to transition to using Dealer Portal.
it will take a certain level of adoption for salespeople
may encounter some resistance
minimal, but necessary maintenance and input from salespeople
easy to train employees
improved customer experience
avoids false hope, quicker turnaround
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