Carisma The key to gaining consumer trust

The mechanical repair industry, indeed the entire automotive industry, is a pretty remarkable sector to be working in these days.

It’s an industry full of talented people working on and repairing vehicles of extraordinary complexity that only get more complicated with every new model generation. It’s incredible to think, for instance, that there is more computing power in a modern car than NASA used to send astronauts to the moon.

But while the vehicles, and the job, are evolving and will continue to evolve, one thing that hasn’t changed, and will never change, is the importance of customer service and gaining the trust of the consumer. Without customers, after all, there is no business.

And gaining that trust has been something of a challenge for workshops. It’s not all that long ago that Canstar Blue, the customer satisfaction research and ratings company, carried out a survey that revealed ‘four out of five Australian motorists are wary of being ripped off when they take their vehicle for a service’.

That’s a lot of wary people and while it may be unfair, and certainly not true for most hard-working shops, the perception of being less than completely trustworthy is one that has nagged at the industry for years.

But a new system has been launched that is designed precisely to redefine and remedy that relationship between workshop and customer, and build a level of trust not seen before.

Called Carisma, the system works by giving the customer a behind-the-scenes view of the work being carried out on their vehicle by using visual reports – reports that use photographs and text to show and explain exactly what work is being done, is going to be done, should be done, and has been done.

It is the brainchild of brothers Tyson and Lloyd Young and their colleague Johan Venter and, like all the best ideas, Carisma is not only an elegant and simple solution to a vexing problem but a solution that also has more than one string to its bow.

It’s easy to learn, simple to use and not only keeps the customer informed, but can save a workshop time and money, and even increase business through positive feedback via innovative social media features.
“Carisma is a communication tool, not workshop management software,” said Tyson. “We don’t manage the undertakings of the workshop but focus instead on the communication between mechanics, technicians, workshops and car owners.”

Carisma consists of two elements – a website through which a workshop manager can login to a dashboard, oversee the work coming through the shop and send visual reports to customers, and an app which is downloaded to technicians’ smartphones, manages the images taken using the phone and makes them available to the workshop manager via the dashboard.

It’s a simple and quick process.

“When a customer brings their car into the shop, the first thing the workshop manager does is enter some basic information, such as contact details and vehicle registration,” said Tyson. “That job is then automatically populated onto the dashboard and the mobile app.

“When the technician logs into the app they see a list of registration plates representing the vehicles to be worked on. They click one of the rego plates, select their name from the technician’s list and are then prompted to take a photo of the vehicle. This first photo becomes the ‘cover’ image of the customer’s visual report. All photos taken are automatically uploaded to the dashboard and, from there, the workshop manager can choose which become part of the visual report.

“A simple URL (website) link is sent to the customer in a text message, and that link takes them directly to the report. There is no downloading required and no requirement for them to have access to the mobile app either. For the customer, the process is pain free and simple.”

It’s a system that not only gives the customer real insight into the work being done on their vehicle but also gives them peace of mind.

“People love the ‘behind the scenes’ element,” said Tyson. “Even if they don’t really know what they are looking at, the fact you are showing them and explaining it to them makes a world of difference. It’s can be empowering for a customer and help build trust.”

The beauty of the Carisma system is that it has power beyond that of showing the customer the work being done. Carisma can, thanks to the images being date and time-stamped, be used to collect information on existing vehicle damage, or to acquire work authorisation. Should, for example, a technician discover a vehicle’s brake pads need changing, images can be taken, a visual report can be sent to the customer, and a reply authorising the repair can be received in just minutes.

“The next major feature we’re building is work authorisations. With this a car owner can either reply ‘yes’ to the message or can call the workshop to discuss the problem,” said Tyson. “That work may still take some explaining but with the photo it might reduce a 15-minute conversation into one that takes just three minutes.”

Another innovative feature of Carisma is its ability to link with social media. A vital part of any business strategy, platforms such as Facebook give people the power to comment positively or negatively about services they receive from a business. Recognising this, the Carisma team built into the visual report a feature allowing customers to do just that via a series of emojis (those happy or sad faces that are everywhere on social media these days).

“One of the ways businesses are growing is through social media,” said Tyson. “Businesses know this, but not that many are doing much about – perhaps because it’s just another thing to think about and can be quite overwhelming.”

“We wanted to automate that process and get the customers to drive it. So, we have emojis across the bottom of the visual report that range from ‘really happy’ to ‘shocked’. If a customer taps the smiling emoji, we know they are likely to have had a great experience, so we send them an email which directs them to the workshop’s Facebook page, and ask them for a review. Alternatively, if they should tap the ‘shocked’ emoji we immediately send a notification to the workshop manager with a recommendation that they call the customer.”

It’s a clever way to have some control on customer commentary and head off any disparaging opinions at the pass.

Getting Started
While Carisma is still a young and evolving product and business, its development can be traced directly to industry and Tyson and Lloyd’s father, Chris Young, owner of Ultra Tune Capalaba in south-east Brisbane.
Chris has owned and operated the Ultra Tune store with his wife Vicki for 12 years but earlier in Chris’s career he served 20 years with the Australian Navy.

“Dad brings that military focus on trust and integrity with him into the business,” said Tyson.

Keen to be accountable for the work they did and to help educate customers on the work they were doing, Chris implemented a system of taking photos to show his customers what was being done to their vehicles.
The results were dramatic and feedback from customers was tremendous – being able to see exactly where, and on what, their money was being spent was, apparently, exactly what they wanted. Even the technicians, who at the beginning were wary of another layer of administration being required of them, soon embraced it.

“When mechanics first start doing it, there is a natural tendency to think ‘Why do we have to do this?’,” said Tyson. “But after a couple of weeks they see the power of the photos, of showing their craft, and for customers it is not always about price but about finding someone they can trust.”|

Of course, that early system was a little unwieldy, and working with a collection of cameras, hard drives and memory cards was something of a frustration. It was at this point that Lloyd, Johan and Tyson, experienced designers and developers, stepped in.

“We saw the challenges dad was facing and we said, ‘Hey, we’re nerds, we can build a solution that makes this a lotmore seamless’,” said Tyson with a laugh.

“So, we brainstormed the idea and carried out market research to try and understand the challenges for workshops and their customers.

“We spoke to a lot of workshops and they would say ‘Our customers love us, we have great retention’. However, they would then struggle to bring up the data on how loyal those customers were. As for the car owners, in our candid conversations with them, an alarming majority would often say, ‘Of course, I don’t really trust mechanics’ or ‘I don’t always know what I am paying for’.

“And that is why we developed Carisma, to improve that communication and level of trust.”

Shifting Gear

Things have moved quickly for Carisma and the trio behind its development. It was in March 2017 that they began working on it in earnest and within a few weeks they had developed an initial prototype and been accepted into the QUT Creative Enterprise of Australia Collider Accelerator program – a program designed to help develop budding start-up businesses. From there they secured their current place in the River City Labs (RCL) Accelerator program in Brisbane and came into contact with Dr Brett Dale, CEO of MTA Queensland and the MTAiQ Innovation Hub.

“Brett is probably one of the most responsive industry leaders I have had the pleasure to work with,” said Tyson. “We went in for an initial meeting at MTA Queensland and met some incredible people who gave us a real insight into the size of the Association and the industry, and how diverse and complex it is.”

“And being accepted into Queensland’s peak automotive industry body has been hugely beneficial, and I genuinely say it has been one of the best connections we have had in the short lifespan of our business,” said Tyson. “They care passionately about helping this industry and they know a lot of that will come through innovation and start-ups. My recommendation for any automotive start-up is to get in contact with MTAiQ!”
For MTA Queensland, inviting Carisma to be a part of the ‘family’ was a no-brainer.

“Carisma’s innovative concept aligns strongly with our own Professional Circle ideals,” said Dr Dale. “The team are driven by their passion for the industry and a commitment to transparency and consumer trust. They have a brilliant concept and for those of our members who wish to compete through consumer trust and business integrity, then the Carisma platform is for them. We are thrilled to see such enthusiasm and professionalism entering our industry.”

Like many systems, Carisma is still being developed and tweaked but is, said Tyson, working in its current form and in use by early supporters. And right now, he added, workshops that come on board will have the opportunity to help the team refine the system even more.

“Obviously, we are at a very early stage, and customers who join us now will not only be able to help us shape the product through feedback, but pricing will likely be more preferential for them too,” he said. “We are already in a few workshops, so we are in ‘soft-launch’ phase, and we’d love to be at the point soon where we have a good portfolio of forward-thinking dealers and independents on board.

“We are being a bit selective at the moment about who comes on, and are giving preference to MTA Queensland members because they have shown active interest in improving industry standards. Similarly, we are also looking at RACQ authorised repairers, the Auto Clubs, and indeed any business that is forward thinking and can demonstrate they really care about their customers.

“As for pricing, subscription to Carisma is a little S60 per month. If you are an MTA Queensland member it’s less than $40 per month. Pricing for dealerships will be a little bit different and we are in conversation with a few now to find the right strategy that works best.”

The Sky’s The Limit

It’s difficult to know how far a start-up business might go – there are always plenty of challenges and hurdles to overcome. However, it is clear the Carisma team has something pretty special on its hands and there is much to be confident about.

“There are no limits,” said Tyson. “One of the mindsets that is drilled into us is ‘Global from day one’. However, we are Aussies and we can’t wait to help Australian businesses. It is a super exciting industry to be in.”
For more on Carisma, go to www.carisma.io
For more on the MTAiQ Innovation Hub, go to www.mtaiq.com.au

13 Feb 2018