Touchscreen Technology Helps Service Auto-Mat Stay Up All Night For Volkswagen

Volkswagen, one of the world's most popular car manufacturers, has turned to MicroTouch's high-performance capacitive touch technology to offer a major breakthrough in round-the-clock customer service. The innovative self-service terminal, developed by Siemens Nixdorf, makes the whole process of checking in a car for service much easier. Volkswagen's Service Auto-Mat (SAM) is as straightforward and as easy to use as an ATM.

SAM allows Volkswagen customers to check their cars in for service at any time of the day or night, 365 days of the year, and offers them a personalized deposit box for car keys and papers. In addition, it provides a fast self-service, credit-card payment service, and thus, rapid pick-up after servicing.

In automating these services, SAM dramatically cuts customer waiting time, thus eliminating the before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. rushes when 80% of all cars are dropped in for service. More than 100 SAM terminals are already in use in Volkswagen dealerships throughout six European countries, including Germany, Austria, and Holland. These terminals are soon to be rolled out in the United States and the total in use worldwide is likely to grow to well over 1,000 terminals.

Siemens and Volkswagen opted for touchscreen technology for this customer-access application for its ease of use and natural, intuitive nature. They chose MicroTouch's capacitive technology for its reliability and high performance.

"We know from previous high profile projects undertaken with MicroTouch that its capacitive technology is the best in terms of reliability and performance. Although there are other, less expensive solutions on the market — one of which Volkswagen itself has used in the past — MicroTouch's long term performance has proven to be excellent," says Reinhard Steinrücke, SAM project manager at Siemens.

Customer loyalty through good customer service is becoming increasingly important in the fiercely competitive car industry. Not only does the new system make check-in and pick-up more efficient, it also provides Volkswagen with a powerful multimedia marketing tool.

The touchscreen solution is easily integrated into Auto-Mat self-service kiosk with touchscreen existing PC networks. As a result, the dealer can present attractive information on new cars, show easily the availability of used cars, and offer a wealth of additional customer benefits. These benefits include combining details of service deals available with the offer of a car rental, present details of car accessories, and special finance deals.

All of these options are self-service so customers can browse through them at their leisure without feeling pressured. In addition, the SAM terminal is attractively designed to suit the décor of the Volkswagen show rooms and, in many instances, occupies a prominent place at the front of the showroom.

Due to the increased efficiency, VW plans to extend the SAM into its car rental agencies, where customers experience the same problems of long waits at peak times. The SAM terminals are to be used in an experimental car rental program based at Hannover student residences. Thanks to this initiative, the whole car rental process will be automated. The customer is able to pick up the keys of a desired VW rental car from the SAM terminal. A transmitter in the car will calculate the length of rental and mileage and will pass this information automatically to the SAM terminal on return. The SAM will calculate the cost of the rental and the customer can then use a credit card to pay for the car at any time, day or night.

Siegfried Kleine-Besten, project manager at Volkswagen, believes that SAM delivers true business benefit immediately and plays an important role in its technology strategies.

"With this touchscreen project, we can now satisfy the demands of our customers for longer opening hours at very little expense. It also means that our employees can focus on solving more complex customer issues by reducing the time spent on routine tasks," says Kleine-Besten.