Digital technology is quickly changing the communications and payments landscape in the auto industry.

A text message revolution is gaining widespread acceptance because customers seek quick responses, detailed feedback and payment convenience. Customers do not want to wait hours, or sometimes days, to get a phone call about the next steps for their vehicle or to receive an estimate for costly repairs that isn't in writing. Text messaging is vital and benefits businesses ranging from large corporate dealerships to independent small shop mechanics. It is a staple for fast, efficient and safe communications as well as payments.

Streamlined communications The exchange of information in real time is what customers expect, and two-way texting leads the way. Timely customer engagement is a driving force for change, setting the standard for a better customer experience. An instant update on repairs or a text reminder of an upcoming appointment is critical to repeat business. A recent study showed that when businesses engage in real-time communications effectively, it leads to a 98 percent open rate for text messages as opposed to only 20 percent for email communications. Service shops should take advantage of texting platforms to meet customers' modern demands. Utilizing texts reinforces a customer's belief in their mechanic as frequent updates develop stronger loyalty. Consumers expect their car problems to be found and repaired with a completion timeline provided. A streamlined process gains the interest of potential clients, and real-time communications makes it a win for both parties. A happy customer can lead to future referrals and more business.

Frictionless payments It is key for the auto industry to streamline the payment process and minimize cumbersome credit card checkout barriers — or even complex payment portals. Text messages for payments make it easy and simple, and according to research, 64 percent of consumers now prefer text messaging for service interactions. Sending a text enables customers to pay for car repairs quickly and innovative organizations now offer pay-over-time options via text, allowing customers to manage high-cost repairs without the immediate financial strain. This easy-to-use and flexible approach minimizes frustration and greatly enhances the overall payment experience.

Increased efficiency With text messaging, service departments can send customers automated appointment reminders, updates and payment confirmations, which makes life easier for both the customer and business. Text messaging also frees up time to focus on critical tasks. A person is more likely to do business or make a purchase when messaging is tailored to meet their needs. Additionally, through texting, businesses have vital information at their disposal, giving them valuable insights about customer behavior and preferences. It also empowers them to make data-driven decisions for the future of their business.

Now is the time for the auto industry to embrace new communication and payment platforms to appeal to a broader customer base. Businesses that take advantage of the opportunity will thrive. According to General Motors CEO Mary Barra, "the auto industry will change more in the next five years than it has in the last 50." Are you ready to change with it?

Read the full story in Automotive News here.