The fast-growing software solution provider Dealer-FX streamlines vehicle maintenance using Stream’s API infrastructure.
•Published: Jan 13, 2022
Problem: The automotive software company Dealer-FX had an SMS text messaging platform that allowed service dealerships to communicate with vehicle owners. But as they scaled, they needed to develop a more sophisticated communication platform with features such as 1:1 chat and automated group messaging to improve the car maintenance experience.
Strategy: Dealer-FX looked to Stream’s flexible backend chat API infrastructure to customize a communication platform that can store, filter, and search certain data types — including users, channels, and messages. This ability enables Dealer-FX to have a high-performing automated platform.
Result: After integrating with Stream, Dealer-FX’s software enjoys 90% user retention, and the company is primed to continue building innovative communication solutions with Stream.
“It’s a pain to bring your car in for servicing,” says Adam Kraft, VP of product management for the automotive software company Dealer-FX. Not only do you lose access to your vehicle, leaving you scrambling for alternative transportation, but also there’s little visibility into when your vehicle will be available for pickup or if mechanics have discovered unexpected costly repairs.
From booking appointments and estimating quotes to clear internal communication, Dealer-FX’s tools help dealerships serve their customers better by improving vehicle maintenance efficiency, transparency, and convenience.
Founded in 2007 to streamline vehicle service operations, Dealer-FX recognized the need to build a more sophisticated contactless communications solution after being acquired by Snap-On Incorporated in early 2021.
Why Dealer-FX Chose Stream
Before integrating the Stream Chat API, Dealer-FX had several disjointed communications tools that could send SMS messages to dealership customers. These texts were and still are deployed by Twilio’s SMS Messaging API to update owners of their car’s status.
But the company needed to build a communication resource to connect the different dealership departments to keep all employees on the same page about a customer’s vehicle. After several months of attempting to build a messaging platform in-house, Dealer-FX engineers decided to explore using a third-party chat API solution instead.
“We knew we needed our product to take a step up. But we started to feel like we were reinventing the wheel by coding every functionality from the ground up,” says Steven Marques, senior manager of product operations. “We chose to invest in a chat partner — even though there’s a continued cost and reliance on that partner — because we wanted to innovate where it matters.”
Marques and his team evaluated several large chat API/SDK providers.
The core requirement for the B2B software maker was to adopt an elegant backend chat infrastructure that could scale with Dealer-FX as they grew. The company also aimed to sign with a component maker that shared similar values: Dealer-FX’s API/SDK provider needed an entrepreneurial mentality to solve challenging problems creatively. Stream’s plucky customer service team and ability to support millions of users within a single channel made Stream the right fit for Dealer-FX.
Marques says his team also chose Stream because Dealer-FX’s product roadmap may include activity feed functionality in the future.
“We were looking for a chat API partner who shared our values of creative iteration and an entrepreneurial spirit. Stream has a startup mentality but also has a good, trustworthy foundation.” –Steven Marques
Dealer-FX’s Experience Integrating Stream Chat
Dealer-FX worked closely with Stream’s customer success team to integrate the Stream Chat API into their product. Rather than use Stream’s front-end UI kits, Dealer-FX engineers customized the entire front-end user experience for an on-brand appearance.
Dealer-FX leveraged Stream’s flexible API to build a communication platform that can store, filter, and search data types such as users, channels, and messages. This functionality allows Dealer-FX the unique capability to enable their customers to connect to their app in myriad ways.
Notably, the tool extracts meta-data from each repair order and can automatically generate a group conversation that includes key stakeholders from around the dealership. For example, if a vehicle owner needs new tires but a technician realizes the vehicle also requires replacement brakes, Dealer-FX’s tool creates a group chat to keep everyone in the dealership in the loop about one car.
This functionality is an essential differentiator for Dealer-FX. “Stream was one of the few chat API providers that could build this sort of automated functionality,” says Marques.
Because Dealer-FX built the front-end platform from scratch, the chat API integration took around three months to get up and running. (Marques anticipates the process would have been far faster if the company chose to use Stream’s pre-built UI kits.)
“The people we worked with at Stream — particularly everyone on the customer success team — were phenomenal.” –Steven Marques
Increased Retention & Future Functionality
After integrating Stream, Marques estimates that Dealer-FX’s user retention rose to 90%. “Essentially, if someone starts using our communication platform, they’ll continue using it,” he says.
More innovation is in the pipeline for Dealer-FX. Soon, Marques and his team will add a slash command functionality that can provide updates through the platform. Long-term, the company may expand communication capabilities by incorporating a voice or video component to the chat feature using Stream’s partnership with Dolby, along with an activity feed functionality. There are also plans in the works to use Stream’s Mobile UI Kit to accelerate the build of a mobile version of Dealer-FX’s communication platform.
As Dealer-FX builds an increasingly more elegant communications solution, Stream will continue to be a trusted partner in the company’s tech stack.
Explore how the Stream Chat API can help your product increase user engagement, satisfaction, and retention by activating your free, 30-day Chat trial today.