Jim McDavid sees a near-future car dealership service department experience happening this way: A customer uses a smart phone to punch in an appointment, then drops the car off at the designated time, avoiding a wait in the service lanes.

When the shop transmits a repair-order estimate, a red dot appears on the customer's phone screen. If OK with the quote, the customer pings back approval.

Customers also can use the phone to pay the bill, “and when they arrive at the dealership, someone can meet them with their keys at the front door, because everything is taken care of,” says McDavid, president of MobiDrives.

The firm is marketing a smart-phone customized application for dealerships that allows them to stay in touch with customers.

That includes using mobile-device technology to alert customers of recalls and expiring factory warranties, send service and sales specials and display full-vehicle inventories.

McDavid is a former dealership sales manager and was a vice president at the JM&A Group, a firm specializing in finance and insurance training.

Considering his background, one might think he would tout the showroom sales benefits of his new product. Instead, he believes its real strength will be in the back shop.

“I've migrated to the service department,” McDavid says. “Everyone I talk to about our product, I especially talk about the service application. I think it will revolutionize the service side.”

Several new dealership-related mobile applications are coming to market as smart phones' popularity booms.

ADP Dealer Services recently introduced Mobile Suite, the centerpiece of which is an application that allows dealers to manage their business while away from the store.

“It allows a dealer principal to do what they used to do on a computer, but this allows them to do it remotely, such as at an airport,” says Kevin Henahan, ADP's vice president-marketing. “Mobile is exploding. It's everywhere.”

Another new mobile offering comes from DealerSocket, a customer-relationship management firm. The product enhancement allows dealership personnel to respond to inbound leads using their mobile devices, avoiding response time lags.

The dealership CRM system automatically records the lead. That record allows Internet managers, sales managers and sales staffers to respond quickly, even if they are not in front of their computer screens.

That smart-phone capability is one of the things “our customers told us they must have,” says Brad Perry, DealerSocket's cofounder.