Accelerating the customer experience: How automotive brands can create a 360-degree view of the customer (Part 1)
Automotive companies are gaining access to more and more customer information: traditional point of sale data, valuable insights from online interactions related to the purchase, and of course the elaborate metrics generated by the sensors in modern cars. A new white paper shows how car manufacturers can use this data to provide outstanding customer service.
A high-quality, smooth and personal customer experience has become something that helps automotive brands stand out from the crowd. Of course, physical showrooms are still the primary sales channel, but customers are increasingly making use of online channels for research prior to purchasing or for subsequent queries. The internet is also growing as a sales channel in its own right. According to current estimates, roughly ten percent of all car sales will soon be conducted online.
The possibility of having a comprehensive, 360-view of customers and discerning and understanding the behavior of potential and existing buyers makes companies more competitive. This is shown by the white paper “Accelerating the customer experience: How automotive brands can create a 360-degree view of the customer” from Majorel (former: Arvato CRM Solutions).
Competition and commodification
In the digital world, customers enjoy more choice than ever before, which is having a damaging effect on brand loyalty. At the same time, new possibilities such as car sharing are affecting the market, as having one’s own car is no longer a necessity. And in the course of technological development, customers are becoming more interested in the software packages that come with modern cars rather than traditional features such as the chassis, performance or design. In fact, it’s conceivable that, in the future, OEMs will only ship the bodywork or the chassis, while technology companies develop new businesses devoted to the remainder. As a result, customer service is becoming an important factor in helping companies get ahead of the competition.
Car manufacturers also need to consider that brand perception sets th
e standard for customer service. Whether in car dealerships, virtual showrooms or online, car buyers expect a distinct difference in the quality of customer service in comparison with other, everyday purchases. For example, a recent survey found that 82% of current car owners and potential buyers want to configure their cars with help from technologies such as virtual reality.
“For high-quality brands, the customer experience of the digital world, the dealer, and the car itself must correspond both to one other and to what one expects from the brand,” says Sarah Latsch, Vice President Automotive for Majorel Germany. Service centers play an important strategic role in this, because they reflect the quality of the brand in customer service.
From multichannel to omnichannel
In the automotive industry, it isn’t just the digital and social channels that play a role. Networked vehicles provide new communication channels to customers. Through these, customers can stay connected with the company, arrange service appointments or expand the car’s functionality.
The number of options is growing all the time. Consequently, many automotive companies are increasingly confronted with fragmented digital environments and a multitude of different systems and platforms. The situation is being further exacerbated by the different locations of OEMs, dealers and customer service teams. One consequence is that, while the average automotive customer expects a query over social media to be answered within 30 minutes, the companies’ average response time is more than 12 hours.
An omnichannel strategy can help to resolve this issue by bringing together these systems and their data. In addition to serving as a technological solution, this makes it possible to optimize the channels for the objectives pursued by the company. This means adjusting procedures and work methods so as to understand what information customers need and which channels they prefer.
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Creating a unique view of the customer
With a platform that sends them all the important information — from demographics and purchasing habits to prior touchpoints and communication — customer support personnel can build up a real-time picture of the customer. This allows them to respond to complaints and inquiries much sooner and with more pertinent replies.
Furthermore, information is made available across all channels. Regardless of how or with whom customers communicate, they continue to receive the same personal treatment and the same smooth resolution of their issues. And without having to repeat themselves. Studies do indicate that customers become frustrated very quickly when they have to explain the same thing multiple times.
On the other hand, the sort of personal service being described here strengthens their connection to the brand. But that doesn’t mean that companies constantly have to go the extra mile and try to “enthuse” their customers. Studies undertaken by Gartner indicate that the key to retaining customer loyalty is simply to resolve problems quickly and easily.
From reactive to proactive
Looking at the individual customer closes the gap between reactive and proactive customer service. Combined with predictive analytics tools, it allows the team in the service center to better anticipate requirements, to resolve requests before they become problems, and to proactively reach out to the customer.
Customers are already used to companies acting proactively when it comes to online shopping. Why shouldn’t car companies seize the initiative in a similar way? MINI, for example, shows customers how their new car is developed throughout the manufacturing process and informs them when it arrives at the dealership. Alternatively, companies could also employ targeted upselling. Automotive companies that offer integrated social media customer service have increased revenue per contact by 6.7% when compared to the previous year through upselling, cross-selling and improved customer loyalty.
Research and development can also profit. Customer service representatives can directly observe how products are received by the market. When this information is organized and consolidated, it can be used to improve products. For example, based on feedback from its customer service department, a car company in Great Britain released an automatic version of one of its models.
A 360-degree view of the customers clearly offers numerous benefits and possibilities. In the second part of our series “Accelerating the customer experience,” we’ll discuss the ways in which car manufacturers can make use of such an all-around view of their customers. The full white paper “Accelerating the customer experience: How automotive brands can create a 360-degree view of the customer” can be downloaded here.