Taking Customer Service Up a Gear: The Automotive Industry
Flashback to a decade ago and you’ll find that out of the entire western world, Britain had the worst rated customer service.
We as customers didn’t know how to receive it, while in similar fashion, sales people didn’t know how to deliver it, or simply didn’t want to. It all just seemed a little too ‘American’.
Michel Roux Jr. an infamous Michelin starred chef spoke about UK customer service, describing it as “surly, slapdash and dreadful,” and disputing this evaluation was difficult. Research has discovered that UK businesses lose around £12 billion every year simply due to poor customer service.
Financial loss isn’t the only issue here — “It isn’t just costing business’’ Roux continued. Their reputation is at stake, particularly online. 16 to 24-year-olds are the most likely to be vocal online regarding customer service, with one third of the demographic suggesting they would be posting a review on the internet if they received poor customer service.
The tides have changed slightly though, and since 2010 the UK has reversed its reputation, and slowly but surely, we’re all becoming customer service connoisseurs. The Zendesk’s Customer Service Benchmark world rankings places the United Kingdom fourth, with a rating of 96.2%.
On our less frequent, more expensive investments such as cars, we’re all looking for customer service to go the extra mile. After a house, a car is most likely going to be the most expensive purchase you ever make. It’s a rare occasion that someone would go out in the morning time, on a whim, and come home with a new set of wheels. A study has found that the average car buyer spends around 14 hours researching online, reading reviews and visiting dealers’ websites before making their decision.
Great customer service is vital in the automotive industry; join Lookers Mercedes and assess whether automotive professionals are truly going the extra mile for their customers when it comes to service.
Stage 1 — Digital
The digital takeover has certainly affected the automotive sector, as the momentous search for a new set of wheels doesn’t necessarily have to begin early on a Saturday morning in the local showroom — chances are, customers have most likely already looked online. Right from the word go, when the customer lands on the website and makes that initial interaction, their experience can mould their end decision.
Questions like “is there anything we can help you with today?” pop up online frequently nowadays, as technologies such as artificial intelligence can be used to follow a customer’s journey through the website. Once the potential lead responds, they get linked through to a member of staff and the ball is set in motion.
In some ways, technology has expanded upon conventional customer service. As the automotive industry knows two-thirds of decisions are made online, they can no longer depend on their salesman using their relentless charm to guarantee each and every sale, as the lead may never come through the door. Instead, the initial ‘meet and greet’ is carried out in the comfort of your own home. Good customer service is always relevant too, whether your prospective buyer is looking at a used smart car or a brand new model, delivering the same level of interest and consideration is the key to making a sale.
Stage 2 — On the day
Connecting with the customer is often overlooked in those trying to make a sale nowadays. A report carried out by We Are DMA concluded that car dealerships that are able to connect with customers on a personal level are gaining the strongest levels of engagement. The technical jargon that in the past may have been able to completely mind boggle a customer because they were unaware as to what it meant, is now readily available for their access online. Harley Davidson’s John Russell notes: “the more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing’’. By speaking to the customer on a level of mutual understanding, both dealer and buyer are benefiting.
Consumers were asked what the main deciding factors for choosing their favourite car manufacturer, and whilst they ranked quality as the highest with 45%, one third placed the most value in the company being friendly, helpful and welcoming. Despite the fact the journey may start online, 59% still bought their most recent car in a dealership, meaning a focus on the development on the customer service at those initial two stages of contact will prove detrimental in the ultimate success.
Maritz Research carried out an alternative study asking customers about their automotive purchasing experience, and it revealed that just under 75% of customers were satisfied overall with the service they received. Similarly, the vast majority rated their dealings with the sales department as the most important aspect.
Stage 3 — Down the line
A signature on the dotted line was once the final sign off in the showroom, but nowadays this is just the beginning, particularly as it now has a huge bearing on the customers longer-lasting perception of the brand. This is where customer service needs to excel, and the quality of the product can really shine. In reality, the odds are stacked against a car going through its lifespan without some form of issue.
Enticing customers back for service appointments when necessary is a further challenge for dealerships. This is when the digital aspect can prove its worth once again. By providing customers with details online of simple things like changing the oil the honesty that is ranked so highly by the customer is installed. However, by also suggesting how much easier it would be to drop it in, grab a coffee and have it done by one of your fully-fledged mechanics, you are catering for every customer need. A dealership runs the risk of the customer not getting an oil change, but they’ll develop a love for a brand and return when replacements are due.
Audi have proven themselves as pioneers in customer retention through their after-sales services, by offering a unique experience. The revolutionary Audi Cam offers customers the chance to see exactly what is happening to their car whilst it is in the garage, as one of the members of their service department will walk round with a selfie camera, showing the various alterations that are being made.
Customer service in the UK has improved by leaps and bounds in the past decade, and it has taken on a whole new sense of value for salesmen and buyers alike. Its successful application however produces massive positives. When we are on the receiving end of high-quality customer service, just under three quarters of us are likely to recommend the company to a friend, whilst half of us would become a frequent customer of the brand.