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Guest opinion: the future of automotive customer experience

AndrewGrantMaritzCX2015

The competitive nature of automotive industry is no secret.

If you managed to walk the halls of the Geneva International Motor Show earlier this year, or any of the auto shows in the 2015 calendar, you’ll be sure to notice the high level of product on offer; no one makes a bad car these days.

But if that’s the case, what becomes the differentiator for manufacturers and dealers in the future?

I think it’s clear, certainly in my opinion, that the customer journey and experience will be the next competitive battlefield for the industry.

This becomes particularly vital with same make dealers selling the same vehicles, with a recent Gartner report showing 89% of companies expect to compete on customer experience (CX) alone by 2016. 

While all businesses would most likely agree that they want customers to leave happy, it can sometimes be hard to justify an investment in the CX area.

We ran a study that showed that the average US car dealership could generate an additional $106,315 a year in gross profit through returning customers and future maintenance and repairs, by making their customers’ experience a top priority.

I believe the UK is around three years behind the US in terms of customer experience, but the move towards CX is inevitable and could see significant revenue boost for those who get their foot in the door early.

What is the future of CX?

Technology has democratised the marketplace, the discourse between brand and customer is no longer a one-way street. Driven by their experience in other industries this new consumer has far greater expectations. They are now looking for relationships rather than transactions.

But what does that mean for your customer experience programme, and what should you be thinking about in the future?

The human element

Connecting with the consumer on an emotional and human level should be a key focus for CX programmes.

Customers are looking for relevance and personalisation. Integrating a CX platform that measures and records the full customer journey across multiple touch-points can allow CX managers to utilise big data to provide these elements to existing customers, providing a far more personalised post-purchase service.

This can also allow for continuity between the internal brand service providers; no customer wants to have to provide the same information over and over again to multiple people in the same company.

Customers are gravitating towards brands that show empathy, personality and character. Understanding the nuances of human emotions will help companies respond more genuinely to customers.

But your brand will have the image and personality you will want to convey, an important element when designing your CX system. Make sure you include the images, copy, and brand elements your customers expect to see from you.

There is no universal CX system for all companies - it must be tailored to your specific brand.

Predicting behaviour

A lot of market research and CX work involves looking at past purchasing behaviour to fix things in the future.

The future is forward looking, not backward. Using the massive amount of data available we’ll be able to use consumer behaviours, thoughts and emotions to predict future behaviours.

Data mining software, such as the MaritzCx Spotlight, is already available that analyses patterns in the consumer journey and can, at the click of a button, identify individuals that are more likely to buy, more likely to churn, or even become brand ambassadors.

Blurred lines

The line between customer experience management, CRM, and sales and marketing is continuing to blur.

For years ‘CX’ has been based on producing insights based on customer experiences.

Now companies are increasingly using their CX activities within their external marketing strategies.

BMW, for example, is now posting customer responses to their internal surveys to external websites to help promote their brand.

But that’s only the beginning.

The future of CX will be based on the relationship between customers over their total ownership experience.

Along the way this data will be collected and used to provide assistance to customers, or the most relevant information to the customer, so providing product assistance, warranty and repair information, and incentives to repurchase before the customer even knows they need it.

A great example of this is Sonic Automotive’s Echo Park concept stores in the US who have dispensed with traditional sales people and replaced them with 'experience guides'.

Digital technology

Technology has reshaped the way customers interact with brands, this is particularly true in the world of customer experience management. We’ve moved from paper to email to SMS and beyond.

Social media has created a wealth of insights of varying quality. The CX community has a love of social media and other unstructured data sources, but there are still challenges in separating the noise from the signal.

Modern text analytics has helped, and the emergence of voice to text will further help understand customer experience.

We must stop viewing mobile as just another data collection device and start taking advantage of the full multi-media options available; why ask a customer what they think, when they can show you?

By integrating powerful tools such as Spotlight data mining software we will be able to integrate these digital insights into existing data sets to provide every level of the brand chain with robust information to boost the customer experience.

The world of customer experience management is changing fast, and becoming more and more important to consumers. Those that win will be those that move first. However, the most important element in using these tools is empowering those with the curiosity and capabilities to make a real difference to the customer experience.    

Author: Andrew Grant (pictured), vice president automotive, MaritzCX

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