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Guest opinion: Connecting with customers

Penny Searles, Smartdriverclub chief executive

Traditional ways of selling and engaging with customers is evolving because we’re getting much more canny about where we spend our money.  We want value but we also want to feel valued and that our needs are understood. 

In the used car market, getting customers engaged in this way is a bit of a tough challenge, not least because the interaction is pretty brief and purchasing infrequent. 

It’s also worth highlighting that with the emergence of the connected car, manufacturers will have access to customer data in a way they haven’t had before, opening up a direct channel of communication. 

Therefore dealers urgently need to consider the innovative ways in which they can offer customers a level of service that delivers real value, keeps the customer engaged in the dealership beyond the initial sale and opens up the potential for aftersales services. 

Remove the vehicle sale itself from the equation and think more broadly about some of the key concerns for motorists such as the day to day running costs for their car, the hassle factor when something goes wrong, the worry that they or a family member is involved in an accident.  Imagine if you could offer a solution for these concerns as part of the used car deal at either no cost or for under a tenner a month? 

It’s already happening in the US through the emergence of connectivity for used cars with the likes of Zubie and Hum and now it’s here in the UK with launch of Smartdriverclub.

Connectivity is enabled very simply via a plug-in device in the OBD2 port. It delivers services such as crash alerts, theft tracking, fuel consumption and early fault warnings.  But added to this, the device will feed information to the dealership so that that holy grail of customer service can be achieved – contacting the right customer at the right time with the right message. 

For example if a mileage threshold has been crossed or there’s an issue with the car’s performance, dealers know when to contact the customer to arrange a service – the same goes for the MOT,  new tyres or if a fault code comes up.

It’s simple off-the-shelf technology that makes it easy for dealers to create personalised communication with the customer.

What makes this really appealing is that while connectivity will be a feature of 8 in 10 cars by 2020 it’s a benefit currently more commonly associated with new cars. Indeed, recent research shows dealers will have a key role to play in explaining the technical capabilities of the car early in the sales process to support the uptake and use of connectivity.   

So offering connectivity to used car buyers will not only help the sales process but on a broader level will help dealers retain customers, increase after sale revenue and get familiar with everything this technology offers. And, by getting a better understanding of the data and how it can be used effectively and they may also be able to support the manufacturer with new car data feeds.

Ultimately, in the rapidly growing market of connected cars, the winners will be those who use customer information effectively.

Author: Penny Searles, chief executive, Smartdriverclub

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