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Vertu boss Robert Forrester: digital is important, but don't overplay it

Vertu Motors' CEO Robert Forrester

On the train this morning to Edinburgh I read a report from Deloittes called “Navigating the customer Journey”. The report was based on a survey of customers on their interaction with the UK automotive industry and a couple of things caught my eye. 

The most interesting page for me was the results to the question about the impact of information sources on which vehicle is bought. The results were fascinating and provide much solace to retailers. 

The number most significant information source was the manufacturers’ website. 31% said this had a significant impact and it shows that investment in OEM websites is crucial. Another 25% said it had some impact.

That said I am always largely disappointed with the quantity and sometimes quality of manufacturer leads from their websites. Our conversion is much better on leads from our own websites on new cars, presumably because the customers are further down the funnel. 

Then the good news starts. Friends and family are almost as powerful in providing information as OEM websites. 30% said they had a significant impact and clearly retailers can benefit from this if they have a strong customer base of advocates and ravings fans. Such people will spread the word on both models and the customer service received.

This is a major source of sales for our business and with over 96% of our used car customers willing to recommend our group you can see why. Delivering great service is the number one element in driving future success both for individual sales people and our brands.

More good news! Dealer websites have a significant influence on 28% of customers and some impact on another 24%! Getting our websites right is therefore vital and then, guess what. Sales people at the dealership have a significant impact on 26% of customers.

Compare this to only 20% for third party retail websites. You would have thought with the hype around the importance of digital spaces that the latter number would be much higher.

Social media only impacts significantly 10pc and I would love to see its ROI on the investment made. Sales people are of crucial importance in providing information and having an impact on which car is bought.

Sales executives remain at the heart of the sales process and will do for many years. They add value when they listen to customers and meet their needs and destroy value when they lack professionalism, respect and integrity. The latter is all about the culture of the retailer and let’s face it retailers all have different cultures.

Probably my main task at Vertu is to ensure the culture is right and our people have the right values and treat customers as they would want to be treated themselves at all times. As Peter Drucker famously noted, “Culture beats strategy for breakfast!”.

Throughout the remainder of the Deloitte report, the importance of customer experience at the retailers comes through again and again. Interaction with a real person is stated as the most important factor in the purchase. 71% of customers stated that customer experience as either somewhat or very important in choosing where they buy a vehicle.

We have to provide a good deal, of course, and price is important! A good deal or price was cited by customers as the most enjoyable aspect of the dealer experience followed by the test drive. 

A red flag to note in this age of regulation and compliance is that customers, not surprisingly, see minimal paperwork as important! At Vertu we are always looking for ways to simplify the process and another iteration of the aim for an effortless journey will be launched this month. 

The final amazing, though not surprising, finding from the survey is that 23% of customers are never contacted by the retailer post purchase. A sad fact I think mirrored in our business as well and one we are constantly fighting. We clearly have work to do on our culture!

We can all draw our own conclusions from this survey of course. My main thought is that whilst digital is important, there is a risk in it being overplayed.

People still buy from people 99.9% of the time and having the right culture in the business is the single biggest differentiator between us and the competition. We will determine and be responsible for our own success and failure as a result.

Author: Robert Forrester, chief executive, Vertu Motors

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Comments

  • Fourmative - 05/04/2018 13:15

    Very interesting and nice to see confirmation of the importance of the customer experience as a key contributor to future sales. Getting feedback from every single customer with respect to their view of the experience we have always believed to be key to help generate real advocates for the business. Customer feedback management should become an integral part of the follow-up, retention and recommendation strategy for all Dealerships. People do buy from People and the desire to give a Great Service to EVERY customer EVERY time will always be key

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  • Fourmative - 05/04/2018 13:15

    Very interesting and nice to see confirmation of the importance of the customer experience as a key contributor to future sales. Getting feedback from every single customer with respect to their view of the experience we have always believed to be key to help generate real advocates for the business. Customer feedback management should become an integral part of the follow-up, retention and recommendation strategy for all Dealerships. People do buy from People and the desire to give a Great Service to EVERY customer EVERY time will always be key

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