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Guest opinion: Customer experience strategies must evolve in ‘the passenger economy’

Parham Saebi, head of client services at Arvato UK & Ireland

The UK automotive industry is faced with the most significant period of disruption in its history.

There is no doubt the evolution towards electric vehicles (EV), autonomous vehicles (AVs) and mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) will fundamentally change the way customers experience mobility in the future.

What’s driving this rapid transformation is the evolution of the connected car. The vast amount of data that connected vehicles produce will create new business opportunities.

In the near future, the most attractive revenue streams will shift from vehicle sales, servicing and finance arrangements, to providing services including on-board entertainment, location-based services and mobility-as-a-service.

McKinsey estimates that new shared mobility and connected car business models could increase revenues in the automotive sector by around 30% by 2030, turning it into a £1.06 trillion market.

The opportunity brings with it some serious challenges for car manufacturers. As technology companies and mobility providers muscle in on these new revenue streams, manufacturers risk being relegated to just providing the vehicle shell.

If they want to defend their market position, they must focus on strengthening the established relationships they have with their customers – a key asset that new market entrants do not have (yet).

Customer service delivered throughout the customer journey will therefore become a key differentiator. Manufacturers will need to concentrate on nurturing their customer relationships and putting them at the heart of everything they do.

We see four key customer service strategies we believe car manufacturers need to focus on now to be able to survive in the new driver economy:

Turning the data into value

According to Intel, one fully autonomous car will generate 4,000 GB of data in just one hour of driving.

The vast amount of information will give manufacturers a full picture of individual customer behaviours and preferences, enabling them to understand and anticipate customer needs, and subsequently respond with value-added services and offers.

But to capitalise on this, they must be able to leverage the systems that enable them to capture the driver data.

For example, the sensors that collect all the information from the in-car (such as driver interface, environment sensors and on-board data storage) and out-of-car touch points (such as dealerships, public charging points and mobility platforms).

They then need to put the infrastructure in place to cleanse, format and analyse the data to be able to extract the insight they need to make predictions on customer behaviour and preferences.

Optimising the purchase journey

Digital technology is also influencing each step of the vehicle purchasing process. Research from management consultancy Bain & Co recently found that half of customers begin their buying journey online and 60% decide on their preferred brand, model and price before visiting a dealership.

In order to succeed, vehicle manufacturers will have to be more effective in influencing consumers at the start of this process, and provide a personalised path through all stages of the buying journey.

This means the entire customer lifecycle, from research all the way to aftersales and loyalty schemes, must be as accessible and integrated as possible.

For example, the average consumer is expected to switch between online and offline channels (visiting a dealership in person, for example) approximately four times and they expect their preferences to be remembered whatever channel they are operating on, without having to repeat themselves.

To do this, manufacturers will need a customer relationship management (CRM) process that can integrate each different touch point and bring the information together into a single customer profile.

Building partnerships and collaborating

In isolation, no company has all the elements needed to succeed in the passenger economy.

The connected car won’t just have to communicate with manufacturers and dealerships, it will need to link with streaming services, retailers, social media networks, mobile phone providers and utilities to name a few.

There is an opportunity for the car to become a lynchpin for a passenger’s entire digital ecosystem - imagine a dashboard that can provide a driver with information on electricity usage (for their electric vehicle), driving habits, insurance premiums and suggest music based on their preferences.

The manufacturer with the strongest partner network will be in the best position to provide this, which will require unprecedented levels of data sharing, collaboration and integration.

But equally, they must be mindful of relinquishing too much control to third parties.

Creating loyalty by providing next-generation customer service

If automotive brands re-think how they deliver customer experience now, while the market is in a period of flux, they will be well positioned to steal a march on the competition and deliver a truly customer-centric approach in the future.

This starts with the provision of always-on customer service, 24 hours a day, across a number of channels that can provide quick and accurate responses to a wide variety of queries, ranging from information about the car, to details on the many ancillary services offered.

This will require a blended approach of customer service representatives providing a highly personalised service and new technology, such as chat-bots and dynamic self-service (based on voice rather than touch).

By synching customer data with predictive analytics and machine learning, manufacturers can even begin to understand a customer’s needs ahead of time, allowing them to proactively offer services such as location-based information or special deals.

Technological advances in the automotive industry will fundamentally change how manufacturers interact with and service their customers.

They could potentially find themselves at the centre of a marketplace larger than anything they previously envisaged, but only if they take every opportunity to move closer to the customer.

The way to do this is by building value and loyalty through the data they capture and, importantly, through providing the highest levels of service, from the first time someone researches a car online through the entire life-cycle of the customer relationship.

Author: Parham Saebi, head of client services at Arvato UK & Ireland

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