David Morton, sales and solutions director at Arvato UK & Ireland, explains how car retailers and manufacturers can take advantage of the wealth of data available to them to deliver a seamless and proactive customer experience.
The quality of the customer service being offered by automotive brands has become a crucial differentiator in a highly competitive marketplace.
Consumers expect high-value, long-term purchases like cars to be accompanied by a more tailored and dynamic service compared with an everyday purchase.
Research has shown that 58% of customers are willing to spend more money with those companies that offer the highest levels of service.
Couple this with new players such as software and mobility service providers now challenging for a share of the market in the era of the connected car and there has never been a more critical time for automotive brands to deliver industry-leading customer service.
Such high expectations present an opportunity.
Consumers are increasingly researching their purchasing decisions and conducting aftersales enquiries online, and yet physical dealerships currently remain the most dominant sales channel.
Research by Bain & Company shows that car buyers switch between online platforms and physical dealerships an average of four times in the run-up to their purchase.
Brands that can capitalise on this trend by offering a consistent, personalised service across all channels are those that will secure the highest levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty.
A 360° view customer platform
The availability of different communication channels is also more extensive than ever, meaning brands have access to exceptionally high volumes of customer data.
Yet, only 8% believe that all of their points of contact are integrated, with a third unable to track customer journeys at all, according to Dimension Data.
Automotive companies have an opportunity to use this data, such as buying history, vehicles of interest, and even personal details such as family size, to provide the joined-up service expected of them.
The solution is to develop one platform underpinned by artificial intelligence (AI) technology that collates all available data from every customer touch point, to create a 360-degree view.
This means that dealerships, manufacturers and aftercare providers alike can input data and then access the same information at every stage of the customer journey, enabling them to deliver the highest quality, seamless customer service.
These platforms can continuously update customer profiles with the latest information throughout the purchasing process.
AI can be used to provide ‘next best actions’, recommendations aligned to the company’s objectives on how to better serve customers.
Through analysing data from past purchases, click streams and other interactions in real-time, it can inform advisors of customers’ preferences or needs, allowing them to tailor the consumer journey through positive, productive dialogue.
Consumers do not respond well to cold calls with offers that are not relevant to them, but with instant access to a holistic customer profile, customer service representatives can proactively contact customers with a personalised deal at the most appropriate time in their sales journey.
Those customers nearing the end of their finance agreement, for example, are likely to be looking out for new deals and options.
Integration in practice
To adopt this approach, brands must first audit and map all of the existing on and offline channels that make up the customer journey.
This helps to identify any areas that are not currently integrated, and what needs to change or improve to allow this to happen.
Once the mapping is complete, data is consolidated and integrated into one easily accessible system. Automation is key here, bringing together information from across disparate databases and feeding it into one customer relationship management (CRM) platform, and ensuring it is continually updated.
Finally, once the CRM system is in place, businesses can introduce new routing and decision processes to make all data available across every customer touch point, whenever it is required.
This could be accessed as a dashboard by a customer service representative taking a call, or a chatbot answering questions on a company website.
Contrary to the long-standing prediction that introducing these automated processes to customer services will strip away the need for human customer service jobs, such platforms serve to enhance the role of advisors by enabling them to interact with consumers in the most efficient and knowledgeable way.
But it is not all about technology – people are crucial to the success of new processes and platforms.
Adopting new digital tools provides an opportunity to upskill employees, equipping them with the highest-quality communications skills to allow them to answer the most complex queries, or handle requests that require negotiation or emotional sensitivity.
Investing in training for customer service representatives is an effective way of boosting service quality, and building and safeguarding relationships that cannot be maintained through technology alone.
The automotive industry is reliant on demonstrating added value and boosting sales.
Data integration is a key solution that will drive lead generation through consistent, personalised customer services.
As well as protecting the bottom line for manufacturers and dealerships alike, this premium service approach will help differentiate automotive brands and drive customer loyalty, building relationships that endure for the long-term.