According to Deloitte, car dealers should be implementing the types of customer experiences that motorists are already enjoying with the likes of digital innovators such as Amazon and Apple.
In its Global Automotive Consumer Study, Deloitte focuses on seven key moments which already provides the foundation for building good customer relationships but by fine-tuning them now, dealers will help safeguard future sustainability.
Deloitte’s study found half of US consumers spend more than 10 hours researching online before making their purchase and leasing decision with another 30% researching between four and ten hours whilst consumers are more likely to trust online sources than dealers. However, the journey from online to in-store is far from seamless with a disconnect between expectations generated online and the experience in the showroom. Features such as online appointment booking and online ‘chat’ throughout the process are all familiar in other retail environments and should be part of the car buying experience.
Buying a car is an emotional purchase and customers want the ‘touchy feely’ experience but they are often left frustrated by a dry and methodical process once they arrive on site. Dealers need to radically rethink how they treat their customers and create an environment where customers are happy and comfortable visiting and a process that’s enjoyable and compliant but not dull, alienating and tiresome.
Customers dread the elongated sales pitch when all they want to do is test drive the car. In the franchised sector greeters and ‘product geniuses’ are now commonplace. It means the first person a customer interacts with is not trying to sell them the car, instead they provide the information they need to make a purchase decision before the salesperson takes over to finalise the deal. Meanwhile, new cars configurators on the website and available on tablets in-store can be less intimidating than a long discussion with a salesperson.
The age-old sales process often sees the qualification process kick in before allowing the customer behind the wheel of the car which can be hugely off-putting. Different approaches such as a 48-test drive to understand how the car truly fits into the customer’s lifestyle or the convenience of home or work-based test drives have been trialled although mostly confined to the premium new car buying sector. In the future, we may see virtual reality and augmented reality changing the test drive experience, but for now dealers need to think long and hard about how this is delivered. Until AR or VR test drives become the norm, the showroom environment is still a crucial differentiator so make the test drive easy and enjoyable.
Deloitte’s research shows millennials want an extremely efficient purchase process. Spending less time with sales execs on paperwork is one solution, customers could consider the finance offer in their own time away from the pressurised environment of the showroom. Growing in popularity, this consultative approach is counterintuitive for many salespeople who would rather customers sign on the dotted line there and then, but allowing people space and time to make their mind up promotes trust and transparency and is more likely to result in a sale. Bundling offers together such as incorporating the warranty and even a maintenance package reduces hassle and providing all the information on the website enables customers to see they are getting the best deal.
The vehicle handover is the most exciting part of the entire process for the customer but for salespeople moving onto the next deal, it can be viewed as an inconvenience. Some dealers mark the occasion with a photo on social media which says ‘this is as important to us as it is to you’. Prior to collection, other dealers generate excitement by taking a video of the vehicle to let the customer know it is in the final stages of preparation. The handover is an opportunity to cement those customer relationships and could make all the difference as to whether the customer returns for servicing or to buy their next vehicle.
Aftersales has always been the critical component of maintaining a relationship with the customer and that won’t change, but making it slicker and easier to navigate will improve the experience. Add personal touches by utilising dealer data can improve the customer experience on an individual level, so if you know the customer was toying with the idea of an SUV but instead opted for an estate, ensure the SUV is made available as a courtesy car as part of the routine service.
The connected and automated vehicle will arrive on our roads in the not-too-distant future which will inevitably see the customer having less of a direct relationship with the business. But by investing the time in establishing these relationships now, dealers will not only boost customer satisfaction and thereby retention today but will be futureproofing their business for the future.
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