Do you know what the ideal customer service experience looks like?

There’s no question that what customers expect from dealerships is changing when it comes to services, MOTs and repairs. But do you know what your customers are actually looking for in their dealings with you?

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In 2020, Autino conducted extensive research into the priorities of both dealerships and their customers, asking customers what their ideal experience includes when taking their car for a service with a dealership. The research showed some really interesting results – and it’s those I want to share with you in this blog. So let’s take a look at the top 5 elements of the ideal customer service experience.

1: Prompt, regular, and high-quality communications

Nearly 1 in 3 of our consumer respondents mentioned communications in their description of the ideal service – more than those who mentioned high-quality work. It makes sense – people’s lives are becoming busier and busier, so precise timings are becoming more important as your customers juggle work, childcare, family and social commitments around getting their car fixed.

How does your dealership currently handle communications with customers? How quickly can your customer service managers find information on a specific customer’s repairs and inform them of when their car is likely to be ready? Are you able to proactively remind customers when it’s time for their service or MOT? These are all things customers are increasingly coming to expect from their dealership – and those who are sticking to simple phone and text communications may start to see customer satisfaction falling.

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2: High-quality work

This one might feel obvious, but it’s actually a bit more challenging – and its especially important for dealerships as 98% of respondents to our survey who got their car serviced at a dealership rated this as extremely important.

Of course customers want the work you do to be high-quality – and of course, you take pains to make sure your work is of the highest quality. But how do you convince customers of that fact? As cars have grown more complex and customers more time-strapped, it’s become harder and harder to demonstrate to customers the quality of your work – or even to just show them the work you’ve done, if your engineers have been deep in the innards of the car replacing sensors. If you can find a way to show your customers what you’ve done – and the quality of your work – that’s a big step in keeping customers satisfied.

"Nobody likes to feel like they’re just a number when they deal with a dealership [...] Customers want to feel like you value their business, and respect them as individuals."

3: Fair pricing

How many times have you had a customer complain that their service has cost more than they were expecting? It’s a common problem all garages face, including dealerships. Customers pay more than they wanted to, and as a result they feel ripped off. How do you avoid this? After all, you can’t just charge them less!

The answer is to find ways of keeping the customer informed and engaged as you complete the service. Rather than just ploughing on with work, show the customer the results of your inspection and explain what work you’re recommending – and how much it will cost. Giving the customer this information – and final say over whether you do the work or not – all helps the them feel that the price you charge them at the end is a fair one.

Smiling salesman shaking the hand of a woman in a car shop

4: Feeling valued and respected

Nobody likes to feel like they’re just a number when they deal with a company – and the same is true in dealerships. Customers want to feel like you value their business, and respect them as individuals. That means taking into account their expectations, their time pressures, and not making decisions without them.

How do you achieve those things? The key, once again, is communication – but 2-way communication. How easy is it for your customer service managers to record customer preferences (perhaps ‘I can’t pick the car up after 3pm due to childcare commitments’) and factor those into your work schedule? How easy is it for the workshop to communicate an unexpected issue to a customer and get their approval to fix the issue? These are all steps to take to help customers feel valued.

"Providing great customer service, as we’ve seen, comes down to providing excellent communications with customers – not just before and after their service, but during it, too."

 

5: Friendly and polite staff

Mechanic explaining to a woman what happened to her car

There’s two sides to this. On the one hand, there’s the quality of those face-to-face interactions your team has with customers. Obviously, nobody wants to be insulted or given the cold shoulder by their dealership. But the quality of the remote interactions your customers have with your team can go a long way to improving – or damaging – their perception of your team’s friendliness and manners.

Simple things like timely responses to questions, giving answers that don’t feel rushed or impatient with the customer, and handling disagreements or complaints constructively are essential – especially when everyone’s nerves remain frayed as people continue to live under government restrictions in 2021. It’s important that your dealership has the technology in place to help customer service managers give the best impression to customers.

Communications are at the heart of the challenge

It’s interesting that the biggest priorities our customers identified, by and large, weren’t around elements like guarantees, warranties, or returns – they were around the quality of service and communications. Even where price was identified as a component of the ideal service, customers were more concerned about the ‘fairness’ of the price than a cheaper price – and fairness, as we’ve described, can be influenced by communicating with the customer and educating them on the realities of their service and repair costs.

It’s all because the importance of customer service is continuing to rise in every industry, including car dealerships. As competition grows fiercer, and customers have more choice in who services their car, providing outstanding customer service is going to be an important way for dealerships to remain competitive. And providing great customer service, as we’ve seen, comes down to providing excellent communications with customers – not just before and after their service, but during it, too.

Dealerships that can update customers in near-real time on the status of their car, and flag any unexpected costs or repairs to them before they see the final bill, will find that their customers remain happy and loyal. So now is the time for dealerships everywhere to be looking at what tools they have at their disposal and asking themselves: am I in a position to give customers the experience they’re looking for?

In a world where nothing is certain, embracing evolution can be the way to get ahead. If you want to improve the way you engage customers, but aren’t sure where to begin, download our 2021 Dealership Customer Engagement Report now.

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