10 May 2021
Recently, we asked consumers to tell us about their experiences with car dealerships — the good, the bad and the ugly — and one area we homed in on was that of proactive messaging. Three quarters of service customers said it was important or very important to get reminders about future work and to be able to book it online.
When we carry out our next survey, it wouldn’t be surprising to see that figure go even higher. The pandemic threw a giant spanner in the works as far as routine servicing and testing goes, particularly as the UK government implemented a six-month MOT amnesty during the first lockdown, so even the most super organised must have found themselves scratching their heads at some point, wondering when the next service or vehicle check is due.
"When was the last service? Do I even own a car? What day is it?" - 90% of car owners during lockdown.
Almost everyone in the UK owns a mobile phone, and most use some kind of social media and/or email, which means getting hold of them shouldn’t, in theory, be too difficult. But none of these various channels is 100% ideal:
- Email can end up in the junk folder or simply get missed.
- It can be tricky to send large video files
- Users might be charged to receive multimedia messages
And the list goes on. Ultimately though, there’s an issue that cuts across these platforms and it’s this: none of them make your customers feel special. And when the spark goes, you risk losing them to a competitor.
There is some good news, fortunately. Our survey also showed that there is an appetite amongst customers to use personalised, web-based tools to communicate with service advisors, view booking details, receive personalised offers, and pay for services securely and conveniently from any device. Almost two-thirds indicated they’d be happy to try such a solution, with half of those describing themselves as “very willing”.
We did use slightly more scientific methods to determine that this person was "very willing" to use CustomerLounge, but the double thumbs up was a good start.
There’s a balance to be achieved, of course. Just like any relationship, there are things that require a personal touch — delivering bad news about the results of an MOT or a potentially high service bill, for example. But there’s a lot that can (and should) be automated, like routine service reminders. Upsales can also benefit from automation — by taking the service advisor out of the equation, you can employ a softer sales approach, which can be really successful when it comes to essentials like engine oil or screen wash.
Rethinking the relationship between digital and personal
The key to automation is to make the process feel personal. By that, we don’t mean you should give your automated messages a 'cazj' tone of voice (perish the thought!) but you do need to make sure your communications are targeted and relevant. And if you’re a premium brand, those messages need to have a premium look and feel too — a “What’s up?” on WhatsApp (or any other generic chat platform) just won’t cut it.
It’s clear that customer expectations are shifting towards digital — in the automotive industry, just like other sectors. Adopting a digital approach isn’t just about switching to a new medium though — it’s a fantastic opportunity to improve the quality and frequency of your communications, and simultaneously reduce the amount of time your service advisors spend with each customer.
And let's face it, if you customers stick question marks on their heads then the less time spent with them the better.
If you have a nagging doubt that your current communication efforts aren’t smart or personalised enough, take a look at our whitepaper, Dealership Customer Engagement Report 2021, which delves inside the minds of service customers the length and breadth of the country, and examines the delicate balance between automation and personalisation.