Five Ways Auto Retailers Are Innovating the Customer Experience
Customer experience is a high priority in any retail business. For the auto industry, not paying attention to CX can be even more detrimental. Millennials are a large part of the consumer market and they look for services that cater to their ideal needs. That means really paying attention to what the customer wants and where to find their comfort zone.
Anyone who has worked in car sales can tell you how drastically the marketing model has changed over the last decade. Purchasing a car is a large investment that was once treated with a great deal of thought. Customers would often browse by going to local car dealerships in person, test driving different models, and talking to salespeople. According to McKinsey & Company, past purchasers would often visit a dealership five times before buying. Today's counterpart often purchases their vehicle on the first visit to a dealership.
That might give you the impression that today's buying public isn't as concerned about researching their purchase, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Consumers now are even more aware of the specifications for each type of automobile. They have access to manufacturer information, local and national sales prices, and even the latest sales trends right from their phone.
Customer experience has become a large part of the sales picture for auto retailers because a good CX model helps to set your business apart from other dealers in the vicinity. It also caters to what customers have come to expect in every area of their life.
Auto Retailers and Innovating CX
You do not necessarily think "customer experience" in regards to car sales. Most people still think of the old fashioned, hard-sell approach when they picture a visit to the local dealership. That outdated approach is not what works with customers in the market right now.
Like in previous generations, those interested in a new or used car typically still visit the dealership, meaning the customer experience does still extend to brick and mortar facilities, even with connected customers. Catering to the consumer's needs should be a multi-layered approach - how sales personnel deal with customers in person and what messaging and outreach you’ve used to engage with them outside of the actual dealership should match and represent your brand and its values. Below are five ways that that auto retailers are innovating the customer experience.
OmniChannel / MultiChannel Sales
Car sales today work differently than they did in the past. The customer is well educated on the process and they want a purchasing experience that's as comfortable and satisfying as possible. Their journey doesn't necessarily start at your car lot. Adopting an OmniChannel approach allows you to build a relationship with your customer before, during, and after the sales process. Building your Omnichannel approach means paying attention to your digital outreach, traditional advertising, and every contact point that makes sense for your customer. Utilize all the tools at your disposal to make the buyer's experience more in line with the services they expect. This might include text or email reminders for their service visits, easy and friendly contact points for their questions, and the ability to independently seek information or choose to speak to an employee without a lengthy wait and multiple phone messages.
Revamping the Test Drive
More than 80% of customers take test drives before completing the buying process, yet a third of buyers say that they would consider purchasing their next car online. Smart auto retailers see the need to cater their test drive experience to each individual customer. A traditional test drive is still a great tool for your in-store customers. Many will come ready to see a set model, though there's always room to discuss other models the customer might not have considered. Virtual reality test driving is also a key feature you should consider to meet consumer needs. Many OEMs have designed videos that show all of the features in a 360-degree view of their latest models. Customers should be able to find great examples on your site or links to the manufacturers VR test drive to build engagement and pique interest in the model.
Adjusting Customer Support Models
Did you know that nearly 75% of customers will drive 20 miles or more to visit a dealership they believe offers better service? Customers expect the highest in support and services from every retailer they give their business to and auto retailers are no different. In fact, customers expect an enhanced level of service when considering the size of the investment they are making in a vehicle. Revamping your support model should include the ways that you can go above and beyond at the dealership to make their time more enjoyable - things like including a professional reception area to greet customers, Wi-Fi/working space within the service department, loaner vehicles for those who need one, and more. Smart dealerships offer refreshments, play areas for children, and ample experience for drivers to touch and feel the vehicles they are interested in before driving. Other excellent models of support include an overall protocol to make certain customers are never kept waiting, online, via phone, or in person, and responding to any problems as soon as possible.
Loyalty Programs that Work
Customer loyalty is not to be underestimated. Customers who are happy with their purchase and services, recommend the business to friends. When you've maintained their loyalty over an extended period, they also return when they need their next car. For many families, that might occur every few years. Consider extending your CX endeavors far after the sale. This might include free services for car buyers, such as a follow-up oil change. It might also include newsletter follow-ups with great content of interest for local customers, such as local festivals, coupons or another lifestyle/special interest articles.
Social Media and Digital Outreach
Earlier, you read how buyers are often purchasing on their first visit instead of coming into the dealership multiple times before committing. That's largely because they've already made up their mind on the car and price they want before they enter the lot. Your consumer is savvy and they're looking for the information they need before they're ready to buy. If you want to give them the ideal experience, make sure they can find your information faster and more effectively, by grabbing them where they live - online. They may not decide to come to your dealership based on one Facebook Ad or Google search, but keeping your information relevant to local searchers does mean that your information is at their fingertips when they start their buying journey. Your social media outreach might include profiles, paid advertising, and a presence on search engines. Great CX means that your accounts are always responsive and always consumer friendly. This also means responding to and keeping track of customer reviews. In the ever-connected world online, past customers can be your best asset.
Consumers continue to buy and need new and used cars, but there is great competition to gain the attention of local buyers. Adding CX to your initiatives will help your dealership engage with your target audience throughout the buyer's journey and beyond.