Driving customer experience-led growth in the auto industry
Automobile companies need to reappraise their CX systems to understand if all their data points are connected and stored in one place to deliver a unified experience.
Buying a car or bike is a long-drawn, and high-value process for customers, which is bundled with numerous touchpoints. While there are around 20 major touchpoints across digital and physical mediums for automotive customers, a 2021 study by McKinsey & Company states that about 900 touchpoints were discovered in their attempt to measure all the 'digital' touchpoints in the car-buying journey. This is particularly true for major autoBy brands. Skoda Auto, for instance, has more than 200 customer touchpoints in India alone. This leaves plenty of scope for OEMs, automobile companies, and dealerships to make or break the customer relationship through customer experience (CX).
Given the wide range of touchpoints, automobile companies need to reappraise their CX systems to understand if all their data points are connected and stored in one place to deliver a unified experience. In fact, another recent survey indicates that close to 50% of customers have thought about changing their automotive brand after it failed to deliver a relevant customer experience. On that note, the following are some of the problems that automobile companies should tackle to build a great experience:
Traditional approach to tech adoption: Automobile companies have meticulous procurement motions often with legacy ERP systems at the heart of everything. This worldview only focuses on the company's operational management, rather than the end customer's experience, which is often determined by collaboration with an ecosystem of stakeholders. However, owing to this traditional mindset, modern unified CX tech solutions which are built specifically for the experience economy are not leveraged. In turn, unfortunately, the potential of enhancing and creating a seamless CX remains untapped.
Incomplete view of the customer: Across the corporate organisation and the dealer network, a customer may choose to have many interactions, each with a different party. One or more such parties might even be serving the customer without any knowledge of other interactions the customer has had in their journey. This could lead to inconsistent experiences, friction, loss of time and effort for all parties involved, not just the customer.
Disconnected brand and dealer experiences: The true brand experience (as offered by the automobile manufacturer directly) could be very different from the brand experience offered by a specific dealership. Older dealerships may process paperwork faster but may not be open to trying new experiences like mixed reality or community marketing. Newer dealerships may be more experimental in their approach, but may still take a while to master the procedural aspects and policies. This may be further compounded by lack of access to appropriate technology or recurring training programs that instil central standards.
Limited Personalisation: As a result of the above mentioned limitations, such as the lack of complete customer context and adequate data, the automobile brand or the dealerships, can only offer a limited personalised customer experience.
Improving CX in the automobile industry
There are a few practical initiatives that can help counter the challenges above. Many brands and dealers do some of these already. In fact, 81% of the dealers who participated in an automobile industry CX study agreed that managing the CX is crucial to their growth.
Modernise the dealer experience: The first step to a great customer experience is to empower the dealer network with modern technology, which elevates the brand-dealer experience, as well as the dealer-customer experience. A shared enriched view of the customer, the ability to collaborate on customer jobs, and contextual software interfaces for employees are all strong steps towards a great experience for dealers, in turn allowing for better CX.
Simplify the post-purchase experience: As with any high-value purchase, a large part of the customer's relationship with the brand comes after the purchase. However, much of the pomp and attention is associated with the pre-purchase and purchase experience that the post-purchase experience often feels like an afterthought or a transactional experience. Periodic reminders for maintenance, greetings for purchase anniversary, content or accessory recommendations based on the customer's interest, and self-service booking and tracking for servicing are all examples of a simpler, engaged experience for customers after they purchase the vehicle. Done with the right balance of personalisation, frequency, and privacy, a great post-purchase experience can lead to strong customer loyalty.
Educate buyers through detailed content: The vast majority of first-time buyers know very little about the actual functioning of an automobile, and often rely on friends and family for recommendations on how to evaluate options. How the vehicle works, what are the interesting ways in which other individuals use the vehicle, what factors to consider while evaluating a vehicle are all examples of content that educates buyers. It allows educated consumers to have informed conversations with and about the brand, resulting in better engagement.
Focus on building communities: The next immediate step after educational and engaging content is to build a community of enthusiasts who can take that engagement further. Communities help translate two-dimensional educational value into real-world lived experiences shared across their members. A handful of automobile brands already have thriving local communities that share best practices, DIY hacks, high-quality accessories, and even plan activities together as a group.
In all, ensuring that the brand and its extended ecosystem are aligned on a common CX vision and strategy, and leveraging the right CX tech to achieve this will determine the true impact of CX for the automotive industry.
Prashanth "PVK" Krishnaswami is Global Head of Market Strategy, and Thought Leadership - CX at Zoho Corp. Views expressed are those of the author.
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