Britain doesn’t have a history of fantastic customer service. Compared to the likes of America, our customer service reputation tends to be sorely lacking enthusiasm, helpfulness, and overall tact. On the flip side, British customers are also stereotypically poor at receiving customer service. It could be argued that both sides were resistant to a process that seemed a little too American to fit in with the usual British approach.
But customer service can be the making or breaking of a sale. Failure to successfully deliver exceptional customer service, particularly in an industry like the automotive industry where purchases mean big money, can truly cost businesses. A customer might be actively seeking out a fancy new Mercedes Gle, but if the salesperson drops the ball on a customer service level, the customer will quite happily look elsewhere for their perfect car!
Thanks to technology, the customer service experience in any sale is extended. As the automotive industry knows two-thirds of decisions are made online, they can no longer depend on their salesman using their relentless charm to guarantee each and every sale, as the lead may never come through the door. Instead, the initial ‘meet and greet’ is carried out in the comfort of your own home. As a result of this, the journey to buying a new car no longer starts on a Saturday morning when you pull up at the show room, it started weeks before at home, online. Right from the word go, when the customer lands on the website and makes that initial interaction, their experience can mould their end decision.
That’s not all from a technological standpoint. Most websites now use (AI) Artificial Intelligence, tracking a potential customer’s journey through their website, so they can send through a pop up asking, “is there anything we can help you with today?”. Once the potential lead responds, they get linked through to a member of staff and the ball is set in motion.
The day of the purchase
Your customer service can also influence brand image in the eyes of your customers. When asked what determined their favourite car brand, respondents ranked quality as the highest with 45%, one third pointed to the company being friendly, helpful and welcoming. Despite the fact the journey may start online, 59% still bought their most recent car in a dealership, meaning a focus on the development on the customer service at those initial two stages of contact will prove detrimental in the ultimate success.
It’s important to make that personal connection too. A report carried out by We Are DMA however concluded that car dealerships that are able to connect with customers on a personal level are gaining the strongest levels of engagement. The technical jargon that in the past may have been able to completely mind boggle a customer because they were unaware as to what it meant, is now readily available for their access online. Harley Davidson’s John Russell notes, “the more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.” By speaking to the customer on a level of mutual understanding, both dealer and buyer are benefiting.
The findings are supported in other research too. An alternative study carried out by Maritz Research which quizzed customers on their automotive purchasing experience discovered that just under 75% of customers were satisfied overall with the service they received. Similarly, the vast majority rated their dealings with the sales department as the most important aspect.
After-sale customer service
A signature on the dotted line isn’t the end. This is where customer service needs to excel, and the quality of the product can really shine. In reality, the odds are stacked against a car going through its lifespan without some form of issue. Even if your car does miraculously make it through unscathed, it still needs a regular service, and for a dealership, it is all about ensuring the customer comes to you. This is when the digital aspect can prove its worth once again. By providing customers with details online of simple things like changing the oil the honesty that is ranked so highly by the customer is installed. However, by also suggesting how much easier it would be to drop it in, grab a coffee and have it done by one of your fully-fledged mechanics, you are catering for every customer need. A dealership runs the risk of the customer not getting an oil change, but they’ll develop a love for a brand and return when replacements are due.
Audi is leading the way in aftercare. The revolutionary Audi Cam offers customers the chance to see exactly what is happening to their car whilst it is in the garage, as one of the members of their service department will walk round with a selfie camera, showing the various alterations that are being made.
Until recently, British customer service has certainly been lacking polish. Its successful application however produces massive positives. When we are on the receiving end of high-quality customer service, just under three quarters of us are likely to recommend the company to a friend, whilst half of us would become a frequent customer of the brand.