With 86 per cent of customers willing to pay up to 25 per cent more simply to receive good customer service, its implementation is certainly a worthwhile investment. Here, in the UK, however, for many years we have been significantly lacking in the area, especially when we look at our transatlantic counterparts who have become more than accustomed to receiving a hearty serving of pleasantness with every transaction. Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr. voiced his opinion regarding service here in the UK. The tv-personality noted how the service here in the UK is “surly, slapdash, and dreadful.”
But why is customer service so important? Although this may seem like somewhat of a given, customer service is crucial when it comes to a business’ potential growth and success. Alongside the fact that it is cheaper to hold on to an existing customer than it is to close an entirely new one, someone who has previously bought goods or services from you will be more understanding when things go wrong — because they can recall your ability to help them fix it.
The financial implications are just one thing that businesses will experience. A business’ reputation can take a serious knock along the way if their level of service drops by the wayside. The 16-24 age bracket have become particularly synonymous for posting reviews on Trip Advisor when things don’t quite meet their expectations — one-third of the demographic suggesting they would be posting a review online if they received poor customer service.
Did you know that £12 billion is lost each and every year in the UK thanks to shoddy customer service? However, since 2010 the UK has begun to establish itself as a major world player in terms of customer satisfaction. The Zendesk’s Customer Service Benchmark world rankings places the United Kingdom fourth, with a rating of 96.2%.
Customer service may be vital in all purchases, however, it’s arguably most important with expensive ones, such as a car. After a house, a car is most likely going to be the most expensive purchase you ever make. It’s a rare occasion that someone would go out in the morning time, on a whim, and come home with a new set of wheels. A study has found that the average car buyer spends around 14 hours researching online, reading reviews and visiting dealers’ websites before making their decision.
Here with Lookers Mercedes, who offer a host of used Smart Cars, we assess customer service in the automotive industry.
Stage 1 — Digital
No longer does the traditional journey to buying car start 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.
Through the technological development of (AI) Artificial Intelligence, businesses can track 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.
It isn’t necessarily that customer service is being enhanced, it is simply being extended — from the dealership to the living room. 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.
Stage 2 — On the day
In terms of the brand, but moreover the salesman, developing a bond with the customer is a crucial aspect part of the process, yet one that too often gets skimmed over these days. A report carried out by We Are DMA 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.
Within the survey, when the respondents were asked what determined their favourite car brand, they ranked quality as the highest with 45%, however, 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.
Questioning customers on their automotive purchasing experience, Maritz Research 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.
Stage 3 — Down the line
As opposed to being the end of the sales process, the initial purchasing is just the start of the process, particularly if this is the first time the customer has bought from this brand or from this dealership. 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.
If the car does successfully make it through without any problems then great, however 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.
After sales care is an area in which Audi have recently shown how to go above and beyond. 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.
With 50 per cent of customers willing to increase their purchasing with a brand who have previously offered them a satisfactory level of customer service, it is no wonder that businesses within the automotive industry are battling to enhance what they are offering.