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Creating Raving Fans

As originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of Canadian AutoJournal.

Five key factors of a positive customer experience.

By: Jeff Schulz, EVP, Marketing

Customer expectations are at an all-time high when it comes to immediate access to information and personalization. Consumers are comparing the car-buying experience with other purchase experiences through companies like Amazon, eBay and Best Buy. With this in mind, it’s important to position your business for success and create the best possible experience for your customers.

A study by Google and Luth Research references 900 digital touch points that consumers interact with in their car-buying journey. Your customers are reaching most of these touch points before entering your dealership, and they have a significant influence on their experience.

A positive customer experience can be broken down into five key factors: accessible information, personalization, integration and interactivity, a smooth transition, and follow-up.

1. Accessible consumer-friendly information

With 78% of car shoppers visiting a dealership’s website prior to visiting in person (Jumpstart Automotive Media), it’s clear that dealers need to meet their customers where they’re looking for information. Not only should online inventory be up to date to serve as a digital showroom, it should also include details on available protection products with informative and engaging content.

2. Personalization

Personalization goes way beyond the in-store process around information gleaned from one conversation. If customers are providing information about their needs online, consider how to use it to create a personalized experience both online and in-store. If you can capture customer information for your sales person to reference when the customer enters the dealership, you’ll create a personalized, seamless experience. One of the simplest ways to do this is to allow the customer to save the choices they make online, and email or print them out for later reference.

A personalized experience is key for customer satisfaction, but it also has many benefits for your business. In fact, leaders in personalization have found proven ways to drive 5-15% increases in revenue and 10-30% increases in marketing-spend efficiency, with product recommendations considered a significant contributor to that (McKinsey, 2019).

3. Tool integration and interactivity

Many tools on the market can be beneficial for your business. From online retailing solutions, to build and price tools—there’s no shortage of ways to optimize your customers’ experience.

Build and price configurators are gaining traction for vehicle research. If a customer takes the time to build and price a vehicle, it’s critical that this information is captured for a smooth transition into the dealership. Build and price tools are an engaging activity that allows the customer to balance their needs with their budget and can also introduce them to protection products.

Asking them questions—and capturing their answers—is a good way to create engagement and personalization. For example, asking how long they plan to keep their vehicle or how many kilometres they normally drive in a year will help you better understand your customer when they enter your dealership.

4. A smooth transition from online to offline

Many major retailers have demonstrated the importance of a smooth transition between online and offline. For example, you can buy or reserve clothing, groceries or electronics online and pick them up with ease at a retail location if you opt-out of home delivery. The automotive industry should be providing an equal or better experience to meet today’s consumers’ needs.

According to a 2018 study by Jumpstart Automotive Media, 84% of car shoppers do online research. With this in mind, consider how you can bridge the online and in-store experience. We’ve all experienced the frustration of repeating our story to every person we talk to when dealing with customer service. Cater to your customers and value their time by ensuring the work they’ve done online beforehand is carried through to the dealership experience.

5. Follow up

You likely capture the customer data of those who already bought a car from you to follow up with service appointments, lease renewals, winter tires, and promotions—but what about the customers that visit your website, build and price a car and then leave? By prompting the customer to provide their email to capture the information they’ve shared, you give yourself the opportunity to follow up with that customer and bring them to your store. It also ensures a smooth transition between the online and offline experience. It’s critical to offer assistance, but not to pester them with continual follow-up.

Identify suppliers that are able to provide expert support and guidance, and work with them to help you build a seamless customer experience. Keep in mind that every department in a dealership has an impact on the customer experience, so it’s critical that you use a similar, thoughtful approach to managing the customer throughout your dealership.

Long story short, think of the best experiences you’ve had with other retailers. Ask yourself what you liked about it and then find ways to apply it to your dealership. Similarly, think of poor experiences you’ve had and make sure you learn from other’s mistakes. Use these tips to create an end-to-end experience your customers will rave about—they’ll tell their friends!