Customer Experience in the Automotive Industry
For many consumers, the purchase of a car is the second largest investment they will make in their lifetime. Aside from buying a house, it requires the largest amount of time, research, and financial investment and can be a long and tedious process. Unfortunately for many consumers, the car-buying journey is disjointed, causing a lot of stress and leaving them feeling unvalued by the car company and even taken advantage of at the end of the day. How can businesses improve this experience and have their customers feeling better about their journey overall? What if the pain-points experienced by consumers could be turned into differentiators for the company that not only improved customer experience but resulted in increased sales and brand satisfaction?
The Deloitte and Adobe Study
A recent study by Deloitte Digital and Adobe aimed to better understand the pain points for customers purchasing new cars. The goal was to identify areas where customers felt overwhelmed, misinformed, or lost during the car-buying process in an effort to improve these areas of the customer experience. The study was conducted across a range of customers throughout Germany, the UK, and France. The study identified pain points across five steps within the customer’s car-buying journey. It looked at why these pain points exist and explored how businesses could address these issues to produce a better experience across the board.
The first stage of the car-buying journey is gaining information about available products and narrowing it down to a select few options that you would like to investigate further. In this stage of the process, many buyers feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of available vehicles and options available on them. They feel as if there should be more personalisation when searching for vehicles, where they can fill out a few questions about what they’re looking for and have a set of relevant options presented to them. Digital marketing can help with this, providing selections to users based on profile attributes or self-supplied answers to specific questions.
Once consumers have narrowed down their list of options, they usually go to the dealer and test drive the vehicle in what we call the contact stage. In this stage customers are often wary of pushy salespeople and may feel as if they are being upsold options or models that they don’t need. They often feel unappreciated for the amount of money they are about to spend, which is far different from the warmer experience offered when purchasing less expensive items in person or through an online site. In this piece of the customer journey it is important for the salesperson to be aware of who the consumer is and what he or she is interested in, and to make the overall contact experience a pleasant one, where the individual feels valued and taken care of by the business or brand.
During the purchasing phase of the process, which includes final decision making, negotiations, contract signing, and purchase, consumers feel as if they lack control or guidance. They often look to their representative for cues that they are making the right choice, and the lack of interaction on this level leaves them feeling unsure and skeptical. Oftentimes they are unaware of potential add-ons to their contract that they may be offered, and feel rushed into decisions without having a safe place to fully review things like service plans or warranties. In this phase, customers need a trusted advisor that can accurately explain the benefits of such add-ons as they relate directly to the customer and the customer’s particular situation.
During the waiting period from purchase to handover, which can take from several days to several months, consumers who have had a stressful experience may feel buyer’s remorse over their purchase. They can be plagued with feelings of doubt about their purchase, especially when they are not informed of how long the process will take, or have not been reassured as to the value of their purchase. During this time there is relatively little to no contact from the business, which can leave them feeling alone or abandoned. Having a positive experience up to this point, combined with more involved updates and interaction from the company, can ease the pain of this stressful time, and improve brand loyalty from the consumer.
The stage after the sale involves everything from follow-up to maintenance. This stage is one of the most important for businesses that want to secure repeat purchases and brand loyalty from the consumer. Unfortunately many consumers feel abandoned after the sale as well. They feel there is no personalisation from the company when they contact it about needs for their car, and the lack of follow-up can have them feeling tossed aside by the company and valued simply for the money they’ve spent, and not as an ambassador for the brand. This poor experience can be addressed by ensuring they have a particular point of contact that they can get in touch with for questions or other follow-up needs. It is important to understand that flooding the customer with maintenance ads or offers is not considered follow-up, and in fact it often makes the customer feel less valued overall.
The Path Forward
The Deloitte study identified a number of pain points experienced by car buyers as they go through the purchasing journey. If properly addressed, these pain points can become differentiators looking to increase sales and brand loyalty in a rapidly changing marketplace. Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing my own journey through the car-buying process as I look to purchase a new vehicle myself. Hopefully this will provide a raw look into the presence of these pain points, and give some insight into how car companies can improve the purchasing process for their consumers and the overall customer experience.