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.

After Sales

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.