Using data to help your sales staff truly understand their customers and anticipate their needs will lead to a better overall experience in your dealership. In this article, automotiveMastermind builds on an airline analogy to help showcase the need for a holistic approach to dealer customer experience (CX):
- While all facets of an airline staff work independently, much like your dealership, the work is interwoven in the eyes of the customer
- Provide your team with resources, capabilities and authority to build a great CX
- Drive customer loyalty through consistent CX
The last time you took an airline flight, how was your customer experience? What goes into answering that question for you – and what does it tell you about your dealership’s customer service?
On your last flight, was the check-in disorganized or understaffed? Were the flight attendants unable to provide the beverage you requested during in-flight service? Maybe the airplane restroom wasn’t clean enough, or your baggage took too long to arrive?
Did you walk away happy, or not?
An airline’s gate staff, flight crew, aircraft maintenance and baggage claim functions are as operationally independent – if not more so – than the marketing, sales and customer service teams in your dealership. But just as you instinctively assess your experience with an airline as a totality of how you felt in every facet of that process from your first interaction to your last; so too do your customers feel about their experience with your dealership. Just as you think of “the airline” without stopping to assess the different operational areas by which they divide themselves, so too do your customers think of you as “the dealership” without differentiating between marketing, sales, finance, or service.
A Holistic Approach to Dealer Customer Experience
It is critical for your entire organization to have a holistic view of customer service, based on the concept that a customer’s experience – “CX” – is as unified for you as it is for them. That means while you may keep operational areas separately managed, those divisions – and the handoff between them – need to be as seamless and invisible as possible to your customers. This happens with careful analysis and planning of the entire customer experience, through dedication to building a customer experience culture and through providing your team with the resources, capabilities and authority to deliver those experiences regardless of where that customer is in your organization at any given time.
Use Data to Understand Your Customers
This all begins with understanding your dealership’s customers. In the old days, the mantra told us to “Know your customer.” That’s still true, of course, but it’s no longer good enough to end at simply knowing who they are. In a world where your TV recognizes what you want to watch, your GPS can predict where you’re going when you get in the car and Amazon knows what you’d like to buy before you do, your customers expect you not just to know who they are but also to understand their wants, needs, interests, expectations and concerns.
It’s admittedly ironic that the path to understanding your customers as unique individuals for whom you tailor customized experiences starts with the impersonal logic of databases and machine learning, but there’s no other way to accomplish that objective at the kind of scale a dealership requires. The more your employees know about a customer and the more context they’re provided by the automated tools that do the homework for them, the better they’re able to understand that customer and interact with them in a way that maximizes their customer experience and cements their relationship with your organization.
However, simply having the right information about a customer and having people in place who are engaged in using data to provide great customer experience isn’t enough, if the experience isn’t consistent. Just as the example of your experience with all the facets of an airline shows how one underperforming component can sour an entire experience, so too can an under-performing part of your dealership.
Nobody credits the airline with getting to the gate on time or remembers the smiling flight attendant who gave them an extra bag of peanuts. Similarly, your marketing could be on point, your sales process a joy and the vehicle delivered in pristine condition with a smile – but if the finance process was painful and impersonal, that’s what your customer will remember. You can’t afford to tolerate any under-performing component of your dealership when it comes to customer experience, because that’s what will end up defining the experience your customer remembers and limiting the potential of your future relationship with them.
Build from the Foundation
Great dealer customer experiences build loyal, high-value customers. They’re the foundation of a sustainable dealership model that lets you protect existing market share while you use the same digital capabilities that underpin your CX operation to expand your marketing reach and conquest new customers. But just as your airline can do everything right except lose your luggage and expect you to walk away happy, neither can you afford to depend on some areas of greatness to counterbalance pain points for your customers.
Where are your customers not having a great experience – and what are you doing about it? Are you ready to truly understand your customers and ultimately sell more vehicles? Contact us today for a VIP consultation.