3 Ways Dealers Can Use Tech to Improve Customer Experience

In their November mid-year update DealerRater announced that Lexus (luxury segment) and Hyundai (mass-market segment) were in the lead for the 2016 Customer Rating Index. The final winners, chosen based on average consumer ratings posted on DealerRater,  will be announced in April as the highest (and lowest) ranked manufacturers by experience at the dealership level. Their CEO stated in the mid-year press release, “Leading OEMs now realize that customer experience is the key differentiator when it comes to consumers choosing where to buy and service their vehicles.” And he’s not alone in his opinion.

The 2015 Driving Sales Consumer Experience Study estimates that automotive sales could improve as much as 24% if the customer experience were to improve across the industry. A similar study conducted by MaritzCX focused on how much of an impact improving customer experience during car purchase can have on the bottom line. The research showed that the average car dealership could profit an additional $106,000 per year by making customer experience a top priority. The numbers are there, but this doesn’t make it easy for a dealership to change their customer experience overnight. It takes time, planning, and most importantly a sales team that’s on board to truly overhaul a dealer’s customer experience. Luckily, advancements in technology and the digital age  allow for some clear-cut methods to boost your customer satisfaction rates, and drive more sales to your dealership.

1. Take advantage of gadgets

My 6 year old cousin has, and uses, a tablet - but your dealership doesn’t? There are so many ways to use gadgets like tablets, headsets, and programs specially designed for dealers and service centers.  The J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) StudySM found that using tablets during the sales process yields a higher customer satisfaction rate among buyers than when a tablet is not used. Digitally savvy, modern consumers are accustomed to this type of high-tech service, and may be turned off by a salesperson that seems disconnected. This isn’t to say your salesperson should be staring at a screen during the entire conversation. J.D. Power suggests using the technology to show consumers pricing and vehicle information as well as taking notes about consumer needs and requests. Plus having any information necessary at the touch of a button expedites the sales process and leads to less time for the consumer to become frustrated by wait times.

Implemented technology doesn’t always have to be the latest and greatest cutting edge item either. A Texas Toyota dealership attributes an increase from 50 to 400 new and used sales per month just from giving employees radio headsets. Now, customer questions and requests can be answered with the push of a button instead of the sales person having to leave the customer to ask a question of service center personnel, inquire about the status of a vehicle in inventory, or request a representative to assist in a sale.

Dealerships with the ability to invest in personalized apps and programs can see huge rewards in customer experience. An example of this is Hyundai’s “Workshop Automation” system which gives customers up to the minute information on their car’s repair status with estimated time remaining. Some dealers are now able to utilize technology placed on a vehicle in their system that alerts personnel when the customer arrives at their location. Before the customer even steps out of a car they’re greeted by name by a team member who already has their vehicle information pulled up.


2. Get digital

It’s 2016, people, your customer should be able to make an appointment, check their vehicle records, see upcoming service recommendations, and browse your current vehicle inventory from their computer or cellphone. Many dealers and service centers are using various texting platforms to take their customer experience to the next level. Everything from a quick reminder message of an upcoming oil change to allowing a consumer to text in a service request can set your business apart as a convenient and cutting edge place that customers want to go, and tell their friends about. Industry leaders like Lexus are taking things even further with their Service Connect system which gives owners a monthly “health report” and provides answers to questions such as  “what does that light mean?” and “When should my next tire rotation be?” Dealers without sophisticated OEM established platforms such as Lexus’ can create the same experience by using third party car VIN data to keep track of vehicle maintenance, history, and status to give their customers the five star experience they expect.

3. It’s all about communication

Advertising used to be a one-way conversation. I run a commercial for a Labor Day promotion, consumers see it, and they decide to come into my dealership. Thanks to social media, this is no longer the case. Now it’s more like I run a commercial, my consumers see it, 10 people love it and comment on my dealership’s Facebook page asking the details of the promotion, 6 people love it and share it to their friends who then call my dealership asking about “that one video” they saw on Facebook, 7 people are offended by the font choice in the ad (or something else that I didn’t see coming) and have now deployed a barrage of angry tweets voicing their allegiance to Times New Roman, 9 people miss the advertisement completely but expect the sales team to be able to tell them all existing promotions when they call in. What happened to just running a commercial! Social media sites must be consistently managed in order to be effective, or they could even become harmful for your business. Customers are accustomed to receiving responses to reviews, positive and negative, and questions posted via social forums, and dealers need to ensure they have allocated resources to address these customers.

Once dealers have mastered the art of using social media as a communication channel to respond to consumers, they can take their campaigns to the next level by establishing themselves as a knowledge center by publishing content that consumers find valuable. Posting updates on service promotions, recent news about new models, and beneficial industry knowledge are all ways to keep current customers engaged and your brand top of mind. Many dealers are seeing great success with video marketing to showcase new inventory and valuable content. Research by HighQ shows that 78% of people watch videos online every week, and by 2018, the number of people who watch videos every day is expected to rise from 55% to 79%.

Published content doesn’t need to be overtly salesy, in fact that will probably do more harm than good. The goal is to establish yourself as a valued resource to your consumers. Truly knowing your audience is most important to curating and creating content that they will find valuable. A look into your consumer database with the help of some third party data append services can fill in psychographic and demographic details to give you a clear view of who your best customers are, and how to retain them. An example of a company doing this right is Jeep who encourages owners to share photos of their trail rides. Jeep has done such an amazing job of using social media to establish brand loyalty and a solid community that owners often host meet ups, are members of Jeep only clubs, and even practice something called the “Jeep Wave.”

A comprehensive view of your best customers and targeted prospects is the best place to start your social content strategy. This will help you decide if you should share an article about the “best places to off-road in our county” or “top environmental products of 2016.”

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again- It’s the “Age of the Empowered Consumer” and automotive businesses need to evolve to meet skyrocketing expectations. The three tech and digital related ways explained in this blog are just a few ways to start setting your dealer apart in a competitive landscape.  EDM Group research showed that 64% of car dealers expect to invest in technology to address evolving consumer expectations in 2016. The time to bring your dealership’s offline and online customer experience up to speed is now, or you’re at risk of being at a severe disadvantage.

To learn how OEMs and dealerships are targeting car buyers throughout the entire customer journey with precise data, download our free guide.

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