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Driving with the headlights on: how automotive companies can consolidate customer touchpoints for clear, connected communication

  • Jed Mole

    Jed Mole

Created at October 6th, 2015

Driving with the headlights on: how automotive companies can consolidate customer touchpoints for clear, connected

Customer touchpoints in the automotive purchasing process used to be pretty invisible. If you wanted a new car you might think about it for a few weeks before buying a copy of AutoTrader or wandering round a showroom. Now, as soon as you think you might want a new car, you head straight online, flagging up to anyone really watching that you’re in the market. These changes in customer behaviour call for enhanced touchpoint management and greater consolidation between them.

Greater connection of data allows automotive companies to better deliver the personal touch and value across multiple channels in a way that benefits customers and builds the auto customer experience; something that has often been used as an example of bad customer experiences!

Considering customer touchpoints

Much of the work in buying a new car now is done online or pre-purchase decision. The journey starts when the buyer decides they might want a new car (in fact, some would argue it begins before they have been persuaded they might be a bit bored with their existing vehicle). It could even start with a targeted advert based on other purchasing decisions.

McKinsey’s 2013 Innovating Automotive Retail report found that the average number of customer visits to dealers before buying a car has dropped from up to five to frequently just one for some brands in some geographies and almost 90% of customers use dealer websites or OEM websites in the early steps of their decision making journey.

Usually automotive customers are monitored after vehicle purchase, certainly after the first purchase; from services, to fixing a problem under warranty, or after an accident. But this alone doesn’t provide a complete and true picture of the customer journey and moreover doesn’t allow us to provide a meaningful and fruitful customer experience.

Real-time auto communication

These days, when a consumer makes a post-purchase comment about their vehicle, we can recognise and access that information in real-time. We don’t have to wait for them to have a service first. As social media allows for good and bad experiences to be reacted to immediately, dealerships can be provided with insights on customer priority. In the future, as the vehicles themselves provide increasingly complex information on the driving experience, it will become easier to integrate customer behaviour post-purchase with manufacturing data to enable both the brand and the retailer/showroom to ensure optimum experience.

These post-purchase customer touchpoints include things like after-purchase check-ins, thanking the customer for purchasing, suggesting they make contact for any assistance. This reassures the customer their business is appreciated and reminds them to maintain contact in case of any issues. Similarly, regular maintenance reminders ensure the customer sticks with the dealership for essential work.

The appointment reminder seals the deal. A customer survey has the advantage of letting the customer know their opinions matter and collecting crucial service information for future purchases. It’s also a great way to get them to opt in to future correspondence.

Through this connected data manufacturers are increasingly able to understand how their cars are being used and improve design accordingly. But this must be done consistently and continuously and distributed across companies’ CRM, brand and dealership teams for it to have real impact on the customer experience.