A look at the background relationship between the automotive industry and customer service.
May 16, 2019
Back in 2008, a survey conducted by People 1st, the sector skills council, found that more than two-thirds of hospitality businesses here in the UK believed customer service needed a serious improvement. But why was the service here in the UK so disappointing?
Michel Roux Jr. described the service here in the UK as “surly, slapdash and dreadful,” and the Michelin starred chef’s comments weren’t unfounded either. Research has discovered that UK businesses lose around £12 billion every year simply due to poor customer service.
With the16 to 24-year-old demographic the most likely to be vocal online regarding customer service, businesses are at risk of losing more than just one customer. With around 30 percent of the aforementioned age category suggesting they would post a review thanks to poor service, reputation can be seriously punished!
Thankfully, the last decade has seen somewhat of a shocking U-turn in terms of hospitality. Since 2010 the UK has begun to establish itself as a major world player in terms of customer satisfaction. The Zendesk’s Customer Service Benchmark world rankings places the United Kingdom fourth, with a rating of 96.2%.
Although we all hope for customer service at every opportunity, it is arguably more detrimental in the more expensive of purchases — take a car for example. After a house, a car is most likely going to be the most expensive purchase you ever make. It’s a rare occasion that someone would go out in the morning time, on a whim, and come home with a new set of wheels. A study has found that the average car buyer spends around 14 hours researching online, reading reviews and visiting dealers’ websites before making their decision.
Here, with Lookers, who offer an extensive range of Mercedes Finance, we examine the background relationship between the automotive industry and customer service.
Buying a new car has completely changed as an experience. Unlike in the past when we would have devoted an entire weekend to trooping round a host of show rooms, the iPad or laptop has become a trusted companion in the process nowadays — and dealerships know this. Making a great first impression is right from the word go, when the customer lands on the website and makes that initial interaction — their experience here can mould their end decision.
Artificial Intelligence is used by most websites now, tracking a potential customer’s journey through their website, so they can send through a pop up asking, “is there anything we can help you with today?”. Once the potential lead responds, they get linked through to a member of staff and the ball is set in motion.
The customer service experience has simply been brought back a step. As the automotive industry knows two-thirds of decisions are made online, they can no longer depend on their salesman using their relentless charm to guarantee each and every sale, as the lead may never come through the door. Instead, the initial ‘meet and greet’ is carried out in the comfort of your own home.
Don’t forget one of the main reasons salesmen have been able to shift so many cars over the year — that all important charm. A report carried out by We Are DMA concluded that car dealerships that are able to connect with customers on a personal level are gaining the strongest levels of engagement. The technical jargon that in the past may have been able to completely mind boggle a customer because they were unaware as to what it meant, is now readily available for their access online. Harley Davidson’s John Russell notes, “the more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.” By speaking to the customer on a level of mutual understanding, both dealer and buyer are benefiting.
One third pointed of participants in the survey pointed to the company being friendly, helpful and welcoming as what determines their favourite car brand, being pipped ever so-slightly by ‘quality’, which received 45 per cent of the votes. Despite the fact the journey may start online, 59% still bought their most recent car in a dealership, meaning a focus on the development on the customer service at those initial two stages of contact will prove detrimental in the ultimate success.
Maritz Research, who conducted another study, quizzed customers on their automotive purchasing experience. Maritz discovered that just under 75% of customers were satisfied overall with the service they received. Similarly, the vast majority rated their dealings with the sales department as the most important aspect.
By no means should the sale exist as the end of the relationship or experience between customer and dealership; this is just the beginning, particularly if this is the first time the customer has bought this brand or from this dealership. This is where customer service needs to excel, and the quality of the product can really shine. In reality, the odds are stacked against a car going through its lifespan without some form of issue.
Even if it does, which is highly unlikely, it still needs a regular service, and for a dealership, it is all about ensuring the customer comes to you. This is when the digital aspect can prove its worth once again. By providing customers with details online of simple things like changing the oil the honesty that is ranked so highly by the customer is installed. However, by also suggesting how much easier it would be to drop it in, grab a coffee and have it done by one of your fully-fledged mechanics, you are catering for every customer need. A dealership runs the risk of the customer not getting an oil change, but they’ll develop a love for a brand and return when replacements are due.
Audi are currently looking like revolutionaries in this area. The pioneering Audi Cam offers customers the chance to see exactly what is happening to their car whilst it is in the garage, as one of the members of their service department will walk round with a selfie camera, showing the various alterations that are being made.
For many years, we in the UK, have been subject to poor customer service. Frankly, we didn’t know how to accept it and businesses didn’t know how to deliver it, but things can only get better!
The piece is written by Jonathan Gilpin, on behalf of Lookers Mercedes. Originally from Northern Ireland, he specialises in current affairs, lifestyle, and sport.