Customer Service In The Digital Age
In terms of customer service, almost a decade ago Britain was considered one of the worst nations in the western world for providing this. We as customers didn’t know how to receive it, while in similar fashion, sales people didn’t know how to deliver it, or simply didn’t want to. It all just seemed a little too ‘American’.
Michel Roux Jr. – a Michelin starred chef described the UK service sector as “surly, slapdash and dreadful,” and his comments weren’t inaccurate either. Research has discovered that UK businesses lose around £12 billion every year simply due to poor customer service.
Not only is it costing businesses financially wise, but also jeopardies’ their reputation, especially online. 16 to 24-year-olds are the most likely to be vocal online regarding customer service, with one third of the demographic suggesting they would be posting a review on the internet if they received poor customer service.
In terms of customer satisfaction, since 2010 the UK has gradually improved to become a major world player in the industry. The Zendesk’s Customer Service Benchmark world rankings places the United Kingdom fourth, with a rating of 96.2%.
Although providing high levels of customer service is an important aspect when purchasing any product, it’s arguably even more crucial with expensive ones, such as cars. 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.
The key to sale success is combining good quality service with purchasing a car – a concept we have all became familiar with.
The 1st stage: Digital
No longer does car shopping begin on a Saturday morning when you pull up at numerous show rooms, it begins online weeks before this is even considered. Right from the word go, when the customer lands on the website and makes that initial interaction, their experience can mould their end decision.
Ever noticed those pop-up messages on sites asking, “is there anything we can help you with today?”, this is because a lot of websites use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to track potential customers’ journeys on their site. 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 is extending due to the use of technology. 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.
The 2nd stage: on the day
Connecting with customers is one of the most obviously important factors when making a sale, despite it being forgotten on some occasions. 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.
When a survey was conducted, respondents ranked the quality of a product as being most important with 45% of the vote, however one third still said how helpful, friendly and welcoming a company is important. 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 conducted a study on customers and their automotive purchasing experience and discovered that just under 75% of customers were satisfied with the service they received. Similarly, the vast majority rated their dealings with the sales department as the most important aspect.
The 3rd Stage: Down the line
When customers first sign all the documents to confirm their purchase of a car, only a dodgy car salesman would see this as the end of the customer service experience when in fact this is only the beginning – especially if this is the first time a customer has bought a car from this dealership/brand. 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.
For a dealership, it’s all about guaranteeing the customer comes to them, because even if your car does miraculously make it through unmarked, it still needs to be regularly serviced. Here with Lookers Mercedes, retailers of the used Smart Car, we assess the importance of gaining customer loyalty. 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 has recently shown to go above and beyond providing high quality after sales care to its customers. The revolutionary 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.
Until recently, customer service in the UK was lagging behind the rest of the world. Its successful application however produces massive positives. When we are on the receiving end of high-quality customer service, just under three quarters of us are likely to recommend the company to a friend, whilst half of us would become a frequent customer of the brand.