By now every dealership general manager, sales manager and service manager has heard about the power of “the digital age.”
And they’re either all-in or skeptical. Let’s face it: The idea of consumers empowered by search engines and websites seems counterintuitive to good customer service. Where’s the service drive at a Carvana vending machine? Where’s the friendly expert, diagnosing and talking about your car at a Tesla kiosk…or in front of the Amazon screen?
That experience doesn’t seem very powerful. At least not when compared to what dealerships can offer.
Get Digital in Almost Every Way
As true as that may be, it doesn’t mean a dealer manager can avoid, or ignore, the reality of our era. According to a recent J.D. Power Study, satisfaction is 75 points higher (on a 1,000-point scale) among customers who have an all-digital experience, compared with one that is all analog. Customers prefer to schedule service via the internet and communicate with the dealer through text messages, rather than doing those tasks via phone. The study also notes that customer satisfaction increases even further when a service advisor uses a tablet during the service visit. These types of consumer preferences are forcing a disruptive transformation based on the effective use of technology: To provide information, speed up the process, and improve communication.
It improves the most important aspects of a service appointment by increasing transparency for all, expanding and accelerating communication options, and enabling the sharing of vital information. That makes service appointments faster, and customer relationships stronger. The reality of today’s digital age is that consumers now expect a digital, and mobile, experience, to the point that not operating from a digital foundation is a non-starter. Traditional industries like real estate have also undergone a transformation: According to the National Association of Realtors Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report for 2018, 44% of home shoppers began their search online – a shift of 20 points since the eighties. Part of this is due to changes to active generations. The same study reported that 99% of millennials search for homes online.
Of course, dealerships are also feeling the change. With millennials and Gen Z emerging as the primary shoppers, service managers should be thinking about how to leverage the new reality of customers who treat technology as a fundamental part of their daily experience. Digitizing every customer touchpoint can boost productivity, growth and profitability while enhancing the customer experience. Just think how valuable a comprehensive service delivery platform (including texting) would be – one that manages the entire customer lifecycle, and seamlessly integrates vehicle data with manufacturer systems and your DMS. This gives dealerships real-time access to important data and performance analytics that transform the entire process.
A Culture of Transparency
As impressive as technology can be, it’s not effective unless the dealership is ready and able to shift their approach and change the service department culture. To start, show staff why they should use digital tools, and how digitization will help them “over-deliver” on every interaction and commitment. A simple and effective way to begin this process is to change performance measurement towards customer-centric metrics – especially improvements in satisfaction and loyalty. Ultimately, however, the most important shift most dealers must make is to create a transparent process – especially about things like up-front costs. Transparency also builds trust with and for customers – and improves the service department’s ability to get the job done right the first time. It’s the kind of transparency that comes with improved communication.
Ultimately, as great as technology can be, it’s only as good as the service department around it – which is why a culture of transparency is so important. The digitization of the service drive is like any other tool: training, support and collaboration make it all come together. Software doesn’t ever work right if the dealership culture isn’t ready. To get there, focus on developing a culture of transparency that prioritizes the customer experience – and use digital tools to make it happen.
Creating an Exceptional Experience is the Point of the Digital Age
Digitization enables your team to enhance the customer experience and increase throughput, capacity and revenue. But it’s not as if the mere existence of digital tools makes the magic happen. A digital experience simply facilitates a better person-to-person experience which is what customers want most. According to PwC’s Experience is Everything, Get it Right. Study, speed and efficiency (80%); knowledgeable and helpful employees (78%); and convenience (77%) matter most when it comes to a general customer experience. The report found that these “cornerstone CX elements are so highly valued that 52% of consumers would pay more for greater speed and efficiency; 43% for greater convenience; and 41% would pay more for knowledgeable and helpful employees.”
Fast, friendly, and expert service. That creates happy customers – and happy customers translate into repeat customers. Carlisle & Company found that satisfied service customers are 36% more likely to purchase a vehicle from the same brand.
Now that sounds like something a dealership can deliver, far better than any vending machine.
The takeaway is that creating a service experience that delights customers is essential in today’s market. And customers are even telling us what they want: an efficient and transparent process that uses digital technology to create a human connection. Now that’s an exceptional experience.
We drive the digital transformation of dealerships with the only end-to-end platform that gives your employees the tools they need to satisfy customers while driving higher revenue and profits.