While the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t overturn all the rules for client engagement, it accelerated certain trends.
Personal service will never go out of style, but clients now are accustomed to the convenience of at-home shopping. As proof, automotive dealerships who adapted to home shopping saw customer satisfaction levels soar; 72% of buyers are highly satisfied with the shopping experience, according to the 2021 Cox Automotive Car Buyer Journey Study.
To sustain that positive momentum in 2021, here are eight new rules of client engagement for dealerships to keep in mind.
Improve Employee – and Client – Experiences
Dealerships need a solid process to educate and onboard team members to provide great client service. Working smarter, not harder, ensures that staff can quickly and easily access the tools they need to answer client questions. If employees are well-positioned to do their jobs, it shows in the client experience.
“Bespoke” and “At Scale” Are Not Mutually Exclusive
One challenge for customer-service-centric industries is marrying the convenience of digital experiences with the human touch of in-person interactions. A recent Deloitte survey found that, while one-third of consumers tried out a new virtual experience, 56% wanted those experiences to feel more human.
So, how do dealerships offer a bespoke experience while expanding their offerings to more customers? Great customer engagement is more than a good rapport. It encompasses personalized responses across communication channels because staff can quickly access the customer’s history instead of starting from scratch. In the digital age, a customized experience is only possible when the dealer has that depth of customer data in a quickly analyzable and usable format and can do this at scale.
Build Engagement and Loyalty to Build Revenue
A car sale or single service appointment can – and should – lead to a long and engaged relationship. True engagement necessitates showing customers that the dealer knows their history and their pain points and can make their lives easier. It means offering helpful services and specials, not inundating with off-point communications. Building engagement and following up with positive service experiences ultimately will grow loyalty and revenue.
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Retailers should drive service offerings and think ahead to what clients need. Gartner has predicted that by 2025, the number of proactive customer engagement interactions will exceed reactive customer engagement interactions – underscoring the importance for auto retailers to prioritize personalized outreach. Consider beginning with adopting more ways to personalize the car buying process; 77% of shoppers feel digital retailing can provide them a more personalized experience, according to the 2020 Cox Automotive Digitization of End-to-End Retail Study.
Using Data and Technology
Technology is a vital way to customize client experiences, reach a wider consumer base and help new team members get up to speed. Employees who feel supported can quickly and accurately answer client questions knowing they have the data to turn customer encounters into revenue. Another Gartner survey found 50% of customer service leaders viewed new technologies such as data analytics as valuable but had no plans to implement them. This short-sighted mindset opens opportunity for the dealerships that take full advantage of new technologies soonest.
Automation Has Its Place
Clients don’t always need to talk to a human. Scheduling systems and chatbots can save everyone time and frustration, so dealers can focus their human resources on areas truly needing the personal touch. But automation should be approached prudently. Case in point: The Cox client engagement team underwent an AI pilot to address challenges call centers routinely face – from client and employee satisfaction to handle time – and ultimately concluded they all can’t be met with technology alone.
Create a Connected View
Having all employees on one platform so they all have access to the same information is vital. A dealership will be more successful when all team members are on the same page. That way, customers can get the information they need no matter who picks up the phone or answers an email.
Envision the Future
Even before the pandemic, customers were focusing more on online sales. Now, it’s essential; 74% of franchise dealers say their customers have used digital retailing tools more since COVID-19, according to Cox Automotive. From visuals that simulate walking around a vehicle to completely online registering and titling, there are many advancements that retailers can immediately take advantage of.
Considering these rules and seeing what can be reimagined is a good start, because dealers need to be willing to disrupt their habits and think like their customers. By keeping client engagement in mind, anything is possible.
Mandi Fang (pictured above, left) is the Vice President of Client Engagement for Cox Automotive.