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Feb 27, 2023
4 minutes read

Why automotive brands must prioritise customer comms over everything

The automotive industry hasn’t necessarily been at the cutting edge of customer experience. With customer expectations rising rapidly in the retail space and brands expected to follow, why is it that automotive brands have been slow to follow suit?

Post-purchase validation

For me, it’s always been the after-sales side of new or used car sales that’s been lacking. Once a vehicle is sold, there are many opportunities to continue the conversation with the customer, but those opportunities are often missed.  

Right now, delivery delays of 6-18 months are common across the industry, giving buyers plenty of time to get cold feet and cancel. Communicating with customers post-purchase, reinforcing their decision-making and showing them other customers enjoying their vehicles are just some ways to avoid customers returning vehicles. It’s about creating opportunities for interaction throughout the journey. 

Those opportunities don’t need to be about forcing the conversation on customers who want to be left alone, either. With servicing, MOTs and general running tips and how-tos, there are many ways for you to be helpful to your customers without bothering them with marketing or sales messages. 

Of course, new vehicles don’t need an MOT and also come with a warranty, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be issues. In those situations, where the customer’s expectation of faultless reliability is in jeopardy, it pays to ensure you’re available to help. A WhatsApp solution, where customers can contact your customer service agents and resolve issues quickly, is essential. You’d hope for that after a purchase costing a few hundred pounds, let alone one costing tens of thousands. 

After-sales opportunities

Another area which is big business for car manufacturers is aftermarket accessories, but most miss a trick when promoting them. Some brands have entire clothing ranges, tents, bags and even ladders, but beyond a banner on their websites, you wouldn’t know they existed. With WhatsApp now open for marketing messages and SMS’s 98% open rate, promoting accessories and clothing makes perfect sense—and keeps that conversation going with the customer. 

WhatsApp is the key communication tool for me. I can see a basic WhatsApp widget on a dealer website, leading to a front-end chatbot solution that can connect to a live agent via Mobile Service Cloud. That’s how I see WhatsApp being used for customer service, but there’s also a massive opportunity for upselling, not just for accessories but also things like extended warranties, MOT offers and insurance.

SMS, too, is an under-used tool for marketing in the automotive sector, and since it’s native to every mobile phone in the UK, you can’t argue with its reach. BMW uses our service to ensure coverage for its telematics service worldwide. SMS is about as reliable as it gets for messaging. 

A frictionless journey

Simple things, like booking a service or MOT, are often made unnecessarily complicated by a lack of automation. If we look at the frictionless customer journeys you experience in other forms of retail, it’s hard to imagine why it can’t be replicated in the automotive sector. You might get through to the sales or service department, but then you get transferred, and no one answers. Or you get through and leave a message but no one gets back to you because the message doesn’t go into any kind of system. That’s the kind of poor experience you often get—even from premium brands—because they haven’t got the right systems in place.  

Integration with existing systems is crucial because no one wants to throw away the baby with the bathwater and start again from scratch, so providers need to deliver products that can integrate easily with complex existing infrastructure.

The personal touch

Another thing missing from many automotive customer journeys is personalisation. With the bare minimum passing for personalisation in many parts of the industry. While the rest of the retail world looks at detailed segments, recommended products and custom journeys, in the automotive sector, personalisation often only goes as far as first names in emails, the kinds of thing brands have been doing for at least a decade. 

With dealers able to collect detailed service, mileage, model and specification information, it’s an oversight that detail hasn’t led (in most cases at least) to more sophisticated customer targeting. Automotive brands must use the data gathered during interactions to deliver genuinely personalised messaging that provides real ROI. 

If automotive brands can begin to learn lessons from other industries, then there is a genuine opportunity to steal market share. Suggest to some dealers that they could sell their cars using Instagram as a shop window, and they’d probably laugh in your face. But consider the cost of building an online presence versus a physical dealership, and it starts to look very sane. Times are changing, and it's time the automotive industry changed with them. 

If you’d like to discuss how our customer service and marketing solutions can help elevate your organisation, get in touch, and we can put together the right solution for your needs.

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