Going the Extra Mile: How to Improve Customer Service in the Automotive Industry
For the average American, the two biggest purchases they will ever make are their house and their car.
Statistics from the US Department of Labor showed that in 2016, housing comprised 30.5% of annual consumer spending, while transportation was second at 17.5%.
Buying a car is a huge investment, and in many cases is a purchase that spreads out over several years of financing.
The key to making sure customers are willing to make that investment is to give them the peace of mind that their purchase is secure with the company backing them all the way. That’s where customer service comes in.
Here are some strategies that any car company can implement to provide great customer service, increasing brand loyalty with both existing and potential customers.
Be In It for the Long Haul
The automobile business isn’t a one-night single-interaction affair. Customers will usually be paying off the loan for many years to come, and their purchase will serve for many years, with a lot of maintenance along the way. The key is to have a pleasant experience for the customer at each step of the process -- from the time they are researching to financing assistance to regular maintenance check-ups years down the road.
The first thing to going the extra mile with the consumer is realizing that this is a long-term relationship with all your customers, both potential and those that have already made the purchase. The brand loyalty is also important down the road; customers will have many friends and family members and even sons and daughters who are potential buyers as well.
Being in it for the long-term rather than a quick buck will make a huge difference.
Manage Your Online Reputation
The first step of the buying process for most customers is research. A 2014 study by J.D. Power notes that prospective buyers spend an average of 14 hours researching cars and dealerships online. The actual bulk of time spent in the buying process is in this pre-purchase research. Following the 80-20 rule, you want to put in a huge amount of attention to this single area that faces the most exposure to your customers: your online presence.
Whether it’s in social media accounts, reviews from automobile dealership hubs and online marketplaces, to the selection of car models available, your company needs to be on top of the game, responding to inquiries and ensuring a good experience for past customers who are likely to leave reviews.
Provide a Pleasing Environment
Once customers are in the door to browse the showroom or make a purchase, it’s important that they come in and leave with a great experience. Your showroom environment and sales office should be one a customer can feel comfortable in. More than a third 34% of customers use a smartphone or tablet while shopping at the dealership, so free Wi-Fi is a must, along with pleasing decor, free coffee, clean waiting areas and professional personnel.
Aside from making it conducive for customers to want to go to your office, this also helps customers fill in the gaps of your entire operation. The majority of things in a car business happen behind closed doors - maintenance, getting the car ready for delivery, these things are out of sight for most of the process, and having a good front office goes a long way in shaping the way your customers think and feel about your business.
Keep Your Personnel Well-Trained
Consumers don’t want to feel like they know more about the product than the people providing it. A study from SalesForce shows that 79% of customers say it’s important to have a sales representative who acts as a trusted advisor.
It’s important to provide proper training to your people so they can answer questions and make recommendations for the customer, whether during the sale or after sales.
Reward Their Loyalty
Customers need to feel valued. Make sure that your customers know that your company values them by providing rewards, discounts and other offers for them choosing you and giving you their business. This also serves as a great incentive for them to refer other potential customers to your door. It would be a shame for that 5% coupon to go to waste, right? Even if they’re not currently in the market, they may have a friend or family member who is and could use that discount.