[Part 1] Moving your dealership from a customer service culture to a customer experience culture

What makes your dealership stand out from your competitors? Is it your brand reputation? Perhaps it’s your attention to detail and unrivalled customer service? Or maybe it’s your after sales support and long term customer engagement that keeps car buyers loyal to your brand?

These days, it’s not enough to have one or two unique selling points – every single touchpoint needs to exceed customer expectations to build a superior dealership experience.

Typically, a customer will only get in touch with you four times during a car’s lifetime – mostly when it needs to be serviced (assuming there are no other issues with the car).

However, when things go wrong, the number of touchpoints increases. Then it becomes make or break time for the customer and dealer relationship.

A poorly handled situation can become a full-blown breakdown of customer relations – potentially resulting in a customer looking elsewhere for their next car.

For dealerships across the UK, building a stand-out customer experience must be the focus now more than ever.

Here’s why.

The number one factor for customer retention

We know that automotive stock is still incredibly tight. People who normally keep their cars for three or four years are now holding onto them for longer. It means the experience they receive from their dealership is ever-more critical in keeping them brand-loyal.

And with car brands now generally delivering similar levels of product quality, the dealership experience is increasingly becoming the driving factor in revenue growth, customer retention and brand reputation.

As Emma Harris, CEO at brand agency Glow London puts it, manufacturers and dealerships need to be building “brand salience throughout the entire customer journey” – or risk losing valuable business to their competitors.

Related reading: Marketing in a recession: how to safeguard your budget

Isn’t great customer service enough?

In a word, no.

It’s not just about customer service. Granted, good customer service is an essential part of the customer experience. But really, it’s just that – a part of it.

What is customer experience?

Customer experience comprises every aspect of a business: The quality of customer service and care, marketing touchpoints, product and service features, and reliability, to name just a few.

Successful automotive brands and retailers shape the experience by using customer insight and intelligence. Delivering premium experiences and making prospective customers feel valued in every interaction with your brand – across every touchpoint – in marketing, on the showroom floor, and beyond – is tricky to master.

Making every single customer contact point count is key to transforming the traditional car shopping journey into an engaging and memorable experience that leads to a lifetime of brand loyalty.

Making every single customer contact point count is key to transforming the traditional car shopping journey into an engaging and memorable experience that leads to a lifetime of brand loyalty.

Empower your team for customer experience excellence

Clearly, your customer facing teams play a huge role in the overall customer experience. But this also means they can be the tipping point between an exceptional experience and a poor one.

One big factor in this for dealerships is the fact that many staff members don’t buy cars, or book appointments for servicing or MOTs, in the same way that customers do. Having a car provided in a benefits package means your people aren’t always aware of the emotions, intricacies, or experiences involved in buying or maintaining a car.

Sure, they understand the process customers go through – researching their options, taking test drives, etc. But a customer’s decision making process hinges on far deeper factors than this.

So, we recognise that giving a superior customer experience is crucial for developing brand loyalty.

But developing a market-leading customer experience for your dealership isn’t an arbitrary thing. It needs strategic thinking, a data-driven approach, and careful thought to get it right.

Related reading: Car dealership marketing: 4 quick wins to improve conversion rates

What next?

Building a customer experience strategy for your business may seem a daunting task – especially if you’re starting from scratch.

But there are marketing analytics tools and software that can help to make the process easier – that will help you deliver authentic and relevant experiences online and offline – and increase retail leads and conversion rates.

For example, Mediahawk’s speech analytics tool not only allows you to gather insight to understand the customer experience, but also monitor your team’s performance in dealing with them.

The dealership customer experience is something that needs ongoing and consistent refinement over time. Stick with it – constantly test, learn, and optimise using data analytics – and you’ll be rewarded with continued growth in customer loyalty and revenue.

In part two of this mini-series, we’ll give you six key steps to follow to build a stand-out customer experience strategy for your dealership.

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About the author - Harry Bott

Harry Bott, Director at Mediahawk, has over 20 years of experience helping marketers generate a better response from their marketing. He has enabled businesses to improve their conversion rates through his consultative approach and deep understanding across various sectors, including automotive and care homes.

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