There was a time when the car industry wouldn’t be the first that comes to mind when discussing good customer service and what makes an enjoyable experience for a shopper. Times have changed, however. With the marketplace super-competitive and sales ever-more sophisticated, car makers and their dealerships are committing more and more to total customer satisfaction.
What is customer experience?
Customer service is not another name for customer experience but they are connected. Customer service is part of the interaction with the customer and is a tangible act. For example, a dealer fulfilling its functions such as repairing the customer’s car is customer service. If they do a good job, then they’ve provided ‘good customer service’.
Customer experience is the feeling - both objective and subjective - the customer has in ‘experiencing’ their interaction with the dealership or the brand in general. Was the experience of taking their car in for a service a good one? Is their experience of the brand a good one? It’s the lasting impression that will inform their future purchases and what they tell their friends and family.
It’s a significant part of dealings with customers in many industries - there are even job titles containing the words ‘customer experience’.
What the car industry does to boost good customer experience
It often starts with websites, which are frequently the customer’s first encounter with the brand.
Plenty of information and an easy to navigate menu system helps to promote the good experience and helps visitors feel a connection. Websites form an important part of a driver’s experience – right from preparing for the theory test onwards – and a poor one will let a brand down and give a customer a negative impression.
At the dealership - where the customer usually first experiences the brand ‘physically’ - the decor and the way staff treat customers are just two ways a positive experience is created. It’s about being friendly and informed – without resorting to the old stereotypes of being pushy.
Manufacturers incentivise good customer experience
From the sales of new cars through to servicing and maintenance, manufacturers are getting directly involved in monitoring, incentivising and rewarding their dealership’s efforts in fostering a good customer experience. Dealer sales and after care staff are personally checking their customers are happy, developing a closer, more personal relationship with them.
Sales departments are sometimes given extra bonuses based on customer satisfaction which is checked and monitored by the manufacturer following customers up by phone, email or post.
So what can be learned about good customer experience from the car industry?
The take away tips from the above:
• Welcoming and interactive websites to engage potential visitors positively with the brand
• Professional dealership premises and staff aiming to create a good experience
• Playing on the emotional aspect of car buying
• ‘Going the extra mile’ (washing the car after servicing it at no charge, doing some small free repairs)
• Manufacturers incentivising dealerships to provide good customer experiences and monitoring it
The importance of good customer experience
If people feel they have a ‘good experience’ with a brand and the dealer, they’re likely to return. There’s an old saying in the retail motor trade that “sales sell the first car but the service department sells the next one”. The lessons from this have been learned so that the all-round experience sells the first, second and all subsequent cars to loyal, happy customers.