Buying a new car has seldom been a great experience for most people. One piece of research found that drivers would rather be stuck in a lift than visit a car dealership. This might seem a bit extreme, but it underlines the strength of customers’ aversion to what, in principle, should be an exciting life event.
It’s from this unenviable position that the automotive industry has begun to go through rapid and transformative change, affecting manufacturers, dealers, and consumers. The rise of electric vehicles is perhaps the most prominent development in the sector, but there are also significant shifts underway in the form of new mobility models and connectivity.
Combined with an uncertain global economic outlook – not least in the form of supply chain delays and an ongoing shortage of semiconductors – there is a lot for automotive companies to contend with and adapt to. They have to do all this, while delivering excellent customer service and keeping consumers engaged with their brands, as we’ll discuss on our webinar this Thursday.
- Mobility driving new business models
Electrification tends to be what most often grabs the headlines, but new mobility models for cars are arguably just as important a change. Rather than owning assets, people are moving towards pay-as-you go models – for instance, music and video streaming services, rather than owning CDs or DVDs – and this trend is coming to transport. We have already seen it, to a degree, in the shift towards leasing models as a form of car ownership, rather than buying a vehicle upfront in cash.
New models will see cars change from being seen as an asset to own, to being part of an overall transportation service. The major car rental companies are adapting their own business models to answer this demand. However, car manufacturers will also need to move from thinking of themselves as manufacturers towards becoming mobility brands and being able to deliver great customer experience.
- Connected cars create new relationships
Traditionally, car manufacturers have little to do with the cars they produce once they leave their facilities. If a car needs additional work or maintenance, this has either been initiated by the customer or the dealership they bought it from. Connectivity in cars could completely change this – vehicles can become a platform for communication with huge possibilities for manufacturer-customer relationships.
Manufacturers will be able to capture a broad range of data: average mileage, events like accidents, battery performance, and how a car is being driven. This can then be used to build productive models that can, for example, proactively send messages to a car screen with relevant information. Manufacturers could also ask customers how happy they were with the purchasing or ownership experience and use that to personalise their own products and services.
- The surge in electric vehicles
Electric vehicles are perhaps the most visible change to the automotive sector of the last decade – few people will have missed the growing number on the UK’s roads, now totalling more than 345,000 according to recent statistics. Their mainstream adoption poses quite different questions for consumers and car brands.
For consumers, the big issues are mainly around practical matters – battery life, vehicle range, and accessibility of charging points, among others. At a sectoral level, it means more fundamental changes to supply chains and revenue streams – a petrol engine is more complex than an electric vehicle drivetrain and repairs may be more about software patches than mechanics, for instance. Supporting consumers through all of this will require manufacturers to have strong customer service operations.
HOW TO GET YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE IN GEAR
Customer experience is widely seen as one of the key pillars that supports the automotive sector’s transition into the future on each of these fronts. In fact, building relationships with customers could be a key differentiator for companies, building a strong affinity between customers and their brands.
To do that, the key will be to build customer relationships that deliver:
- Personalization of services for customers, as well as a more direct relationship between brands and consumers;
- Greater simplicity and consistency between different communication channels, and the interaction between them;
- More of a presence from brands and support at key moments in the purchase and ownership experience for customers;
- An attitude based on relationships between customers and brands.
As an internationally recognised partner in the automotive sector, Comdata is well placed to advise on how you can implement these changes within your business. We have developed a range of comprehensive services to help manufacturers and supply chain companies to enhance the experience of their retail and business customers.