We just aren’t a country that embraces positivity — until now. Good service has always something we associated with America, where often things go over the top. But, here in the UK, our service has often been nothing shy of disappointing, so much so, Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr. voiced his opinion. The tv-personality noted how the service here in the UK is “surly, slapdash, and dreadful.”
But why is customer service so important? For the likes of Roux Jr., who undeniably delivers cuisine at the highest level in the world, an understanding of the significance of customer satisfaction is prevalent. However, for smaller businesses, it must be noted that retaining customers is considerably cheaper than gaining new ones and more profitable — returning customers are likely to spend 67 per cent more.
But, it isn’t just the financial implications that businesses will experience, their reputation can take a serious knock along the way if their level of service drops by the wayside. The 16-24 age bracket have become particularly synonymous for posting reviews on Trip Advisor when things don’t quite meet their expectations — one-third of the demographic suggesting they would be posting a review online if they received poor customer service.
Research has found that £12 billion is lost each and every year in the UK thanks to shoddy customer service. However, since 2010 the UK has begun to establish itself as a major world player in terms of customer satisfaction. The Zendesk’s Customer Service Benchmark world rankings places the United Kingdom fourth, with a rating of 96.2%.
Despite the fact customer service is vital in all purchases, it’s arguably most important with expensive ones, such as a car. After a house, a car is most likely going to be the most expensive purchase you ever make. It’s a rare occasion that someone would go out in the morning time, on a whim, and come home with a new set of wheels. A study has found that the average car buyer spends around 14 hours researching online, reading reviews and visiting dealers’ websites before making their decision.
Here with Lookers Mercedes, who sell the Mercedes Gle, we assess customer service in the automotive industry.
Stage 1 — Digital
The journey to buying a new car, as we’ve previously mentioned, no longer starts on a Saturday morning when you pull up at the show room, it started weeks before at home, online. Right from the word go, when the customer lands on the website and makes that initial interaction, their experience can mould their end decision.
Most businesses will now use (AI) Artificial Intelligence to track a potential customer’s journey through their website, so they can send through a pop up asking, “is there anything we can help you with today?”. Once the potential lead responds, they get linked through to a member of staff and the ball is set in motion.
Thanks to the use of technology, the customer service experience is being extended beyond the four walls of the showroom. As the automotive industry knows two-thirds of decisions are made online, they can no longer depend on their salesman using their relentless charm to guarantee each and every sale, as the lead may never come through the door. Instead, the initial ‘meet and greet’ is carried out in the comfort of your own home.
Stage 2 — On the day
Creating an emotional connection with the customer is a crucial aspect part of the process, yet one that too often gets skimmed over these days. A report carried out by We Are DMA concluded that car dealerships that are able to connect with customers on a personal level are gaining the strongest levels of engagement. The technical jargon that in the past may have been able to completely mind boggle a customer because they were unaware as to what it meant, is now readily available for their access online. Harley Davidson’s John Russell notes, “the more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.” By speaking to the customer on a level of mutual understanding, both dealer and buyer are benefiting.
Respondents, when asked what determined their favourite car brand, ranked quality as the highest with 45%, however, one third pointed to the company being friendly, helpful and welcoming. Despite the fact the journey may start online, 59% still bought their most recent car in a dealership, meaning a focus on the development on the customer service at those initial two stages of contact will prove detrimental in the ultimate success.
A similar study carried out by Maritz Research which quizzed customers on their automotive purchasing experience discovered that just under 75% of customers were satisfied overall with the service they received. Similarly, the vast majority rated their dealings with the sales department as the most important aspect.
Stage 3 — Down the line
Signing for the car is by no means the end of the process; this is just the beginning, particularly if this is the first time the customer has bought this brand or from this dealership. This is where customer service needs to excel, and the quality of the product can really shine. In reality, the odds are stacked against a car going through its lifespan without some form of issue.
If it does, great, however, it still needs a regular service, and for a dealership, it is all about ensuring the customer comes to you. This is when the digital aspect can prove its worth once again. By providing customers with details online of simple things like changing the oil the honesty that is ranked so highly by the customer is installed. However, by also suggesting how much easier it would be to drop it in, grab a coffee and have it done by one of your fully-fledged mechanics, you are catering for every customer need. A dealership runs the risk of the customer not getting an oil change, but they’ll develop a love for a brand and return when replacements are due.
In terms of going above and beyond in regard to after sales care, Audi have recently shown how it can be done. The revolutionary Audi Cam offers customers the chance to see exactly what is happening to their car whilst it is in the garage, as one of the members of their service department will walk round with a selfie camera, showing the various alterations that are being made.
Customer service goes a long way in presenting the brand image, mission, and furthermore the values of your company. Although you might be fully aware of why you are in business, the customer may not, therefore, showing them through the experience which they receive from the interaction with your staff is crucial.