Many businesses, including the automotive industry, have a strong focus on creating a better customer experience through technology. In fact, technology has transformed the customer experience across all industries. Consumers can buy a multitude of products online and have them delivered, in some cases, in an hour. Technology has even advanced to the point that consumers can buy a used vehicle completely online, taking delivery via a vending machine.
However, sometimes technology ceases to enhance and improve the customer experience and starts to degrade it.
Technology has certainly transformed how we do business but, in the end, do consumers really want a complete purchase interaction with absolutely no human involvement? No. What they REALLY want is an easier, more efficient and transparent buying process. Technology has assisted in providing that, but we can’t forget that people buy from people.
It is important to always remember that we are in a “people” business. Let’s look at it from a consumer car buyer perspective. Thousands – perhaps millions – of pages of information are now available online for consumers to access free of charge. Studies indicate that the average consumer visits 24 touch points prior to coming into the dealership, with dealership visits averaging under 2 percent of those visits. As a result, many assume that customers know more than the salespeople do when they show up at the dealership… and they may be right.
However, the problem is the customer still doesn’t know EVERYTHING. No website can illustrate to a customer how a car FEELS, SMELLS or DRIVES. In addition, even the most knowledgeable customer visiting your showroom very likely still has questions to ask and expects answers.
A recent study by the Harvard Business review reported that, “emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers. These emotionally connected customers buy more of your products and services, visit you more often, exhibit less price sensitivity, pay more attention to your communications, follow your advice, and recommend you more – everything you hope their experience with you will cause them to do.” The study outlined how using an emotional-connection-based strategy within an organization can increase these types of customers, reduce attrition and increase customer advocacy. All of these things are exactly what car dealerships need to differentiate themselves from their competition.
I’m not being original when I say that the battle for consumers in the car industry will be in differentiation. Just don’t forget that it’s all about the people – your employees, leadership and customers.
The technology is there to help make the process more efficient, NOT to replace people. Consumers will never have an emotional connection with a vending machine. So, as alluring as that type of buying experience may SOUND, being a great place for people to visit; with great people to interact with; that take good care of your customers; and ensure a superior customer experience; will always win the battle.