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Improving customer experience: the key role of communication in the automotive industry

Craig Sternslow
Craig Sternslow

Regional Marketing Manager - MEA

Improving customer experience: the key role of communication in the automotive industry

Why leveraging an Experience-First approach is more important than ever

The impact of the Covid 19 pandemic, coupled with global conflict is all too evident in our industry’s supply chain. Retailers and manufacturers are facing a lack of availability, both in terms of parts and new vehicles. And that, in turn, is leading to frustration amongst consumers and retailers alike – something that became very clear while listening to Radio 4’s You and Yours on Tuesday 27th June.

Titled ‘what’s the motor trade like right now in your experience?’, the call-in consumer show highlighted a variety of customer pain points.

What became clear, is that the chief cause of frustration isn’t the lack of availability itself. It’s the lack of communication from retailers and manufacturers. Callers to the programme made it clear that when they feel informed and involved, their frustration eases and their expectations are managed.

We know that today’s consumers have new expectations about convenience, responsiveness and interaction. But many players in the automotive industry are failing to meet them. Now, more than ever, retailers, manufacturers, and suppliers need to up their game. And that means embracing technology to deliver seamless, connected experiences that prioritise engagement and foster loyalty. In this post, we look at how to leverage the latest automotive software solutions to help with the common pain points consumers are experiencing.

Pain point 1 – the problem with parts

A number of callers to You and Yours were upset about the long wait for parts. One customer’s car had been in the garage for 4 months waiting for a front bumper and front lights. The car in question is a common model that’s still in production – so why the delay? She contacted the manufacturer and was told there was nothing they could do. Voicing her disappointment, she said “they’re happy to sell to you, but then they don’t offer any support”.

And this is a key point. As Erin Baker points out in her LinkedIn post related to the Radio 4 show, “Consumers are sacrificing so much of their squeezed monthly budgets, for such poor customer service, with no recognition by the industry,” says Erin. “It’s rubbish.

What can we do?

Keep communicating
Even if the part won’t arrive for a few weeks or months, if you keep customers updated using the communication channel of their choice, they’ll enjoy a better experience. As CMO Michelle Wells comments on Erin Baker’s post, “as a consumer, I would much rather a retailer shared bad news than none at all.

Optimise your warehouse system
There’s no silver bullet for supply chain issues, but by harnessing technology you can make sure your dealership is streamlined and operating at maximum efficiency – take a look at tools like Keyloop’s Part Hub.

Pain point 2 – long lead times

This is another common complaint. One You and Yours caller had paid a £500 deposit for a new Peugeot 308 but was still waiting months later for it to be delivered. Another waited a year for a new electric vehicle.

In fact, lead times for new cars are starting to come down slightly. A recent Auto Express article, New car delivery times 2023: how long will have you to wait, runs through the average expected lead time by manufacturer and reports an overall drop.

For consumers, though, the perception is still that they’ll have to wait. And again, although the wait itself is frustration, it’s the lack of transparency and communication around the issue that provokes an even more negative reaction.

So how can we in the industry address this?

Be available
Give the customer updates, reassurance, and the ability to talk to you – preferably to the same team member. A live chat tool on your site is an essential tool for driving automotive sales and satisfaction, but the ability to communicate with consumers on their preferred channel is also key.

Let’s not forget, that while email is quick and easy, SMS is a far more effective way to reach consumers, with open rates of close to 98% vs. a 20% email open rate average.

If you haven’t already adopted SMS as part of your automotive communications suite, take a quick look at Keyloop SMS and Message solutions.

Drive the second-hand market
If the customer doesn’t want to wait for a new vehicle, are you showing your used and nearly new stock to its best advantage? A 24/7 digital forecourt puts all the options at the customer’s fingertips.

Pain point 3 – electric confusion

When it comes to electric vehicles, confusion is rife. How much do they cost? What’s the mileage range? How fast does the battery degrade?

Some callers to You and Yours were reluctant to invest in a used EV fearing the battery would degrade at a rate detrimental to the vehicle’s value. In fact, battery losses in cars are small and incremental, as explained by the RAC in this article, How long do car batteries last? EV battery recycling. Lead times are down, too, with waiting times for new electric deliveries down by 42% since a 2022 October peak.

Once again, though, it’s down to manufacturers and retailers to bust the myth. And that can only be done through clear, honest and open communication.

Pain point 4 – finance

This is a big one. Many callers to the phone-in were unhappy with what they saw as a lack of transparency around finance packages and vehicle costs in general. One individual did a trade-in deal on an electric car at her local dealership 3 months ago, but she’s been told the car being traded in is now worth £2,000 less than it was, so she and her husband have to find that in cash.

Other callers referenced the hidden extras in finance packages and expressed a lack of trust. In fact, nearly half of UK consumers who recently purchased a car with finance were unable to identify what type of finance deal they signed up for.

It’s fair to say that when you lose a person’s trust, you’ve likely lost them as a customer. The golden rule?

Be transparent
Whether it’s a repair quote, a service or a finance package, keeping customers involved and informed delivers a better experience. Take a look at Keyloop’s tools for your workshop and sales teams – these seamless, easy to use systems are designed to work for you and engage the customer. All the information is there at their fingertips, which helps build the trust that’s so vital in any customer relationship.

You and Yours gives an insight of the issues automotive consumers are facing – and we can’t and shouldn’t ignore them. A fundamental pillar of our success is prioritising the consumer experience across the complete lifecycle, in both sales and aftersales departments. When we lead with Experience-First, we’re putting the consumer front-and-centre; something that’s complimented by our suite of digital tools, designed to make retailers and manufacturers lives easier, and elevate communication standards to ensure more fluid, open, and regular comms take place.

In conclusion
Listening to the phone-in was interesting, but not surprising. It brings me comfort to know that Keyloop is leading the way and pioneering the right approach to serving the automotive industry at large. Everything we do is centred on helping our customers deliver seamless, effective, and efficient services to the automotive consumer. From our powerful DMS, through to the individual layered applications we offer to enhance every part of the consumer journey, it’s all about driving exceptional experiences, which in turn, fosters loyalty and growth.




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