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Carol Forden

Carol Forden Freelance Writer & Customer Experience Marketing

Exclusive Blog Posts

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Forget The Competition, Dealerships Are Their Own Worst Enemy

Bet I got your attention.  Good, I mean to.

The days of blasting consumers with non-stop ads to sell and service vehicles are coming to an end.

Technology is changing how consumers purchase cars and competing on price alone opens the door for tech companies to literally take significant market share from dealers. 

And, dealers have ensured that it's not that hard for technology companies to do so.

From Carvana to now FairTheApp, consumers have options on how and where to purchase or service a car.

"We’ve literally built a new way for customers to drive the car they want for as long as they want, and this touches all layers of the mobility total addressable market—from retail to maintenance to insurance and beyond. For our customers, Fair is one-stop shopping for practically all of their mobility spend, and that’s a gigantic opportunity that our investors totally understand." ~ Scott Painter, Founder/CEO, FairTheApp

FairTheApp revolutionizes the global consumer automotive market through its mobile app that allows you to shop for cars and drive it for as long as you want with financing options embedded into the app. 

The cars come with a warranty, roadside assistance, routine maintenance, and you can even add in insurance with a few clicks. Need an SUV for the winter and convertible for the summer? Not a problem. 

Users scan their license to shop pre-owned cars with all-in monthly payments they can afford, sign for the one they want with their finger, pick up their keys and drive it for as long as they want—with no long-term debt or commitment, or even physical paperwork.

Fair raised $385 million from Softbank and according to Painter "We’ve literally built a new way for customers to drive the car they want for as long as they want, and this touches all layers of the mobility total addressable market—from retail to maintenance to insurance and beyond. For our customers, Fair is one-stop shopping for practically all of their mobility spend, and that’s a gigantic opportunity that our investors totally understand."

This raises the obvious question, how does a dealership compete against the likes of Carvana and now FairThe App?

It's not by bombarding consumers with more ads, 

As it is today:

  • 615 million devices have installed ad blocker technology and it’s across all generations.
  • 91% of total ad spend is viewed for less than a second; as a result, $38 billion in digital ad spend was wasted in 2017.

84% of consumers expect brands to create content; consumers want content from brands.

Dealerships need to think through and invest in the customer experience. To engage with and build trust with their target audience and customers. They need to become a thought leader and authority in the market.

Dealerships who successfully implement a customer experience strategy achieve higher customer satisfaction rates, reduced customer churn, and increased revenues.

Furthermore, research by American Express found that 60% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience.

The goal of every dealership should be to build trust, become a thought leader, or drive web traffic, which in turn drives revenue.

Dealerships need to excel at building customer loyalty and work diligently at maintaining a relationship with your existing customer with a focus on continuing to lower your marketing costs through customer loyalty.

Simply put, happy customers remain loyal.

It makes sense, doesn't it?

The happier you are with a brand, the longer you stay with them.

If you treat your customers poorly and ignore their educational and customer service needs, then they are more likely to leave.

This is why companies that deliver superior customer service and experience outperform their competition.

  • How important is customer experience?

    A business cannot exist without its customers, and this is why dealerships need to focus on how to win new customers and more importantly, retain existing customers.

    A survey by Bloomberg Businessweek found that “delivering a great customer experience” has become a top strategic objective. And a recent Customer Management IQ survey found that 75% of customer experience management executives and leaders rated customer experience a ‘5’ on a scale of 1-5 (5 being of the highest importance).

  •  

    The challenge here is that even though it’s a high priority, many companies are failing.

    When Bain & Company asked organizations to rate their quality of customer experience, 80% believe they are delivering a superior experience. This is compared to only 8% of customers who believe they are receiving a great customer experience.

    So how many brands are truly delivering an excellent customer experience?

    Surprisingly, not too many.

    In fact, less than half of all companies deliver a good (or better) customer experience.

    Each year, the Temkin Group release their Customer Experience Ratings study.

    By analyzing feedback from 10,000 consumers and recording their experience with over 300 companies, the latest report shows a decline in the number of companies that scored a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ rating, down from 45% in 2017 to only 38% in 2018.

    Customer experience ratings 2011 to 2018

    Customer expectations are rising, and faster than the speed that companies can improve their customer experience. Customers expect every interaction as the best experience they have with any company – not just yours!

    So, the question remains, how can your organization create a great customer experience?

    7 ways to improve the customer experience

    Let’s take a look at seven ways to create a great customer experience strategy to help you improve customer satisfaction, reduce churn and increase revenues.

    1. Create a clear customer experience vision

    The first step in your customer experience strategy is to have a clear customer-focused vision that you can communicate with your organization. The easiest way to define this vision is to create a set of statements that act as guiding principles.

    For example, Zappos use their Zappos core family values and these values are embedded into their culture; which includes delivering wow through service, be humble and embracing change.

    Once these principles are in place, they will drive the behavior of your organization. Every member of your team should know these principles by heart and they should be embedded in all areas of training and development.

    2. Understand who your customers are

    The next step in building upon these customer experience principles is to bring to life the different type of customers who deal with your customer support teams. If your organization is going to really understand customer needs and wants, then they need to be able to connect and empathize with the situations that your customers face.

    One way to do this is to create customer personas and give each persona a name and personality. For example, Anne is 35 years old; she likes new technology and is tech savvy enough to follow a video tutorial on her own, whereas John (42 years old) needs to be able to follow clear instructions on a web page.

    By creating personas, your customer support team can recognize who they are and understand them better. It’s also an important step in becoming truly customer-centric.

    3. Create an emotional connection with your customers

    You’ve heard the phrase “it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it”?

    Well, the best customer experiences are achieved when a member of your team creates an emotional connection with a customer.

    One of the best examples of creating an emotional connection comes from Zappos when a customer was late on returning a pair of shoes due to her mother passing away. When Zappos found out what happened, they took care of the return shipping and had a courier pick up the shoes without cost. But, Zappos didn’t stop there. The next day, the customer arrived home to a bouquet of flowers with a note from the Zappos customer service team who sent their condolences.

    Research by the Journal of Consumer Research has found that more than 50% of an experience is based on emotion as emotions shape the attitudes that drive decisions.

    Customers become loyal because they are emotionally attached and they remember how they feel when they use a product or service. A business that optimizes for an emotional connection outperforms competitors by 85% in sales growth.

    And, according to a recent Harvard Business Review study titled “The New Science of Customer Emotions“, emotionally engaged customers are:

    • At least three times more likely to recommend your product or service:
      • Three times more likely to re-purchase
      • Less likely to shop around (44% said they rarely or never shop around)
      • Much less price sensitive (33% said they would need a discount of over 20% before they would defect).
  • 4. Capture customer feedback in real time

    How can you tell if you are delivering a wow customer experience?

    You need to ask – And ideally you do this by capturing feedback in real time. Post-interaction surveys and similar customer experience tools can be delivered using a variety of automated tools through email and calls.

    And of course, it’s even possible to make outbound calls to customers in order to gain more insightful feedback.

    It’s important to tie customer feedback to a specific customer support agent, which shows every team member the difference they are making to the business.

    5. Use a quality framework for the development of your team

    By following the steps above, you now know what customers think about the quality of your service compared to the customer experience principles you have defined. The next step is to identify the training needs of each individual member of your customer support team.

    Many organizations assess the quality of phone and email communication, however, a quality framework takes this assessment one step further by scheduling and tracking your teams' development through coaching, eLearning and group training.

    6. Act upon regular employee feedback

    Most organizations have an annual survey process where they capture the overall feedback of your team; how engaged they are and the businesses ability to deliver exceptional service.

    But, what happens in the 11 months between these survey periods?

    Usually, nothing happens. And this is where continuous employee feedback can play a role using tools that allow staff to share ideas on how to improve the customer experience and for managers to see how the staff is feeling towards the business.

    For example, using project management software or social media tools, you can create a closed environment where your organization can leave continuous feedback.

    7. Measure the ROI from delivering a great customer experience

    And finally, how do you know if all this investment in your teams, process and technology are working and paying off?

    The answer is in the business results.

    Measuring customer experience is one of the biggest challenges faced by organizations, which is why many companies use the “Net Promoter Score” or NPS, which collects valuable information by asking a single straightforward question:

Would you recommend this company to a friend or relative?”

Customer expectations are higher than ever and word of mouth travels fast!

And as the customer becomes even more empowered, it increases the importance of the customer service experience.

Customer experience is an area that needs constant nurturing and care and with a greater focus on customer experience strategy, companies will realize a positive impact on customer loyalty, higher retention, and increased revenues.

Mark Rask

thiss is so true

R. J. James

Great Call-to-Action with excellent Supporting Data!

Jim Kalogerakos

Bang on Carol!

Dealerships need to compete and differentiate around the customer experience, not necessarily on product and price anymore.  I'm a bit of a data junkie so I was happy to see your research references too. Here's what jumped out for me (I quote or paraphrase from your post):

"..engage with and build trust with their target audience and customers."  - We all know that people buy from people they like and trust. This couldn't be truer today, when the consumer is more educated about the product than ever before. So one of the primary goals should be to develop and earn trust.

"...happy customers remain loyal." - Margins on sales are slim, therefore the lifetime value of the customer is paramount to the long term success of a dealership.

"Understand who your customers are" and "create an emotional connection with your customers" - Again, its less about the product.  The prospect has done their homework.  Try to understand the customer better/differently and how they live and think.  What's important to them? What are their motivations for buying? 

Getting started with improving the customer experience can be as simple a starting a conversation about anything but the reason the prospect is on the lot.

Carol Forden

@jimkalogerakos Having spent the bulk of my career in sales and marketing, I totally agree with you and your last point in particular.   The ability to build a relationship and trust with your customers critical today, they are well aware of why they're on your lot. They are well educated long before they ever set foot on the lot and your job is to engage with the customer and build a rapport and ideally trust.  That stated, a rule of thumb that I used in the past was, if I could build a rapport where the customer was smiling and ideally laughing, the customer is relaxed which means we are building trust with each other.  Laughter and a smile are a lot harder than many people think, and I don't mean the cursory chuckle.

Ian Coburn

Spot on! Yet, so much resistance to doing this. Always hard to get out of your comfort zone, even when it's a "dead zone."

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