The Importance of High-Quality Customer Service in the Automotive Industry

It wasn’t that long ago that the UK was a nation known for terrible customer service. Terrible at giving it, terrible at receiving it – overall it was considered too ‘American’. Michel Roux Jr., Michelin-starred chef, labelled UK customer service as “surly, slapdash and dreadful”, and his opinion isn’t completely unwarranted. Shockingly, it has been reported by research that a total of £12 billion is lost each year in the UK due to terrible customer service.

Not only affecting profits, business’ reputations are being damaged too, especially with the soaring popularity of online reviews and ratings. 16-24-year-olds discuss customer service online the most, with around a third posting negative reviews if they were disappointed with their customer service.

However, things took a turn in 2010, with the UK attempting to become a leading nation for satisfactory customer service. The Zendesk’s Customer Service Benchmark world rankings has the UK at fourth place, holding a rating of 96.2 per cent.

Customer service comes part in parcel with all purchases. However, is more significant when dealing with expensive goods. Apart from buying a house, buying a car is one of the most expensive purchases you’ll make. And because of this, it’s a hefty decision. According to research, a car buyer will spend around 14 hours researching about a car, evaluating reviews and comparing different dealerships before coming to a final decision.

Providing good customer service is highly likely to influence a potential buyers’ decision. After all, many people probably wouldn’t buy a Mercedes A Class from someone who was rude.

Online service

So, we know that buying a car doesn’t start with heading down to a random dealership on a Saturday morning with no idea what you want. It started weeks ago, on your laptop. From the moment the customer arrives on the dealership website, the initial experience plays a heavy part on their purchase decision. Customer service isn’t only about face-to-face interaction. With an ever-growing digital presence, high quality ecommerce is as equally important.

A lot of websites have introduced artificial intelligence (AI) into the mix, tracing customers’ digital footprints so they can appear in a chat box asking if they need any help. If this is the case, a member of staff will be patched through to provide any online assistance.

In the automotive industry, around two thirds of vehicle purchases are made online. This reduces the reliance on a charming salesperson to seal the deal.

In-store service

An important element of customer service often overlooked is making a personal connection with the customer. According to the Data and Marketing Association, car salespeople that can empathise with customer needs and can form a connection are more likely to be successful. Although as mentioned before, there are a lot of purchases made online. But we don’t want to be talking to a robot instore who isn’t personable.

Customers are becoming more knowledgeable about what was once technical jargon. John Russell, Director at Harley Davidson, said: “the more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.” By trying to be as informative and friendly to the customer as possible, you are increasing your chances of success.

Research found that 45 per cent of respondents rated quality as the most important factor for deciding their favourite car brand, closely followed by one third claiming a friendly and personable company influenced their decision. A further 59 per cent bought their latest car in-store, meaning physical customer service is still important.

Maritz Research interestingly found that around 75 per cent of customers were satisfied with the customer service they received, whilst most respondents believed that salespeople are the most important in delivery.

Follow-up service

Don’t think that signing the deal is the end of the customer’s experience. In fact, particularly for new customers, this is just the start. From here, customer service should shine. If a customer’s car unfortunately experiences issues and needs servicing, you want to make sure they come back to you.

Again, having a strong online presence can prove extremely useful in maintaining customer service. Having informative webpages on your website about car upkeep is rated highly by customers, and it will make you seem credible and knowledgeable. By being available to the customer for a coffee and a chat while one of your mechanics fixes their problems, you’re creating a relationship with your customer that encourages them to keep coming back.

Take Audi for example. The innovative Audi Cam lets customers watch live while their car gets serviced, recorded by a member of the team who keeps the customer in the loop. This allows customers to feel important and that they are part of what goes on behind the scenes, building trust. This increases chances of the customer making recommendations to friends — three quarters of us recommend companies with high quality customer service, whilst half of us become regulars.

Although customer service in the UK certainly has room for improvement, it has definitely made recent progress.

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