If we want to improve the customer experience, we have to go through the customer experience.
As I mentioned last week, my wife and I are in the market for a car. As the shopping saga continues, an amazing thing is happening. If you’ve been in the industry for a long time, you tend to think you know everything. There’s nothing new and there are no new lessons to be learned. How wrong that thinking is.
If we want to improve the customer experience, we have to go through the customer experience. What happens when customers buy a car? What’s the greeting like? Is the salesperson truly helpful? Is the dealership clean? How are salespeople dressed? Is the F&I process as bad as we’re led to believe?
Having dealt with OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) for over 25 years, I frankly can’t remember noticing when someone from a head office actually bought a car. They would put their requests in to the appropriate department and pick it up in the parking lot or at their local dealership. They didn’t experience what their customers experience, and I want to challenge them to change that. This applies not only to experiences with your own brand’s dealerships, but to competitors’ dealerships as well.
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I had a really cool experience at the Frankfurt Motor Show back in September. Coming back through the labyrinth of buildings late on the first media day, I looked up, and coming toward me was the unmistakable Dieter Zetsche, head of Mercedes-Benz. He had a small contingent with him. They weren’t heading toward the Mercedes-Benz display, but rather toward Alfa Romeo’s. He patiently waited in line to sit inside the new Giulia.
Here’s the guy who heads up Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz and signs the pay cheque of 2016 F1 Champion Lewis Hamilton and his teammate Nico Rosberg. If he takes the time to check out the competitor’s offering, shouldn’t we?
We do a pretty good job at reviewing the competitors’ product offering but looking at what they’re doing in terms of the customer experience at the dealership level is lacking. Let’s change that. Mystery shop them. Sign up for their online promotional material. Monitor the CX surveys they’re sending customers.
A colleague I worked with went so far as suggesting that manufacturers should lease a competitor’s product so they experience their brand in its entirety – showroom experience, marketing materials, CX surveys, and the vehicle servicing experience. Radical, perhaps, but a lease payment of maybe $350 to $700 a month could serve as a great source of competitive intelligence.
How can the automotive customer experience be improved unless the decision makers who can materially affect it are actually living it? Dieter Zetsche does it on the product side. It might be something to consider on the customer experience side.
Until next time.