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The Key to Automotive Success: Elevating Customer Experience

Automakers are shifting focus to becoming the car company of the future. Customer experience and technology can assist with that.

Sabrina McPherson
Sabrina McPherson

Car companies are racing toward a new world driven by constantly changing customer behaviors. In an effort to survive in a space where tech giants are getting into the game, the auto industry is in the midst of transforming to a new business model that matches customers’ digital expectations and prioritizes a seamless customer experience. 

How can the auto industry improve customer experience?

Convenience has changed how consumers make purchases. People expect simple, available shopping options at all times. In fact, 97% of consumers have abandoned a purchase because the service wasn’t convenient enough. Other industries such as banking, retail, hospitality and travel have made many of their products and services readily accessible. Car companies are starting to embrace this as the standards of what consumers want are set outside of the auto industry. Websites and apps allow car owners to quickly find the closest dealer to them and book an appointment—it’s as easy as booking a dinner reservation. 

Creating platforms that make things like an oil change simple and frictionless is one effective way that car companies can communicate with vehicle owners in a personalized way. Retailers can send out coupons after recent purchases, often targeted toward items customers prefer based on past purchases or a seasonal change. Car companies can send out a reminder that it’s time for a 30,000-mile checkup and include a coupon good for use at any certified dealership. Or, perhaps they can recommend a car-sharing platform membership to someone who hasn’t been driving much lately. Additionally, if they have recently moved from the suburbs to the city, car companies can offer them a coupon for an electric bike. All these things are possible with data. The original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that use data to understand and predict needs and behaviors and create seamless experiences will build a sustainable competitive advantage.

How does taking a data-driven approach impact customer experience? 

Prioritizing customer experience is the first step to building a loyal base of customers that stay within the brand ecosystem. The sale of a car will not drive long-term profit as we head into the future of connected vehicles and services. Growth is driven by a series of interactions that an OEM has with a customer. The money lies in offering many interactions to car buyers to create a convenient and helpful environment so customers are happy to stay within one particular brand ecosystem. Companies like Apple offer added value and services to their customers and are still an industry-leading example of how to win and nurture loyal customers. In the automotive world, carmakers that offer insurance packages, emergency services and concierge services immediately make existing clients’ lives less stressful and more convenient with connected service options. 

To enable the best outcome for car buyers, OEMs are gathering as much information as they can about today’s car buyer. Data-rich companies such as Google and Amazon have the best understanding of car buyer behaviors. Collaborations between tech companies and OEMs and deals can produce data sets and actionable insights that are readily available. It’s a faster and smarter way to make sure car brands stand out to prospects. 

Building a car today is about much more than its engine or even engine efficiency; it’s about building a connected device that’s compatible with a constellation of other devices that consumers use daily

Reinventing the automotive customer experience journey

Tesla has found success in reinventing the customer experience journey. The electric vehicle startup absorbs complexity for customers and offers additional services such as charge point installation, insurance and access to supercharger stations. While Tesla seems to be a threat to more traditional OEMs, the market shows nuances and regional differences, with ample opportunity for established car brands to service customers. Car shoppers in the U.S. are keener to purchase from an established U.S.-based brand like GM or Ford (66%) than a non-U.S. brand like Mercedes, Toyota or Audi (59%) or a new auto startup like Tesla or Lucid (34%), according to research conducted by Publicis Sapient and Epsilon.

Tesla’s wins in the electric vehicle space are significant—and that’s because it’s not a car company but rather a tech company. Software and software engineering are top of mind for OEMs as they work on shifting their cultural mindset, finding new operating models and hiring new types of talent. These new ways of working and operating will help match customers’ digital expectations and prioritize a seamless customer experience. Building a car today is about much more than its engine or even engine efficiency; it’s about building a connected device that’s compatible with a constellation of other devices that consumers use daily. Furthermore, it’s also about being able to ensure that drivers can operate their car from a mobile phone and connect with charging stations and other services through a screen tap.

When someone buys a car today, the purchase is just the beginning of a new relationship between car shopper and car brand. Auto companies that transform to become tech-focused and change how they engage with customers will see a shift in what drives their earnings.

Sabrina McPherson
Sabrina McPherson
Senior Managing Director, Management Consulting

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