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The automotive industry isn’t about products anymore. It’s about relationships. Vehicles are becoming more and more alike, and even impressive technology is being co-opted and commoditized nearly as fast as it can be introduced.
 
True differentiation comes from relationships and the connection between brands and consumers. Strong relationships are built on trust and respect, and dare I say -- love. You don’t love what you are not attached to. What you don’t love, you treat like a commodity. Our family, children and country are things we love -- this love is what your dealership and OEM should aspire to also. Why settle for less than love?
 
automating the automotive customer experienceHowever, technology innovations like autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, and predictive software threatens to eliminate the human touch from relationships. If not addressed, automation may commoditize the entire sales and service process. Amazon is introducing a retail concept with no people and a robot asked me if I needed help this week at a Tokyo airport. These interactions are helpful, but not emotional.
 
Make no mistake, people make all the difference. Automation may reduce costs and improve speed of transactions, but employees will always be essential. To win in today’s automotive industry, interactions must be customer-focused and service-oriented, even in the sales process. This is especially critical in the relationship between dealers and car buyers. Dealerships need great people who deeply understand their role in maintaining relationships with prospects and owners.
 
We see untapped opportunity among dealers to utilize customer-focused business development centers (BDC) to manage end-to-end sales and retention activities. This BDC layer, with critical technology and expertise in customer relationships, will almost guarantee ROI and increased customer satisfaction scores. Examples of how a BDC can help infuse humans with automation:
 

  • Internet lead qualification and engagement for new car sales and service appointments
  • Coordinating service appointments and sales discussions
  • Managing data and relationships for appropriate follow-up at key points in the customer lifecycle
  • Coordinating concierge service when appropriate
  • Acting as liaison to OEM 

Often, these “nurturing” touchpoints are where the customer relationship can be improved or broken. Yet for many dealers, they are considered secondary to closing a sale or servicing vehicles. What’s more, customers who visit multiple dealers may have completely different experiences at each location, even though they are considering the same car brand. That could jeopardize the strength of an OEM’s brand promise.
 
A fine-tuned BDC will convert more leads into sales and reduce churn, which means higher revenue for your service department. And a BDC made up of experts in customer centricity only helps OEMs and dealers differentiate and build love through a great experience.
 
Buying a car is an important, expensive decision for consumers. They want to know that they can trust a person to act as an advisor through the moments that matter. They want to be treated as people first. They have very high expectations of how they want to be treated by brands and dealers.
 
We will continue to see automakers and dealers educate themselves on how to balance automation and people. How quickly they can achieve that balance is what will set aside the winners from losers in the long run.

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Also, check out the most recent issue of our monthly customer experience eNewsletter, Dialogue.
 

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Engage Tomorrow’s Car Buyer Today
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Consider this fact: The average car buyer spent 12.5 hours shopping online in 2015. And this one: 75 percent of drivers would consider conducting the entire car-buying process online.1

Together, these digital trends signal a huge shift in the ways that customers are researching and purchasing cars. In this eBook, learn what auto brands can do to use these trends to their advantage, and connect with customers at the moments that matter most.

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When Uber and Lyft debuted on the scene, taxi companies didn’t worry because they had laws on their side about who can provide car services. Until they didn’t.
 
automotive buying disruptionWhen Airbnb first emerged, hotels didn’t bat an eye, because there were laws that kept them dominant in lodging. Until they weren’t.
 
And when PayPal, Venmo and others began offering banking activities on the go, the financial industry laughed, citing regulations and the complexity of the industry as reasons not to worry. They’re not laughing anymore.
 
Each of these examples illustrates how consumer expectations have the power to disrupt traditional business practices and sometimes even influence legislation to take friction out of the customer experience and expand competition.
 
You might hear car dealers and automakers explain laws preventing direct-to-consumer sales as their defense to Tesla and others bypassing the dealer middleman. How long do you think that will last? The used car market is already being disrupted, as companies like Vroom and Carvana let buyers skip the dealership and deliver cars directly to their driveways. Oh and by the way, Vroom just announced $50 million in new funding last month, bringing its total funding to $200 million. Carvana isn’t far behind with $160 million. It’s only a matter of time before the model reaches new cars.
 
There’s no going back: Shoppers simply shop differently than they did before. According to Autotrader, car buyers spent an average of 12.5 hours shopping online in 2015. Millennials, the fastest growing car buying segment, visit an average of 25 sites before even stepping into a dealership, says Automotive News. And 75 percent of all drivers say they would consider conducting the entire car-buying process online, according to Accenture. Panoramic images and video, third-party ratings & reviews, and recommendations from their social networks help buyers make a decision without ever opening a vehicle door. The dealership is their last stop because it’s obligatory at the moment to buy a new car. If they could, most would skip the step completely.
 
This notion flips the industry on its head. The security of the current model isn’t so secure anymore.
 
Now, the product is just the beginning. A stylish vehicle is important, but flashy product advertising, features, and brands aren’t enough. The battle for customer acquisition is a digital one, with search engine optimization and advanced customer analytics as weapons of choice to engage customers earlier in their buying journey. Once they become customers, superior customer service, proactive outreach, and personalization create customer satisfaction and retention that fuels positive word of mouth and recommendations.
 
Relationships matter. Engagement matters. Customer insight matters.
 
The problem is that car companies and their contemporaries aren’t set up to manage such disruption. In fact, many actively work against consumers’ best interests. Think Volkswagen’s emissions fraud, GM’s ignition switches, or Takata’s airbags.
 
Even well-intentioned auto companies are removed from the consumer, and don’t have the structures in place to meet changing customer expectations. Dealers, meanwhile, tend to focus on moving metal, not building engaging relationships.
 
This is why it’s critical to partner with customer experience experts on this journey. They can apply customer lessons learned from other industries, as well as help develop a future customer vision for the industry and your customers.
 
It’s a scary time for the auto industry, as OEMs and dealers desperately try to anticipate car buyers’ needs for the future. But it’s also a time of great opportunity. The standout companies will lead with digital customer engagement and superior customer experiences in all channels. The others will do what they can to resist change, then lament about how things used to be after they’ve been left behind. Remember Oldsmobile, Scion, Hummer, Plymouth, Pontiac, Saturn, Saab, and Mercury? Don’t add your name to list.

Like this post? Subscribe to our customer experience blog.

Also, check out the most recent issue of our monthly customer experience eNewsletter, Dialogue.
 

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Imagine a future where you can summon a driverless car through an app to whisk you to your destination. There’s no need to worry about maintaining a car or even parking it because that’s all being handled for you. While this scenario won’t happen tomorrow, it’s not impossible.

The automotive industry is undergoing massive changes as a future approaches in which only a few people may own vehicles. In an increasingly on-demand and subscription-based economy, manufacturers are exploring a wider range of ownership models to keep pace with changing customer behaviors and expectations.

driverless cars impact the automotive customer experienceGetting stuck in traffic has become an unfortunate part of reality. As cities grow more crowded, alternative options for accessing a car could become more than a luxury—it could become a necessity. Additionally, car sharing and peer-to-peer rentals could enable car owners to receive a return on investment on their underutilized property.

To provide these new ownership models, auto companies are looking to Silicon Valley for help. Instead of building from scratch, General Motors, Ford, and BMW are partnering with tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple. They’re also investing in peer-to-peer car-sharing and ride-sharing companies. GM, for instance, is investing $500 million in a partnership with Lyft to build an on-demand network of self-driving cars.

Ford is also investing in innovative technologies to take the company “to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and Big Data,” wrote Executive Chairman William Clay Ford, Jr. and President and CEO Mark Fields in a joint statement.

The auto company recently unveiled several new programs to make driving and car ownership more convenient. The new initiatives include FordPass. FordPass is a platform that enables users to reserve parking, pay for transportation costs through their vehicle or phone, earn rewards, and call a “FordGuide” for assistance reaching destinations. FordPass is available to non-Ford drivers as well.

Ford is also introducing FordHub centers in shopping malls. The centers are smaller than traditional showrooms and are designed to let shoppers experience new technology, learn about Ford’s vehicles, and explore transportation options. Additionally, Ford is launching a new pilot program that allows families, friends, and neighbors to lease a car together and reserve drive time.

Ford also announced that it is working with IBM to launch a new data analysis platform for analyzing transportation data. Ford is already using this platform to power its “Dynamic Shuttle” pilot in its campus in Dearborn, Michigan. The Dynamic Shuttle allows people to summon rides on-demand on a mobile app.

Once a ride request is made, the software—including an algorithm that drives the platform’s technical capabilities—determines the shuttle best suited to address the request without extending the travel time of riders already aboard. It then sends the rider an offer detailing proposed pick-up time and maximum duration of the trip, which the requester can accept or decline.

While traditional car ownership won’t disappear any time soon, it’s unquestionable that auto manufacturers can no longer simply build new vehicles. Auto companies must keep pace with customer demands and that includes breaking with tradition to find new solutions. 

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From auto recalls to autonomous vehicle tests, 2015 was marked by events that underlie the significant changes taking place in the automotive industry. Technology advances and a demand for greater transparency from automakers are ushering in new opportunities to better engage customers and earn their loyalty. As we prepare for 2016, here’s a look back at several key trends that gained traction this year and will impact customer experiences in the future.

backwards look at automotive customer experience in 2015Connected Cars

Automakers continued to roll out vehicles with a wireless network connection, or connected cars, this year. By 2020, about one in five vehicles worldwide will have some form of wireless network connection, amounting to more than 250 million connected vehicles, estimates Gartner. The increased consumption of digital content within vehicles gives brands more opportunities to engage people. For example, General Motors’ OnStar AtYourService platform is designed to deliver relevant offers for nearby restaurants and other businesses based on the driver’s location. But packing cars with the latest Wi-Fi enabled features is not enough to win customers. Companies must understand customer needs and preferences, and then center their services on these insights.

Customer Trust

Numerous high-profile recalls roiled the automotive industry in 2015, giving new momentum to demands for transparency and regulatory enforcement of manufacturers’ operations.  However, recalls are not limited to the automotive industry and companies in other sectors should heed the lessons that can be learned from these recent events. For instance, early detection and correction can greatly reduce the cost of a problem. Companies should look to implement procedures that are designed to identify potentially problematic trends as early as possible. Additionally, as the Volkswagen emissions scandal demonstrates, winning back customer trust can be very difficult. Apologizing for your mistakes and providing a clear explanation of how you will rectify the situation is the first step to (hopefully) regaining your customers’ trust.

Carsharing

Carsharing programs, or car rental by the hour, are changing how consumers get around. These services give consumers all the benefits of car ownership without the high fixed costs. Providers include companies like DriveNow, owned by BMW Inc. and Zipcar, which is owned by Avis. They also include private individuals who participate in peer-to-peer (P2P) carsharing programs, renting their personal vehicles for use through startups like Getaround and JustShareIt.

The growth of the on-demand economy gives new momentum to carsharing services, making such services appealing to people who are increasingly accustomed to renting instead of buying what they need. Some traditional automakers are already targeting consumers who are looking for brief rentals, and other automotive companies would do well to heed the expectations of these customers in order to stay relevant.

Driverless Cars

This year, a number of self-driving cars were tested on the road but the widespread use of driverless vehicles is still many years away. A number of issues must be resolved before such vehicles can become ubiquitous, such as legal responsibility, cost, data security, and privacy. However, self-driving cars offer numerous potential benefits including increased safety, higher fuel efficiency, and more productive journeys, where passengers can direct their attention to other activities along the way. Self-driving, connected cars will enable consumers to treat vehicles as true extensions of their homes, offices, or smartphones. But as mentioned earlier, it’s important for brands to understand their target customers’ needs and deliver relevant experiences. While fully driverless cars are still many years away, companies that are already attuned to their customers’ expectations will have an advantage in identifying opportunities to deliver relevant experiences across any avenue, including self-driving cars.

It’s unquestionable that the automotive industry must change to keep up with customer expectations. Consumers increasingly demand innovative services and products that work seamlessly together, as well as information transparency. To meet these expectations, traditional automakers have to re-examine their business models and find ways to continue to offer value. And, while these changes won’t happen overnight, companies focused on their customers’ needs have a significant advantage over their competitors.

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Infographic: The 2015 TeleTech Customer Experience Benchmark Report Automotive Industry 

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The intersection of customer and business persepctives in the automotive industry. View the report.

The 2015 Teletech Customer Experience Benchmark Report

About TeleTech's automotive services

 

 

The TeleTech 2015 Customer Experience Benchmark Research Report

 
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The days when a car’s radio and CD player were the main sources of entertainment are quickly disappearing. Auto manufacturers are racing to meet the expectations of mobile-first customers with vehicles that include a wireless network connection. General Motors (GM) is one such company investing in technology to enable myriad mobile services and boost the customer experience.

The past few years have been a tough time for GM. The automaker took a large hit in profits after recalling about 30 million cars and trucks last year. The most serious recalls were related to a defective ignition switch in 2.6 million cars that has been tied to 100 deaths. And even though GM sold a record number of cars worldwide, its financial earnings dropped 28 percent in Q4 last year.

While its current situation is less-than-ideal, GM is planning for a connected future. Connected cars represent an opportunity for the car maker to improve the safety and experience of owning its cars. By 2020, about one in five vehicles on the road worldwide will have some form of wireless network connection, amounting to more than 250 million connected vehicles, estimates Gartner.

“The connected car is already a reality, and in-vehicle wireless connectivity is rapidly expanding from luxury models and premium brands, to high-volume midmarket models,” says James F. Hines, research director at Gartner, in a statement. “The increased consumption and creation of digital content within the vehicle will drive the need for more sophisticated infotainment systems…new concepts of mobility and vehicle usage will lead to new business models and expansion of alternatives to car ownership.”

Last year, GM began offering 4G LTE-equipped vehicles starting with the 2015 Chevrolet Malibu, which it followed with more than 30 other Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac models. The majority of the company’s cars offer connectivity features, and by the end of 2015, GM expects to offer about 40 models with Wi-Fi connectivity.  

When customers are comparing car features, “we’ve found that in-vehicle technology is up to three times more important than traditional measures such as fuel economy and horse power,” says David Mingle, executive director of global connected customer experience program execution at GM. “Customers want to be able to bring their digital life into their vehicle and vice versa.”

Even before Wi-Fi-enabled cars became popular, GM was already connecting owners to their cars through a mobile app, Mingle adds. For example, the OnStar RemoteLink Mobile App lets drivers unlock their car, start it remotely, set navigation routes, request directions, and track vehicle diagnostics like the fuel level and tire pressure. The company also added other app features such as the ability to manage Wi-Fi hotspot settings.

In this year’s first quarter, the RemoteLink Mobile App handled more than 30 million user interactions, compared to 20 million interactions in all of 2013. “In the first 90 days of this year, we’ve seen the app being used far more than it was in 2013, which points to very rapid growth in mobile,” Mingle says.  

As part of the move toward connected cars, GM is extending its mobile-focused capabilities with a new service. Earlier this year, OnStar unveiled AtYourService, a concierge service that connects drivers with retailers while driving.
Through partnerships with Priceline.com, Dunkin’ Donuts, and other retailers, owners use AtYourService to connect with an advisor who will help them find and book hotel rooms, locate restaurants offering discounts, and other actions. When a driver requests directions to a point of interest that has a deal or connection to one of its partners, the advisor can send the offer from that merchant. For example, drivers can get digital coupons sent to them for nearby stores and restaurants and information about available parking spots through a partnership with Parkopedia.

At this time, the coupon offerings and hotel recommendations are not personalized for each driver, but the service will eventually include customized features as it adds more partners and gets more user data. “We don’t have advanced KPIs yet like data that links [AtYourService] to loyalty, retention, and behavior,” Mingle says. “But as usage goes up, we’ll be monitoring the activities people use it for and linking it to CRM data to identify opportunities for better engagement and driving loyalty.”
Additionally, GM is using predictive analytics combined with a car’s Wi-Fi connection to provide advanced diagnostics for its cars. Electronic components that send out signals when they’re about to fail can alert owners to get the part fixed before it becomes a problem. Car owners who sign up for the service through OnStar can have their vehicle automatically check the condition of its engine, transmission, antilock brakes and more and email the results to the owner. “We can notify a customer that in about 30 days their battery may need to be replaced and allow the customer to schedule the service before the failure occurs,” Mingle says.

Advance notifications of necessary repairs and upgrades could potentially reduce the time and money spent on automotive repairs. Automakers for example, can get a more accurate estimate of which parts they need to have in stock for repairs, and car owners can have minor issues fixed before they escalate.

Connecting with dealers
As GM introduces new technology and services to its cars, it is helping dealers stay up to date on the advances with increased training and resources. That includes  Connected Customer Specialists who visit dealerships in their region and educate new customers on how to use their vehicle’s technology. In the past three years GM has more than doubled its team of Connected Customer Specialists and is up to 55 specialists in the U.S. and seven in Canada. Dealership employees are also participating in the training, with more than 25,000 sales and service dealership employees in the process of completing training.

As for the demographic that is most interested in connected cars and Wi-Fi features, Millennial car buyers are showing a slightly higher interest, but other age groups aren’t far behind, Mingle says. “More people are becoming aware of the benefits [of a connected car] and as the technology matures and more types of features and apps become available, we expect adoption will continue to grow.”

Looking ahead, the company is exploring partnerships with Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto systems, which integrate phone features into a car’s onboard display. It is also watching emerging technology trends closely, looking for other ways to improve the driver experience. While GM doesn’t have an immediate plan for integrating with the Apple Watch, for example, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t in the future, Mingle notes.

“In everything we do, we have to make sure we’re putting the customer in the middle,” he says. “And if people choose to communicate with their car through a device like a smartwatch, we have to be prepared for that.”

 

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Driverless and Wi-Fi enabled vehicles are transforming the automotive experience. These futuristic cars are designed to make our lives easier by allowing us to focus on other tasks besides getting from point A to point B. These advances also give automakers opportunities to engage people with new entertainment and safety features.

On the surface, connected and driverless cars are a logical fit for our increasingly interconnected and digital-first lives. But a lot still needs to happen in order for these cars to offer truly useful and engaging experiences. From a customer experience perspective, automakers and their partners will have to address several challenges.

automotive customer experienceDisjointed Interactions

Companies are still trying to deliver an omnichannel experience that ties together user data across multiple channels. A Wi-Fi enabled car represents yet another channel with user data that will have to be integrated into an organization’s customer strategy. For example, a few automakers have rolled out vehicles that automatically check the condition of the engine, transmission, antilock brakes, etc., and alert owners when it needs to be serviced. While this is a useful feature, it’s unclear how the data from a vehicle is connected with other data the automakers have about the car owner and whether the data is frequently updated.

We Interrupt this Driving Experience…

Apple and Google are vying for a spot on a car’s dashboard and both have introduced platforms that connect your phone to your car. Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto connect drivers' smartphones with car dashboard interfaces, allowing the driver to make calls, send messages and email, listen to music, and get directions. The interfaces are designed with large icons and fonts and respond to voice commands so that the driver can focus on the road.

Right now, Android Auto and CarPlay are both light on marketing content, but it’s easy to imagine brands embracing the opportunity to send consumers location-based offers and other targeted messages in a car. We are already distracted by the sounds our phones make and a dashboard that tells you about available offers as you drive could be even more distracting. Opportunities to monetize connected cars are inevitable, but brands and marketers must find ways to safely engage consumers.  

Privacy Protection

Data security and consumer privacy continue to be hot-button issues and automakers must take these concerns into consideration when it comes to managing data from a connected car. Car owners and their passengers should have control over how data about them is collected and distributed. As automakers add more Wi-Fi enabled features to their cars, they will also need to protect the user’s privacy. Data security will become an important part of the automotive experience and automakers need to assure consumers that their information is safe.   

Measuring Customer Satisfaction

As automakers enhance the driving and passenger experience with new capabilities and features, they’ll have to revisit their methods for measuring customer satisfaction. Owning a car, for example, will include interactions with more partners beyond the dealership and mechanic. Automakers may want to know how quickly customer service representatives are helping people as they drive and are the offers that appear on the dashboard relevant? Which types of data should be included in the NPS measurement? How do you measure the value of a Wi-Fi enabled experience in a car?

Connected and driverless cars offer game-changing opportunities but these changes are still nascent and bring a host of issues and questions that automakers will need to address as they strive to engage customers.

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The recent airbag recall of more than 30 million vehicles by Takata has drivers concerned about whether their cars are safe, and confused about what to do next. It also has automakers concerned about how to handle the recalls and ensure that all their cars and customers are safe. They face regulatory, brand, liability, and cost pressures to manage such an enormous undertaking.
 
Recalls are “moments of truth” in OEMs’ relationships with their customers. But, they tend to be challenging and costly to manage. First, not all drivers act on a recall. On average, less than 80 percent of drivers take their cars to be repaired when a recall is announced. It's also hard to find drivers, especially when a recall involves older model cars that may have been resold. On the service side, a recall of this scale means there will be demand volatility for repairs at dealerships, causing a strain on the supply chain for new parts and on customer service for timely repairs and support questions. A strategic approach can mitigate some of these potential risks.
 
It's becoming harder and harder to capture customer attention. Recall notices are simply more white noise in the background of many consumers' lives. To stand out as actionable communication, we recommend four best practices from the marketing world that will lead to higher response rates, lower operational costs, and a smoother overall process. They tie into the overall business trend of providing consumers with more relevant and valuable interactions. And each cuts to the heart of a great customer experience: treating different customers differently.
 
customers riding in a car1. Think like an analytics-enabled marketer
 
Not all customers are alike. That's why it's important to find out their motivations and tailor outreach in a way that's relatable to individuals. Some people are very technical, and want to know about the recall specifics. Others are extremely safety-conscious and will move quickly to fix their vehicle. While still others have jam-packed schedules, use their car for business purposes, or only have one vehicle in the family, and can't give up their car for a few hours, even for a recall. It's important to understand these and other distinctions among your customer base. With the knowledge of why certain customers will or won't take their car to be repaired, OEMs can reach out in different ways with different messaging.  
 
With analytics, customer data can be combined and analyzed to reveal certain behavioral and needs-based distinctions to create relevant customer segments. Once the domain of marketing only, these tools can help in the compliance department, too.
 
And, don't forget about used car owners who may also be affected by the recall. Though it is more difficult to find them, it is possible with a little sleuthing with safe haven data partners to identify owners and their contact information through publicly available records.
 
2. Get predictive to prioritize outreach

It's not enough to identify customer segments. Predictive modeling can determine which groups are more likely or not to get repairs. Behavioral history can inform OEMs about which groups need extra attention and encouragement. For example, some customers may not have time to drop off their car for repairs. Knowing who those people are, automakers and dealers can offer a mobile repair team to come to them, or meet them with a loaner car for the day of the repair. Others may have a history of calling in with questions. In that case, outbound reps can proactively call those customers to explain the details and set up appointments. Going the extra mile and offering such incentives–especially with recalls associated with major safety risks–is well worth the cost/cost avoidance.
 
3. Interact in an omnichannel way, taking advantage of digital

Take advantage of all the channels that your customers use – email, search, online, mobile web/text, social media, and more. Dynamic websites, interactive knowledge bases, and live chat features can walk confused customers through a website or mobile device to answer their questions, for example. More advanced help can be offered with on-demand inbound contact centers dedicated to recall assistance. Digital targeting display ads and contextual ads can point consumers to the right information when they search. The key is to integrate and coordinate these channels to remove any friction on the part of the customer. Ensure that the experience is consistent, regardless of the channels customers use to interact.
 
4. Reward customers for having their cars repaired

You catch more flies with honey. In this case, the honey can be an incentive to encourage drivers to bring their cars in at preferred times. A simple gift can go a long way to spur customer action and engagement. It shows that the company cares about consumers instead of just having a pure compliance focus. And, people like to get stuff for free. They are more inclined to act if there is a reward at the end.
 
Each of these recommendations will help automakers achieve the key business outcomes of a recall: maximizing repairs, improving compliance, being responsive to customers, and reducing overall costs.

Click here to learn about our auto customer recall management solution.
  

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The telecommunications world was completely disrupted by the connected smartphone. Now, users do so much more than place voice calls with their devices. Taking a cue from telecom, the auto industry must prepare for a similar disruption. New innovations from the recent Mobile World Congress illustrate that getting from point A to point B will be just one of the many features of connected cars.
 
The Mobile World Congress has traditionally been a trade show for the telecom industry. But with so many connected devices, the auto industry played a prominent role in the sessions and on the show floor. Audi and AT&T announced a joint plan to bring LTE, 4G and 3G wireless connectivity to all of Audi's 2016 model-year vehicles, making cars portable Wi-Fi hotspots. It also debuted AT&T's Drive functionality, where drivers can access security systems, lights, thermostats, garage doors and other connected home appliances as they reach their driveways.
 
connected car in fast laneThey weren't the only ones getting in on the connected vehicle action. In a keynote address Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn talked about the emerging connected lifestyle, specifically the "Autonomous Drive" trend. He announced that by 2016 its cars will be able to negotiate stop-and-go traffic without direct driver intervention, and he predicts fully driverless cars within 10 years. Similarly, Volvo is testing features that send nearby vehicles warning signals of trouble ahead, like black ice or objects in the road.
 
Ford, meanwhile, debuted a foldable connected electric bicycle that works with the iPhone 6 to run and navigate directions. Its handlebars shake when it's time to turn, and it can travel up to 16 mph.
 
Other vendors reached beyond the vehicle itself. Near field communication (NFC) chips embedded inside iPhone covers can eliminate the need for car keys, and Pizza Hut is working with Visa on an app for drivers to order pizza hands-free on the go.  
 
Though initially exciting, many of these connected car innovations require a more focused attention on the customer experience to see them move off the trade show floor and into everyday consumer life. Industry lines are blurring, and consumers will expect a top-notch experience from all players. Auto companies are partnering with communication service providers, app developers, financial services firms, and other technology vendors to achieve these lofty innovations. The resulting customer experiences will be different from today's typical interactions.
 
These partners will need to share customer data, sales and marketing activities, technology investment, service experiences, and more. In-car voice calls, self-service apps, integration with mobile devices, information sharing, and data security are just a few issues related to the dawn of the connected car.  There is much potential for poor customer experiences if customer focus isn't a strategic priority from the start.
 
It's a very exciting time for the auto industry, but also a time to be mindful of how to proceed in a way that works for your customers. We're just warming up the proverbial engines.

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In recent years, the automotive buying journey has been transformed by digital technology. From consideration, evaluation, and purchase, digital channels serve as the primary information-gathering source.

In fact, according to the “2014 Automotive Buyer Influence Study” conducted by AutoTrader Group, consumers now spend 12 hours online comparing prices, product features, and other factors that weigh into their purchasing decisions compared to just 3.5 hours offline visiting dealerships.

This shift in the increasing use of digital channels for automotive information is creating incredible opportunities for dealers and industry executives to learn more about customer behavior and to engage with customers more effectively. But, to meet their growing needs and respond appropriately, companies must first deploy the right customer experience technologies.

Here are 10 questions automotive leaders should ask themselves to determine whether they have the right mix of technologies in place to optimize the customer experience.

car sitting on keyboard1. Are you able to identify customers whenever they reach out to you, regardless of the channel or channels they use? Automotive customers who have purchased or leased at least one vehicle and have a history of service appointments and interactions with automotive companies expect automotive companies to know who they are. Automotive companies can draw on the wealth of transactional and behavioral information that’s available about each customer to personalize the experience and deepen relationships, which can strengthen loyalty and long-term customer value.

2. How old is your contact center routing platform? State-of-the-art contact center routing technologies can intelligently connect each customer to a specific associate or employee whose individual skills match the customer’s needs. This ensures that customers receive relevant support based on their profiles, the channels used, the type of vehicle they own or lease, and other known attributes. Connecting customers to the right employees will improve the customer experience while optimizing operational efficiency.

3. Are you effectively serving your customers across all contact channels? Automotive customers use a wide variety of touchpoints but they don’t necessarily view themselves as omnichannel; they simply expect to receive consistent experiences across any and all of the channels they use to interact with dealerships and automotive companies. A cloud contact center platform enables automotive organizations to easily add new channel support capabilities on the fly while distributing associates to active channels as customer volumes dictate.

4. Are you arming your front-line employees with the right tools and information? Automotive customers expect companies to know who they are and the type of vehicles they’re driving. Front-line employees need effective tools and access to data to provide customers with relevant and timely support. This includes arming employees with real-time information about the vehicles each customer owns and recent channel interactions for each customer which can be used to provide relevant support. Disparate systems make it extremely difficult for employees to know the full scope of each customer’s relationship with the organization or for staffers to deliver the type of personalized service that customers expect.

5. Are you able to quickly identify customer satisfaction issues through analytics? Automotive customers aren’t always candid in their responses to satisfaction surveys. As such, it’s important for automotive companies to use speech, text, social, and other types of analytics tools to identify aspects of the customer experience that the organization can improve upon (e.g., new customer onboarding, problem resolution). Automotive companies that can rapidly identify and respond to customer satisfaction issues from across the full spectrum of the customer’s relationship can enhance the customer experience, strengthen satisfaction, and boost business results.

6. Are you effectively resolving customer issues upon first contact? Today’s mobile customers have multiple contact options beyond voice calls: IVR, online self-service, chat, click-to-call, email, mobile apps, and more. Automotive customers who aren’t able to resolve their inquiries quickly and easily have long memories and will likely find a company that can better support them when it comes time to purchase or lease another vehicle. As automakers compete for customers, companies need to be able to determine how effectively they’re supporting customers and to distinguish their services from rivals. The use of predictive analytics can help decision-makers determine whether a customer is likely to call back as well as the reason for that repeat call. Meanwhile, customer service associates can prevent repeat calls by taking a holistic, proactive approach to customer support, improving FCR by solving current and future issues on the spot.

7. Do you have the ability to quickly react to real-time data in addressing issues when delivering customer experience (missing SLAs, understaffed against call volume, etc.)? Automotive companies that aren’t responsive to the needs and preferences of its customers run the risk of losing valuable customers to competitors. Real-time management and reporting tools enable decision-makers to immediately identify performance issues with customer support that can be acted on quickly. Developing a sense-and-respond type environment will enable your organization to provide customers with prompt and consistent support and satisfactory experiences that strengthen loyalty.

8. Are your contact center managers able to respond quickly to disruptive customer experience events before they go viral? An irate customer posts about a terrible service experience that goes viral. Will your contact center managers have that deer-in-the-headlights look about them or receive advanced warning about the post and be prepared to respond to it? Contact center analytics can help managers immediately identify customer support issues and respond to them quickly before they spiral out of control.

9. Are customers who interact with dealership employees able to access the same expertise as those who call the contact center? Employees who interface directly with customers should have access to the same customer information that’s available to contact center associates. A next-generation customer experience solution can provide front-line employees with a complete view of customers’ histories as they interact with each other. Meanwhile, intelligent call routing can ensure that customer calls missed by a local dealership can be redirected to associates in a satellite office with the corresponding skills to provide relevant support.

10. How can we use telematics to improve the customer experience? Telematics data gathered from automobiles can provide automotive leaders with valuable insights about customers and their vehicles. This includes information about driving behaviors, location data, and maintenance requirements that can be used to generate proactive customer notifications and to strengthen the customer-company relationship. For example, telematics data can inform a dealer that a customer’s vehicle is about to reach 50,000 miles. A notification can be sent to the customer’s mobile phone to remind her that it’s time for the 50,000 mile service (check hoses for leaks/bulges/cracks, check fluid levels, inspect fuel and exhaust systems, etc.) along with a discounted offer for the maintenance work. 

Each vehicle purchase or lease represents a new opportunity for automotive companies to strengthen engagement and develop long-term relationships with customers. Companies that have the right customer experience technology in place are better positioned to meet customer expectations and provide the level of experiences customers demand.

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White Paper: The Role That Technology Plays in the Automotive Customer Lifecycle

Headline:
The Role That Technology Plays in the Automotive Customer Lifecycle
Nid: 227858
Type: General Template
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Consumers have dramatically changed how they research and shop for new cars and trucks. They are now turning to digital devices to compare prices, product features and other factors before stepping foot into a dealership. At the same time, these digital channels are presenting an opportunity for automotive companies to reach and engage consumers at different stages of the customer lifecycle. In this white paper, learn how understanding and responding to the key lifecycle stages of today’s digital consumer enables automotive companies to improve the customer journey and strengthen business outcomes. Discover:

Understanding and responding to the key lifecycle stages of today’s digital consumer enables automotive companies to improve the customer journey and strengthen business outcomes.

Headline:
Nid: 522736
Type: Case Studies
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This manufacturer enjoys a well-earned reputation as an automotive customer service leader. The automaker’s dedication to a customer-centric culture permeates every aspect of product manufacturing and support – from slowing production during a record sales period to focus on product quality, to offering a program during the U.S. recession that allowed unemployed owners to return their car if needed. The focus is on customer happiness. The company knows that superior service is delivered through superior people, and wanted a way to continuously improve the ability of its associates to respond quickly and accurately to customers. We were engaged to design and deliver a solution that would a) increase speed-to-performance for trainees, and b) provide more insight to management around training effectiveness and individual employee growth.

Our solution was a holistic blend of interactive technology and custom content, designed around the client’s core operational metrics. Learners would listen to call scenarios, map the process, and use social learning tools to comment on the quality of instruction in real-time. Feedback from the learners helped the company refine the training to maximize the positive impacts to the customer experience. Role-playing scenarios were monitored, recorded and evaluated, and personalized coaching sessions gave one-on-one guidance about the previous day’s performance. A cloud-based call routing system helped us evaluate learners and feed customer experience data back into the Learning Management System (LMS). This approach created a constant refinement and communication loop that improved curricula – which in turn improved the performance of learners. Results were tied back into our LearnPoint system, a reporting tool for management teams that tracks individual employee data from pre-hire through training to production performance and assessment.

The customer experience improved in both directions – average handle time went down 17.6 percent, and customer satisfaction went up 32.6 percent. The solution was recognized by the Brandon Hall group with a Gold service award for “Best Use of Blended Learning,” and a Silver award for overall results.

Our client was looking to improve upon their customer happiness. Our solution was a holistic blend of interactive technology and custom content built around their core operational metrics.
Headline:
Nid: 522734
Type: Case Studies
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When customers buy a new vehicle, they enter into a relationship with the manufacturer. For this automotive giant, customer service associates for its financial services arm were not delivering on the quality standards needed to maintain a great relationship. Every month, associates were required to achieve quality scores of 86 percent or higher; but with only 17 percent of new associates and less than 44 percent of tenured associates meeting the goal, the organization was in need of a serious tune-up. We worked with the company to design and deliver a Simulated Learning solution that would empower the team to deliver the kind of exceptional experience that keeps customers loyal.

We developed a virtual contact center that replicated the financial services operations floor. Trainees could then hone their service skills in real-world scenarios, using exactly the same tools and technology that they would be using with a live customer. An intensive analysis of live calls gave our team the data needed to produce customized learning exercises that advanced in complexity as trainee skills improved. The curriculum concentrated on top call drivers and complex issues, with team leaders and coaches providing constant input to refine and optimize each scenario. Tenured associates were scheduled to call the virtual center as customers – bringing their real-world experience into each conversation. The environment helped the trainees become more familiar with their actual work environment, and the increasingly challenging exercises gave them the relevant experience they needed to meet the expectations of real customers.

Before the Simulated Learning solution was implemented, zero to 17 percent of new associates achieved the expected quality score. After the program was rolled out, 54 percent of new associates met the requirement within seven days of completing the initial training – a 217 percent increase. After 30 days, more than 63 percent of new associates were hitting the mark – a 270 percent increase. Team leaders used the new Simulated Learning environment to develop their own skills as well. Not only did they enhance their knowledge of the top call drivers for their team, but they learned more effective coaching techniques that re-enforced team performance on the production floor.

Naturally, tenured associates couldn’t allow new employees to outperform them; the company saw performance continue to rise across the entire organization, with overall quality improving by 15 percent. Since the program launched, the average overall service quality attainment rate improved from 43 percent to over 70 percent. Higher customer satisfaction rates, lower average handling times, and improved profitability – the revitalized customer experience is re-enforcing the relationship with owners and providing a consistent, positive impact on future purchase decisions.

Our client was struggling to meet its customer service needs with both new associates and tenured employees failing to meet goals. We built a virtual contact center that helped associates train with real-world scenarios.
Headline:
Nid: 522716
Type: Case Studies
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Modern design. State-of-the-art performance. Reliable and efficient. Customers respond to style, but their feelings about the manufacturer translate directly into their perception of the product; and in this age of communication, the voice of the customer has never been so powerful. Our client is a global giant in the automotive industry, but out of 36 original equipment manufacturers (OEM) in the J.D. Power and Associates Customer Experience rankings, prior to our relationship this brand was ranked dead last. A lack of customer-centric focus was costing business. A fragmented, disconnected information system was making things even worse – driving up the cost of business through ancient, error-prone and repetitive processes. A new, streamlined business design required a three-pronged rebuild strategy: integrate information systems, enhance customer service delivery, and execute a targeted customer growth and retention strategy. A major overhaul, indeed.

Our Technology team partnered with Salesforce.com® to craft an integrated Service Cloud® CRM and database solution that would condense eight separate lines of business within the company into a central customer experience platform. This comprehensive approach brought customer and dealer information into alignment with the company’s legacy data center and back-office systems. Information on 21 million customers and 16 million vehicles was now integrated, with one million record updates performed each day. The ability for clear reporting – and knowledge sharing – opened a crucial door to subsequent improvements of business processes, and to the customer experience itself.

The new structure has improved every service touch point, and empowered business with a 360-degree view of each customer’s history. Today, our Customer Management team leverages the new technology to handle roughly 200,000 proactive outbound contacts for the company each day. Our Growth Services team has used the new power to develop a holistic engagement and sales program; so far, sales conversion rates have increased by ten percent – more than $50 million in incremental profit for the first year.

Executives at the company knew that a culture of customer centricity needed to grow from within. Our Simulated Learning technology delivered a service curriculum that is not only shorter, but graduates are better educated and geared towards the relationship-building that will define the future of the company. The benefits of this integrated solution are just beginning to be felt.

Realizing a lack of customer-centricity our client noticed their customer experience ratings were dead last, and this was costing them business. We helped provide a better CRM and database solution.
Headline:
Nid: 522698
Type: Case Studies
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Large automobile manufacturers like this client are learning that the old ways of attracting buyers just aren’t good enough anymore. This company relied on vehicle discounts, in the form of cash-back incentives, to entice buyers. Though it’s a standard industry practice, this mechanism is also a costly and inefficient way to build value. Our client needed a way to gain greater insight into the buying habits and life cycle of their customer base. Our role was to help the client migrate away from product-focused marketing, and move towards an approach that centered on the individual needs and preferences of the buyer.

The client had a vast amount of customer data, and needed a creative way to turn it into knowledge and actionable insights. Our solution included three major components: (1) Customer Life Cycle, which identifies the customer’s stage within a vehicle purchase cycle to determine the customer’s buying potential (2) Segmentation, which categorizes customers based on many factors, and differentiates by profit-driving behaviors and (3) Offer Optimization, an engine that’s powered by statistical models to find the “best” offer to extend to a customer based on business goals and assorted client-supplied constraints. This engine also helps make sales forecasting and goal-setting more accurate.

This analytically driven solution has been successfully used by our client in marketing campaigns for several years. The marketing teams appreciate the practicality of a data-driven approach to the creation of incentives, and the executives prize the excellent forecasting ability they now possess. Confidence is higher that programs will deliver expected results, and campaigns using this solution generally experience a 10 – 60 percent lift in sales over control groups.

The automobile manufacturer has a better way to sell - a clearer view into the lives of its customers, an informed way to prioritize customers with the greatest potential, and a smarter way to disseminate offers and incentives.

Our client was looking to better understand the buying habits and life cycle of their customer base. We developed a analytically driven solution that provided a better idea of who their customer is.