By Steve Southin, Co-CEO, PAVE
COVID-19 has reformed and redefined the customer experience (CX), requiring dealers to think beyond short-term fixes to plan for the future – a new normal with increased consumer interest in digital retailing options, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Some dealers have been ahead of the curve in adopting digital retail, but to thrive in the digital landscape, dealerships must have a more pointed focus on customer experience. CX is the practice of supporting efforts to make customers satisfied and to keep people enjoying the experience of interacting with a brand along the entire customer journey to make each interaction with the brand as positive as possible. In fact, “companies that lead in customer experience outperform laggards by nearly 80 percent,” according to Forbes.
Good customer experience costs almost nothing, and over time good customer experience speaks for itself with the business spreading organically. This can keep sales and marketing costs low. No matter how much you splash the internet with pricey pointed marketing, consumers just won’t hear it. They listen to each other. Customers are the new marketers, and the only thing that matters is what they think and say about you. Reviews play a role in nearly every purchasing decision. Rideshare, food delivery, eCommerce, service, and vehicle purchases are all dominated by reviews.
Even a small shift in consumer sentiment can make a big difference in shaping failure and success. An outspoken and engaged customer community can do the marketing for you allowing you to be lean in marketing investments. Buying that kind of advocacy would not only be expensive but also impossible to do sincerely.
Good customer experience will give you a competitive advantage that will be impossible for competitors to overcome. In this ever-competitive world, CX can set your company apart in a way that is very hard to duplicate. Vehicles are highly commoditized, with rapidly emerging competition. Manufacturers aren’t releasing new models every year, so if it’s not possible to find new buyers by having a new product, how do you keep them interested? By focusing on the experience.
Thoughtful and engaging customer experience across each touchpoint of the customer journey is much more difficult for competitors to copy because the experience is personal. It encompasses pre-sale, sale, post-sale, and delivery engagement.
Everyone learns in CX 101 that calls-to-action are an important part of generating leads. Two dealers can both have a button saying, “Get your E-Price Now,” but a customer can have two very different experiences once they click that button. If one dealer calls up that customer and says, “When can you come in?” and the other calls the customer with a detailed vehicle price, that customer is going to choose the dealer who followed through with the request. While it may be possible to replicate one or two of those aspects, when you do it right, competitors can’t replicate what makes your dealership unique without looking inauthentic.
Great customer experience can be the most efficient growth opportunity a dealership can have. Over the years, the time invested in focusing on customer experience can prove a return ten times over. The digital customer experience can make or break a business in the long term just as a poor physical customer experience can. Customer experience can shave marketing costs, solidify loyalty, and increase referrals.
about the author
Steve Southin is Co-CEO of PAVE with 25+ years of automotive retail and wholesale experience. Steve also has 15+ years of technical and startup expertise that he gained as an Autotech entrepreneur, with his second recent successful exit being the Bumper App, which he brought to market in 2012 and successfully exited through an acquisition by Vicimus Inc. in 2017.