The automotive buying journey is rapidly evolving. Car buyers are spending more time doing their due diligence before they visit a dealership — in fact, in 2022, car buyers spent an average of seven months researching their options, compared to 2.7 months in 2017. This trend also holds true for service centers, as today’s consumers spend more time checking online reviews and price shopping.
“If you don’t give customers the information up front, if you don’t answer their questions through chat, text, email, phone calls, or whatever channel, they won’t come in. If you don’t show your cards, they will go away,” said Jessica Stafford, head of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book in a recent interview.
To cater to today’s automotive consumer, dealerships and service centers need to provide top-notch customer service not just at brick-and-mortar locations, but also in the online and phone call experience. If you don’t create a seamless buying journey for your customers across all channels, they’ll leave you for one of your competitors — 46% of people say they would switch to a different OEM if it delivered better customer experiences.
Keep reading to learn how you can win more business by improving the customer experience at your service centers and dealerships.
1. Understand the Key Moments in the Automotive Buyer’s Journey
Before you can optimize the automotive customer experience, you first need to track and understand every touch in the buying journey. Most dealerships and service centers are measuring the online experience with web analytics tools, and they track how many of their customers ultimately take a test drive, schedule maintenance, or finance a vehicle at their brick-and-mortar locations. But many have a glaring gap in one key moment of the buying journey — the phone call experience.
According to our 2022 Buyer Experience Report study, 67% of automotive consumers will call during their buying journey. If your dealership or service center isn’t capturing analytics from phone calls, your customer journey analytics have a major blind spot.
To solve this problem, leading automotive brands like AutoNation use conversation intelligence. With a solution like Invoca, you can track the full digital-to-call experience and understand which marketing campaigns, channels, keywords, and webpages are driving the most calls to your locations. You can also use AI to surface rich insights from phone conversations, such as each caller’s product or service interests, if they were a quality lead, and if they scheduled an appointment. Finally, you can use AI to automate call quality assurance so you can ensure that your agents are providing top-tier service.
You can then integrate Invoca data into your technology stack, so you can enrich your existing workflows with conversation intelligence data. This will allow you to understand how phone calls are impacting customer acquisition as well as if there are any CX issues you need to address to improve your conversion rates.
2. Invest in Omnichannel Marketing
With the average car buyer spending over half a year researching their purchase, they’re likely to engage with you on several different channels and devices before they visit your dealership. As your leads bounce between different touchpoints, you should keep them warm with marketing campaigns.
But it’s essential that, when you market to prospects, you create a consistent experience across all channels. If your ads aren’t tailored to their latest interaction with your dealership, their experience will feel disjointed and they’ll be less likely to convert.
To do this, you should create audiences based on your website visitors, and segment them by which vehicle pages they visited. You should also create audiences based on which advertising offers consumers engaged with. This will allow you to market to your online audience based on their previous interactions.
In addition, you should connect each lead’s digital interactions to their call interactions. With a conversation intelligence solution like Invoca, you can capture insights from phone calls at scale, such as the cars the caller is interested in, the features they mentioned on the phone, and any other purchase considerations they have. You can then use this data to create new audiences that you can feed into your advertising platforms. As a result, you can create seamless experiences on every channel. For example, if a lead called to inquire about inventory for the Toyota Rav-4, you could serve them future ads promoting that model, or similar SUVs in the price range they specified.
Connecting the digital-to-call experience can be a key differentiator for your dealership or service center, setting your customer experience apart from the competition.
How AutoNation uses Invoca to personalize omnichannel marketing campaigns
With over 300 locations, AutoNation is America’s largest and most admired auto retailer. When the pandemic began to take hold in the U.S., the vehicle buyer journey changed dramatically. Buyers were shopping online and placing phone calls to dealerships, rather than visiting brick-and-mortar locations. It became more important than ever for AutoNation to understand each customer’s needs and create a unified omnichannel experience for them. To accomplish this, they combined Invoca conversation intelligence data with data from their digital channels to get a 360-degree view of every customer.
With Invoca, AutoNation sends buyers personalized marketing campaigns touting the type of features they mentioned over the phone. AutoNation also gives its sales agents access to those insights, so they can tailor the conversation to win the sale. This creates a seamless omnichannel experience that makes every customer feel acknowledged and valued.
“The car buying journey is different for everyone — some people want safety features and others want performance. Invoca has helped us tap into phone conversations so we can understand each buyer’s unique needs. As a result, we can deliver a truly peerless car-buying experience,” said Marc Cannon, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Experience Officer at AutoNation.
3. Use Conversation Intelligence to Personalize Phone Call Experiences
As mentioned earlier, phone calls are a key piece of the buying journey for automotive consumers. If you don’t provide a seamless call experience, your consumers may churn before even reaching your door.
To improve the call experience, leading automotive brands use conversation intelligence. With a solution like Invoca, you can create custom rules to intelligently route each caller to the best location or agent to assist them. Popular call routing for the automotive industry include routing callers to their closest location and rerouting callers from locations to call centers during peak call times or when locations are closed.
Once the call is routed, you can use Invoca to send your agent a whisper message that only they can hear before the caller is connected. These whisper messages can deliver valuable insights about the caller, such as the marketing campaigns or webpages they engaged with before calling, if they’re a returning customer, their geographic location, and more. Your agents can, in turn, use those insights to proactively pull up relevant information and personalize the conversation to meet the caller’s needs.
4. Automate Call Quality Assurance to Improve Agent Coaching
To ensure that your agents are providing a top-notch phone call experience, you need to do regular quality assurance to assess their performance. QA can be time-consuming to complete and difficult to scale, especially if you’re responsible for agents at multiple repair centers or dealerships. The average QA team, as a result, is only listening to a small sample of calls from each agent, leading to inaccuracies — they may be catching your best agents or locations on their worst days or vice versa. In addition, their review process is fraught with biases and human error that can skew scores and cause agents to become skeptical about their accuracy.
To solve this problem and get complete visibility into every agent’s performance on every call at every location, automotive customer experience and sales leaders use Invoca’s automated call quality assurance. With this solution, you can use AI to automatically score each sales call. You can set your own criteria for call scoring, such as if the agent used an appropriate greeting, mentioned a current promotion, and asked for the appointment or test drive. This ensures you’re making accurate judgments based on all your calls, not a small sampling. It also allows sales leaders to spend more of their time coaching agents, and less listening to calls.
In addition, Invoca gives agents access to their automated scores in real time, so they can track their own progress. They’ll see which areas they’re nailing and which need a little extra work. This gives them transparency into their performance and the autonomy to take the right steps to improve it.
5. Gather Continuous Feedback from Your Customers
You should never be done optimizing the customer experience — it’s an ongoing process that takes constant tweaking and refining to perfect. If you don’t continuously iterate, you’ll fall behind your competitors, which will be detrimental to your revenue, since the experience is one of the most important differentiators for automotive customers.
To get insights about where they’re excelling and where they’re falling short, leading automotive dealers and service centers use satisfaction surveys. These provide a forum for customers to share their experiences in depth. Here are a few tips to make the survey process as successful as possible:
- Use an adequate sample size
- Send the survey at the right customer touchpoints
- Ask only questions that fulfill your end goal
- Avoid leading and loaded questions
- Make use of rating scales and yes/no questions to make the survey easier to complete
- Start the survey with your easy “warm up” questions
- Offer a reward or bonus to increase survey participation
Another great way to gather feedback is with conversation intelligence. Invoca’s Signal Discovery feature uses unsupervised machine learning to automatically detect trends that are occurring in your phone calls. Using the feature may help you discover that the “schedule an appointment” conversion flow in your website is broken, your customers aren’t able to easily find inventory information online, or they had an unsatisfactory experience at one of your brick-and-mortar locations. You can then use this information to improve the customer experience accordingly.
6. Build Long-Lasting Relationships with Your Customers
Once the customer buys a car from you or repairs are performed, their relationship with your business isn’t over — it’s just beginning. To provide a truly stellar customer experience, you need to forge long-lasting bonds with your customers. This means remembering their preferences and personalizing every future interaction to meet their needs.
To do this, your dealer network or repair centers likely use a CRM like eLead, VinSolutions, DealerSocket, or DriveCentric. This allows you to capture customer information from past engagements and use it to inform future ad targeting, email campaigns, and phone call outreach. But if you don’t feed data from every touchpoint into your CRM, your customer records will be incomplete and, as a result, your subsequent interactions with them may feel disjointed. For example, we’ve all had the experience of a company relentlessly targeting us with ads for a product we already bought.
To avoid experiences like this, leading automotive brands integrate conversation intelligence with their CRM. This integration automatically updates your CRM with conversation insights from phone calls, including the customer’s product or service interest, barriers to purchase, if they ultimately scheduled and appointment or test drive, and more. This ensures that all of your rich conversation data is being captured in your CRM, and that your future interactions with your customers will be seamless.
For example, if a prospect called about a specific car but didn’t convert, Invoca’s CRM integration would automatically capture this information. You could retarget them with future ads or email campaigns about that car — especially when there are upcoming sales events or financing options. Using conversation intelligence insights to tailor your future messaging will make your customers feel valued and known and will help earn their long-term loyalty.
Want to learn more about how Invoca can help your dealerships or service centers create better customer experiences? Check out these resources: