8 Ways to Improve the Customer Experience in the Automotive Industry

min read
8 Ways to Improve the Customer Experience in the Automotive Industry

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 the benefits of creating seamless automotive customer experiences, actionable strategies you can implement, and future automotive CX trends on the horizon.

8 Ways to Improve the Customer Experience in the Automotive Industry

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive into some actionable tips you can use right now!

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.

Read the full AutoNation case study here

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. 

7. Manage Your Online Reviews

Customer reviews are like word-of-mouth for the digital age. Great reviews can bring in new customers looking for a positive experience, while negative ones, left unaddressed, can scare people away. That's why it's crucial to respond to all reviews, both positive and negative. By taking the time to respond, you show customers you care about their feedback and are committed to providing a top-notch experience. Here are some tips to help you on your way: 

  • Incentivize Positive Reviews: Encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, and Facebook. Offer small rewards like discounts on future service visits or car washes in exchange for their feedback. 
  • Actively Manage Negative Reviews: Don't shy away from negative reviews. Respond promptly and professionally, acknowledging the customer's concerns and outlining the steps you're taking to address them. This shows potential customers that you care about feedback and are committed to resolving issues.
  • Make it Easy to Leave Reviews: Streamline the review process for your customers. Include clear calls to action on your website, service reminders, and receipts. Consider providing a link to your preferred review platforms with a single click. This removes any friction and encourages customers to share their experience.
  • Showcase Positive Reviews: Highlight positive reviews on your website, social media pages, and marketing materials. Positive reviews act as social proof, building trust with potential customers and showcasing the value you provide. Be sure to ask permission from the customer before featuring their specific review.

8. Build Loyalty Through Rewards and Recognition

In today's competitive automotive market, keeping customers coming back for more is essential, and a well-designed loyalty program is a powerful tool to achieve this. It goes beyond simply offering discounts; it's about expressing your appreciation for their continued business and building a lasting relationship. 

Effective loyalty programs offer a variety of benefits tailored to different customer needs. This could include a points system where points accumulate with each purchase or service visit, allowing customers to redeem them for discounts, car washes, or even accessories. Tiered membership programs elevate loyal customers to exclusive levels, granting benefits like priority service scheduling, extended warranties, or even invitations to special events. By catering to individual preferences, you demonstrate that you value their loyalty and understand their specific requirements. 

Generic discounts and one-size-fits-all promotions can miss the mark. Leveraging customer data allows you to personalize offers and rewards. For example, a customer who primarily uses their vehicle for commuting might appreciate free oil changes, while someone with a family car might benefit from discounts on car seats or roof racks. This personalized approach shows you value them not just as a customer, but as an individual with specific needs.

Loyalty programs aren't just about rewarding customers; they also encourage positive online reviews. By streamlining the review process, making it easy for satisfied customers to share their experience, you create a positive feedback loop. Include clear calls to action on your website, service reminders, and receipts, perhaps even a single-click link to your preferred review platforms. Positive reviews act as social proof, building trust with potential customers and showcasing the value your dealership provides. Remember to ask permission before featuring a specific review, adding a personal touch that strengthens the connection. 

Investing in a well-structured loyalty program is an investment in your customers and your business's future. It fosters brand loyalty, encourages repeat business, and ultimately leads to a more positive customer experience for everyone involved.

Automotive Customer Experience Trends for 2024 and Beyond

The automotive industry is undergoing a significant transformation, and the customer experience is at the forefront of these changes. Here are four key trends dealerships should be aware of to stay ahead of the curve:

  1. The Rise of the Tech-Savvy Customer: Today's car buyers are increasingly tech-savvy and comfortable utilizing technology throughout the buying journey. Virtual showrooms, online financing options, and self-service tools are becoming more commonplace. Embrace technology by offering virtual tours, online financing applications, and self-service options for tasks like scheduling appointments or tracking service progress.
  2. Connected Cars: Car manufacturers are catering to tech-savvy drivers by creating increasingly connected vehicles. This not only provides a more enjoyable experience with features like real-time navigation and voice control, but also prioritizes safety through accident prevention systems and driver monitoring. Advanced sensors and software are making cars more aware of their surroundings, helping drivers avoid obstacles and respond to emergencies. These connected and intelligent features are paving the way for a future filled with self-driving capabilities and a smoother, safer driving experience for all.
  3. Environmental Sustainability: The growing urgency of environmental issues is shaping consumer preferences, with a rising demand for eco-friendly solutions extending to the automotive industry. In response, car manufacturers are not only developing electric and hybrid vehicles with lower emissions, but also embracing sustainability as a core value. This commitment extends beyond the showroom floor, encompassing sustainable practices throughout the manufacturing process and overall operations. By prioritizing these eco-conscious initiatives, car brands are demonstrating their dedication to environmental responsibility and aligning themselves with the values of a growing segment of environmentally conscious consumers.

Additional Reading

Want to learn more about how Invoca can help your dealerships or service centers create better customer experiences? Check out these resources:

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