It’s been a record year for the car industry in the UK in 2016, with over 2.7 million new cars sold (amazing, given that’s over a third of the new cars sold in the whole of the US in 2015).
Not many years ago, this would have led to a collective groan from the green lobby—as more cars on the road would inevitably lead to more congestion, more pollution and more resources consumed to keep us all moving.
Whilst those downsides still partly have some validity, 2016 also saw a positive collision between technology and the combustion engine. There are now over 100,000 electric cars on the UK roads, hailing services like Uber came of age and the driverless car is a reality that few could have realistically foreseen only a decade ago. Sadly, what’s not changed so much is the customer’s experience of the manufacturers’ and dealerships’ communication with them.
There is still too much reliance on mail and e-mail in an industry that needs, more than ever before, to engage with its customers. Strangely enough, the car trade actually makes its money from aftersales more than the initial purchase. In the UK, over 75% of cars are purchased on PCP (Personal Contract Purchase)—meaning that the customer buys over a few years and can trade in, hand back or buy the car at the end of the lease period.
It’s this fundamental shift in the customer/car relationship that makes ContactEngine so relevant for the automotive industry. We already work with a number of the major manufacturers—helping to communicate across all channels with the owner of the shiny new car—proactive ‘all channel’ communication with the owner/driver will help not only to improve the loyalty of customers but, played smartly, can also help to optimize capacity in the service department.
Managing the peaks and troughs of demand, through better and smarter communication, not only makes the dealers more money but also makes the customers feel ‘personally’ looked after. The automotive industry has developed many specialist services over the decades—one that we admire comes from the US and is called Polk (now IHS Automotive—driven by Polk).
With its origins in print, Polk transitioned over the years into a software product that does many things, including being the CRM system for a dealership to use to keep track of its customers and their vehicles. Seeing which customer needs a cambelt change or an annual service is very helpful—and many dealerships across the world hand this information to someone in the office and they make the call.
Where ContactEngine can step in is with automating this dialog, making sure that the calls (or SMS, e-mail, IM etc.) are made successfully and that the time slots available across a network can be optimized and filled. Once again this approach not only optimizes the trade, but it also gives a warm feeling of being looked after to the customer, and given in the UK 75% of cars are now leased, the critical factor for the industry is to ensure loyalty not just to the marque but also to the perfect customer journey that we can help to deliver.