The Future of Customer Experience in the Service Department

Laura Morrissey
Posted 10 months ago

Car manufacturers and dealers have heavily invested in the customer experience in their service departments over the past few years, resulting in improved customer satisfaction and service quality. Below is what we believe will happen next.

According to the J.D. Power U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Study, 2017 has seen higher satisfaction scores with regard to Service Advisors, Service Initiation, Service Facilities, Vehicle Pick-up, and Service Quality. The Service Quality score has increased the most, rising to 809 (on a 1,000-point scale) from 782 in 2015. The other four measures also show improvement from 2015 levels. The overall customer service score is 816, up from 802 in 2015. The future of customer experience is vital for customer retention.

From phone and email to direct messaging

The customer’s experience of aftersales communication is evolving from phone and email to direct messaging, especially when executed in a visually engaging way. Email is no longer relevant to the automotive industry. Emails from the dealership may not be opened by the customer for a long period of time which leads to counter-productive gaps in communication between the dealership and the customer. 90% percent of text messages are read in less than three minutes and virtually all of them – 98% are eventually read. Compared to the lackluster open rates of email 22%.

Direct messaging, using SMS text or IM as a platform, means convenience for customers. No one wants to take time out of their hectic day to answer a phone call from their service advisor or to read lengthy emails. Instant Messaging integrates convenience and allows for there to be a physical copy of the conversation between all parties that can be viewed again at any time while also respecting customer’s time.

Millennials prefer to receive SMS

Comprehensive studies have proved that millennials dislike talking on the phone. This generation grew up with the progression of instant messaging, texting, email, and other forms of written communication. 2010 saw the rise of Whatsapp and 2011 brought the debut of Facebook Messenger and Snapchat. According to a recent survey conducted at OpenMarket, when given the choice between being able only to text versus call on their mobile phone, a colossal 75 percent of millennials chose to text over talking. In fact, millennials strongly desire to receive text messages from a business, instead of phone calls, which they regard as invasive.

Instant messaging is the new standard

Customers will always check what has been sent to them in a text message almost immediately after seeing the notification. IM has become a standard of communication as the platforms have become wildly popular; Whatsapp has 1.3 billion active users and Facebook Messenger only slightly less – 1.2 billion. Customers use these popular apps in their daily lives. For a dealership to seamlessly fit in with apps that are already being used in a customer’s life, will further add to the service experience. What this means going into the future, is digital proximity, a quicker, more direct line of contact with customers which will effectively set your business apart as a convenient and modern place that customers want to tell their friends about.

A chat based conversational process works a lot better than other platforms because it forces both parties to be concise and straight to the point in a fast way, eventually leading to a higher average repair order values. As reported by eWeek; 52% of customers would prefer texting customer support over their current preferred form of communication i.e email and phone calls.

The 5-second window to make a decision

Consumers make hundreds of decisions every day. Mel Robbins who created The 5 Second Rule, states that “the moment you have an instinct to act on a goal you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will stop you”. The window that exists between the moment the consumer has an instinct to change and their mind killing it, is a 5-second window and it exists for everyone.

The consumers of the automotive industry need to be connected with in a way that limits the amount of time it takes for them to make a decision. The way for this to undoubtedly happen is through instant messaging. An email will give the consumer too much time to procrastinate with a decision and as a result, you ultimately won’t gain as much upsell as desired.

“Don’t make me think” ― Steve Krug

Dopamine rush

The use of messaging versus a phone call has a huge advantage. Every ‘ping’ of a new message arriving on a customers phone increases dopamine levels in the consumer. Research has shown that dopamine triggers the wanting system in our brain that drives us to make an action. It activates a cycle that starts with seeking, and then gets rewarded which makes us seek more. When we pick up our phones more dopamine gets released, resulting in strengthening our motor circuit making it more likely we’ll take that same action again. Dopamine is triggered when something unexpected occurs. When a text is received, the dopamine system gets excited thinking; when will the next text arrive? This repeated ‘ping’ makes it harder for the consumer to resist looking at the messages from the service advisor. As a result, this leads to quicker replies and less time spent on decision making.

Mobile means convenience

Becoming more digital and mobile-first is another impactful way that the automotive industry can enhance a customer’s experience in the service department. Customers should be able to conveniently book an appointment, check their vehicle repair recommendations and browse the dealership’s current vehicle inventory from their computer or cell phone. A study by DMEautomotive showed that vehicle buyers using a branded app were 73% more likely to make a purchase from the dealership, and after making a purchase, booked 25% more service appointments than shoppers without an app. They also spent 7% more money than non-app users when purchasing a vehicle, according to a study commissioned by Cars.com.

Customer proximity

There have never before been such multiple ways to give attention to customers and offer them tailored services before, during and after their purchasing decision. Car dealerships today have to adapt to these communication channels and make information available to their customers through these commonly used platforms.

Seeing is believing

Going into the future, customer experience in the service department needs to become more visual. To build consumer’s trust modern dealerships are already becoming increasingly transparent by providing their customers with a window into their workshop through the use of video tools such as Quik.Video. The result of this is that customer experience has been broadened in a positive way. The way dealerships used to operate in the past, with a customer’s car being repaired and recommendations offered that the customer can’t visually see should stay in the past.

Answering customer expectations

These changes were brought about by simply listening to the customers. The worst way to learn more about the customer is to guess. The voice of the customer can be heard across a wide range of platforms and it is so important to talk and listen to them. Staying competitive requires a genuine understanding of customer needs and desires, but you won’t be able to gain that kind of understanding without first listening. By talking and listening to the customers, it was discovered that transparency is vital for the customer experience to thrive and the main way to do this is by offering visuals to the customer.

Overall, evidence indicates that there are opportunities in the future of aftersales customer service and these developments will significantly drive changes in the industry over the next decade in a positive way.

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