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How Automotive Is Innovating The Customer Experience?

How Automotive Is Innovating The Customer Experience?

The relationship between the car’s owner and the object of his or hers affection has always been very personal. It’s a tool that gives freedom – of choice, freedom from time restrictions, freedom to ride and do anything you want. Cars are now more personal than ever. Consumers decide on how they buy them, how to use them and how the relationship is growing. Through digital devices, through different means to connect to the manufacturer, through ways to monitor and measure a car’s performance. Manufacturers react to that, here are some great examples.

Buying a car starts way before a foot is placed inside the car’s showroom. According to a 2014 study by J.D. Power, customers looking for a new car spend 14 hours researching cars online, and that’s on average. That’s not all, the internet is helpful even while on the grounds. 34% of internet automotive users (AIUs) use either a smartphone or a tablet while shopping at a dealership. In other words – yesterday people when sceptical when dealing with used cars salesmen, they were cautious when dealing with a brand new cars salesman. Today they believe no one, they browse, compare and decide for themselves. The Internet has changed everything but that’s not the only factor.

Consumers want a more personalized experience, because that way they receive more attention. Translation: their needs are satisfied more effectively. The automotive sector has learnt the lesson – according to 2016 report on data analytics by Forbes, automotive is the leading sector that embraces data and predictive analytics in order to enhance customer experience.

We observe the trend where companies:

  • Gather real-time insights based on customer-generated data
  • Develop data and analytics potential to improve and innovate the customer experience
  • Have a more consistent customer image to increase the level of spending, loyalty and engagement

This insight wound not be possible if it wasn’t for quality software. This is the product that drive the change based on running away… from the product. Automotive is no longer about the product, it’s about service and engagement. Almost anyone can make a car, few can make a sustainable business model inside the automotive industry. Can you feel the difference? If so, then let’s jump to the examples.

We have recently written on the FordPass app which is basically Ford’s way of saying: Here’s your car, have fun with it. The application allows for scheduling a car’s start, lock and unlock from anywhere, check fuel & fluid levels, find a gas station and compare brands & prices, check mileage, pay with FordPay and much more. Built-in there is also a gamification experience for most dedicated and frequent drivers.

This is a good example of how a company that sold only one T model available in black, turned around to deliver a worthy and innovative customer experience, available on-the-go.

Tesla, oh, Tesla… You would think that everything had already been said about this company, from every possible angle. And yet here we are! Tesla is an author of over-the-air (OTA) software updates that upgrade cars in an instant. Software bugs, new features? Tesla has got you covered! Furthermore, the company has pushed forward with another innovation. Tesla’s Autopilot software is as popular as ever. Other interesting functionality introduced to customer via over-the-air update was Automatic High Beams, which is basically an adaptive and automatic behaviour of a long and short front lighting, based on data read by a front camera. It’s similar to Ford’s Glare-Free Highbeam but it’s from Tesla so it’s automatically (pun intended!) way cooler to a lot of people. The situation can be interesting and gamechanger-like for a lot of drivers out there but it’s serious for analysts. Fred Lambert from Electrek warns that features introduced via Autopilot and Tesla’s machine learning capabilities can mean that all other cars will be obsolete in the near future.

Porsche don’t want to be next. The company invented a Porsche Passport which is a subscription service. For a $2,000/month a customer can drive a 718 Boxster, Cayman S, Macan S or Cayenne. For $3,000/month, he or she can browse and select a ride from 22 Porsche models. It doesn’t provide any new features to a car but it can assist in picking dates, since the subscription fee covers registration, insurance and maintenance costs, customer is ‘only’ buying gas. The service has its own mobile application, since the world thrives on mobile. Once again, you can do nothing without software.

Porsche’s approach is similar to what Cadillac has to offer. The BOOK by Cadillac might not by accepting new members by the time of this article, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Imagine paying a fee covering insurance, taxes and maintenance, where you can choose a car for a month, with a flat fee of $1,500. All the pleasure and convenience of owning a car, without the hassles of owning one. Once more – a mobile app, a car delivery service, everything happens on-the-go, exactly where the customer is at the time. Targeted at younger demographics, with especially millennials in mind, Porsche aims to not increase revenue, but build a base for future customer loyalty to the brand.

Another interesting example comes from Hyundai. The company launched a program called Shopper Assurance that is also known as ‘the Amazon experience for car buyers’ as quoted of Hyundai Motor America’s CMO Dean Evans in Bloomberg. That means a customer-centric approach, with flexibility and convenience in mind. Transparent pricing, flexible and glove-fitted test drive, online purchasing and a 3-day worry-free exchange. These are the pillars this program is built upon. It’s not Tesla’s service order from inside the car, but it’s sure impressive. And, you guessed it, Hyundai has an app for that.

In order to become customer-centric, automotive companies have to become data-centric. Previously given examples are not the only ones that are interesting. The others can be described in detail in due time, but what’s important right now is the level of awareness from the automotive industry.

To be more effective in driving new revenue and increasing loyalty levels, companies must pool data out of:

  • Showrooms
  • Dealers
  • Website, mobile apps and other digital sources
  • Owner registration systems, maintenance and service records
  • Car internal systems (fuel level, part usage, software bugs, etc.)

The customer journey is critical here. Knowledge of the key elements that shape customer experience will lead to more conscious and practical choices when choosing a technology partner. Key questions could be:

  • Who are your customers?
  • What problems they need you to address in their daily purchasing/driving/servicing experience?
  • What is the best product and service that you can give them?
  • Why they would be loyal to your brand?
  • What are key elements and tools to assure their loyalty?

In order to achieve these goals, you need to dedicate management’s and key stakeholders’ time. The reward will be great – a long-term and happy customer.