Carl worked for the Sytner Group for over a decade and was always one of those guys with an interest in Technology and how that could change the retail marketplace. Sytner is the UK’s leading retailer of prestige cars and the largest overall automotive retailer in Europe. Working his way up to General Sales Manager overseeing and responsible for both the New & Used Car Operations, including the Finance teams of an Audi dealership, he was part of the team who were awarded Audi Centre of the year by Audi UK.
During my 10 years of working in dealerships, the way customers interacted with my teams completely changed. It used to be the case that customers would rely on our expertise and systems to help them find the right car. Either on the phone or in the dealership, we’d ask questions to find the right car for them. Hopefully they’d take the chance to take a test drive to make their minds up, if they liked it, we’d discuss payment options, shake on a deal….done…nice and easy (most of the time!)
Things started to change once information became widely available online. Customers were able to do their own research and locate cars even before talking to us. Sometimes searching for alternatives on their phone whilst they sat in front of us!
This is great from the customers perspective, but it created increased competition for us. Instead of just seeing it as a negative, we had to view it as a way to drive change for improving the value we offered to customers. The group I worked for understood the need to evolve through culture and technology, to ensure they could deliver on the increasing expectations of the customer.
Statistics now show on average a customer will only visit a dealership 1.3 times before making a decision, because they were researching well before speaking to us. Therefore, we realised the need to interact with the customers earlier, by ensuring we built capabilities to interact with them on different channels in the way they needed us to.
This included across online (web chats, email, Instagram etc) and offline (phone, visit etc). Through this we found one constant appearing across all the channels…… the expectations from customers around our speed of response or time to deliver vehicles had changed forever! On reflection this change was inevitable, with innovators like Amazon offering ‘one click buy’ and the luxury of having a product delivered within just a couple of hours, it was bound to redefine the bar of what was achievable.
As consumers, we have all become accustomed to expecting speed and ease with every purchase, even with something as complex as buying a new car. In any industry where friction occurs, companies like Amazon will see an opportunity to disrupt with their uber fast processes.
The issue in our industry, like many others, was born from the fact our systems and processes were not designed for the lightspeed transactions expected from customers today. For established vendors in any market, either their legacy systems have somehow been adapted to work, or replaced in order to keep up. One thing is certain though, if steps are not taken to change, new disrupters would be more than happy to take the advantage and provide a far superior service to win the customers.
One key area of the customer journey, where we found there to be friction for the customer and dealers occurred during the application and completion of Finance.
It wasn’t that long ago, when a few days to sort a finance decision was the norm. Not anymore, with the pressure of customers wanting the cars quickly, if the dealership couldn’t provide an answer fast, the customer had access to plenty of other options.
At dealership level, we were generally unaware of all the checks that occurred when we submitted an application to the finance provider. Like the customer, we only cared about the speed of the decision and simplicity of the process.
Plenty of times we would process applications, only to be told that the finance provider needed to see extra documents from the customer, which meant either they would have to go back home or perhaps even to their bank in some cases. When they returned (in some cases they never came back!) they’d probably have to wait a few hours or even days for someone at the finance company to manually review and make a final decision.
Not quite what the modern customer expects or will generally put up with.
Dealerships and Finance Providers have begun to recognise this and are working hard to manage both the online and offline stages of the customer journey, by leveraging data and the latest technology to improve processes and the speed of decisions. This is great news for the customer experience and the dealers, but can these pressures to make quicker and quicker decisions create other potential issues?
My interest in technology led me to change my career a few years ago and although I still love all things automotive, today my expertise lays in helping organisations to use technology and data to deliver better customer outcomes throughout the onboarding process.
Next Blog – We like quick decisions – so do Fraudsters…..
I now work here at TruNarrative helping banks and lenders improve their internal process, by decreasing friction and ultimately taking on more satisfied customers. If you are a Lender or Broker and want to talk IDV KYC or Compliance, fill in the form below and one of my team will be in touch.