Automobile industry is on the threshold of a major revolution. The internal combustion engine is slowly dying thanks to self-driving cars and electric power packs. While this was expected, we are now seeing new threats and opportunities for existing players. Above all, ‘Customer is now King’.

In this era of mobile phones and social media, information is more accessible to the customer. Today, if I want to buy a new car, I start my purchase process with online research. Utility, price and social status will probably be my primary drivers. But secondary drivers would be finance schemes, after sales service and service contracts. My research will immediately lead me to automotive blogs and there I would find feedback from other buyers. These blogs and forums are creating new challenges for car manufacturers, dealers and garages. If they don’t improve their customer experience, they are unlikely to survive.

Post-sales customer satisfaction

Tailoring their teams to target customers based on reliable sales and after sales support data can help. Hyundai ranked first in after sales customer satisfaction with 923 points in ‘JD Power 2017 India Customer Service Index’ mass market study. Maruti and Tata motors tied for second at 893 points.

According to Hyundai MD & CEO YK Koo, “This was achieved through strong efforts and focus on customer satisfaction through service quality. Dealerships that are successful in delivering on both service and improved communication can expect to achieve stronger recommendations and higher customer retention level’’.

In the telecom sector, top players had noticed a drop in customer satisfaction scores. They quickly invested in artificial intelligence (AI) to stay ahead of the competition. Customer analytics tools help them in reducing churn, creating internal benchmarks and resolving issues with a short turnaround time.

 

Customer experience is a journey not a destination

Customer demands are constantly changing and evolving. If your business cannot adapt quickly to the ever-changing landscape, you risk becoming irrelevant. It is important to understand your customer’s journey across different touch points within your business. India is a price sensitive market where automotive shoppers do a lot of research online. For many Indians a car is still an expensive luxury item. But it is also an important social symbol. This increases the chances of buyers leaving reviews about their customer experience.

If the product does not offer value for money or if the after sales service is not personalized, these reviews can deter others in their peer group. Given how competitive the market is, automotive companies need to invest in customer experience tools to deal with this.

Let me reflect on my own personal experience as a car owner for the past few years. The social currency bug had bitten me too. After spending a lot of money on a premium brand, I found the after sales service very inadequate. I got calls from several service centers who had no knowledge of my car’s previous issues or my feedback. They spammed me just to meet their targets! This doesn’t promote brand loyalty and even made me dislike the brand and the dealer.

 

Customer service centre

On the other hand, providing free personalized pick up and drop facility for servicing improved brand loyalty. It is also a golden opportunity to collect feedback. Many dealers still use paper-based feedback forms with long static questions. Anonymous channels like SMS or email with dynamic questions specific to customer issues would work much better.

Forbes Insights says that global auto companies are now embracing data and predictive analytics to improve customer experience. AI tools that collect customer data and give businesses actionable information are still in their infancy. However, they have already made a huge impact and are predicted to become an essential business tool in a few years.

For the early adopters reading this, let us now look at how Geckolyst’s AI system helps auto companies become more customer centric:

  1. It gathers real-time feedback across customer touch points and provide an omni-channel view of customer data.
  2. It integrates with the existing telephone based systems. Feedback is captured in the Gecko tool itself which ensures a 100% standard response.
  3. The core system works on machine learning and an NLP process. This lets the system perform text analytics. It can understand and automatically categorize customer feedback under relevant topics. The machine learning process works on self-learning and manual learning principles. This improves accuracy with usage over time.
  4. A proper alert management hierarchy can be created with alerts for specific issues. These alerts can be sent to a recovery team or to designated departments to close the loop and provide adequate solution to the customer.
  5. It presents enterprise information to key decision makers in a format that’s accessible and highly integrated

Listening to your customers seems like common sense advice but it’s surprising how few companies do it well. Listening in store and through limited sample surveys has very little impact. An effective customer experience tool like Geckolyst can help you listen to a wide range of traditional and emerging platforms and make sense of the mountain of public data on your brand. This will help you understand your customers and interact with them in innovative formats. This ensures that your automotive business thrives in a complex shifting marketplace.

Author: Ashwin Ramachandran, co-founder at MobME Wireless Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

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