In the competitive fleet market, the internet is playing an increasingly important role in the purchase process as the most convenient research tool for decision-makers.
But, while decisions are driven largely by price and vehicle fitness for purpose, the customer service that dealers and car brands provide during this pre-purchase process can play a key role in keeping buyers coming back.
Clear information, transparent pricing, and fast responses when questions are asked are basic requirements for fleet managers as they are for any customer shopping in any sector, but how well is the motor trade delivering?
A recent survey by Yonder Digital Group into how efficient UK consumers found a range of sectors were at responding to customer enquiries showed car brands to be rather disappointing. Scored on how easy they were, firstly to contact and secondly at responding, almost half of the 2,000 people asked, rated the ease of contact of car brands as merely ‘basic’, while 19% said it was poor. In fact only 11% rated the sector as excellent.
Other sectors that play a key role in the fleet purchase process such as insurance companies and delivery firms also scored fairly low, with just over half rating the former as basic or poor and 63% giving delivery firms the same rating. Unfortunately for today’s consumer however, this was not unusual: overall, Yonder found that no more than a quarter of people rated any one of the sectors surveyed as excellent, with the majority voted basic or poor by more than half.
Yet a huge 88% of car shoppers now turn to the internet when researching potential purchases. Almost half – 46% – use multiple devices to get to dealer websites, while 14% solely use a mobile device. It follows then that as more people use the internet for this purpose, any queries they have are increasingly coming through multiple touchpoints, and, because the online world is so immediate, expectations of response times to these queries are also rising.
In fact, according to the Institute of Customer Service, overall 46% of UK consumers expect a response within 24 hours if they contact an organisation via email, with almost as many (42%) saying the same for website contact. The preferred communication channel however seems to be instant online chat, which is now considered to be the best way to deal with an organisation by 73% of consumers.
With fleet purchases driving automobile sales last year, and most fleets also managed on a hire or lease basis, for a dealership or car brand to stand out, customer experience is increasingly becoming a key differentiator. Car brands and dealerships cannot then afford to downplay the role of ‘contactability’ in keeping these customers, in particular, loyal.
The first step for a business in any sector is of course ensuring that contact details are easy to find with a range of options. While FAQ sections, automated chat and email support are perfect for answering the simpler, most common and least time-sensitive queries, with a purchase as big and as potentially complex as a car, or questions about parts or repairs, there is no substitute for a live agent support at the end of the phone or via live chat. Companies then need to ensure they are offering the appropriate multichannel support with live agent interaction when it is most needed or risk potentially losing out to their more switched on competitors.
Certainly, when decisions can be made or changed in the blink of an eye during this critical research period, how well a dealer or car brand engages with a potential buyer can have a huge bearing on their final choice. If businesses in the motor trade are to keep customers coming back, providing ease of contact and fast query resolution must be a priority, rather than simply a nice to have.