Automakers Must Enhance Alliance With Dealers To Boost the CX: Accenture

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Automakers must strengthen their relationships with their dealers to improve customer experiences, boost sales and increase consumer loyalty, according to a new report from Accenture.

The report, A Customer Experience Reboot: Pivoting Toward the Automotive Industry’s Future Success, is based on a survey of 7,500 car owners and more than 200 car dealers across six countries in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific, as well as on interviews with industry executives and insiders.

According to the report, automakers often provide a fragmented brand experience, with consumers experiencing low engagement and satisfaction, particularly in the post-purchase stage. The challenge for automakers is to provide the same level of ease and personalized experiences consumers are used to from other industries. This is particularly important given that nearly half (47%) of customers said they would consider switching auto brands after one fails to deliver a relevant customer experience.

Further, the research found that drivers now consider several other factors aside from the vehicles themselves as critical to a positive customer experience, including: dealer/workshop/repair shop network and accessibility; staff expertise; data privacy and protection; and sustainability and responsibility. The disconnect between consumers’ concerns with practical, everyday considerations such as repairs and maintenance puts the industry’s sales model at risk.

The key enabler of delivering a better customer experience, according to the report, is better customer insights. However, the dealers, not the automakers, have the greatest interactions with — and therefore the best insights of — the customer. To address this issue automakers must enhance their collaboration with dealers, making them more of a partner.

“The customer experience was designed by auto manufacturers but because they don’t have full access to the end customer the way the dealers do, there is still room for significant improvement,” said Axel Schmidt, senior managing director and global automotive industry lead at Accenture. “To do this, automakers should not only listen to and follow the data, but also change the entire dynamic with their dealers by putting them on more of an equal footing.”

The report recommends four actions that automakers should take to rebuild and solidify their relationships with dealers:

  • Regain dealers’ trust. Because dealers are likely to remain the backbone for automotive sales and aftersales for the foreseeable future, automakers should take a more structured approach to transform their relationship with dealers by communicating and working with them more collaboratively and transparently to gain their understanding and support.
  • Define the future role of the dealer. Automakers should work with dealers to find the preferred sales model depending on the dealer’s strengths — such as geography or a high sales track record — and then build a new model, which could be direct sales, an agency model, or a hybrid.
  • Build a 1+1 > 2 win-win relationship. OEMs and dealers should assume a certain amount of risk and develop standalone solutions. Once the relationship is cemented, they should focus on budget, reach, data and system integration, working together to build a data pool, among other objectives.
  • Create flexibility in implementation. Automakers should avoid imposing processes and standards on dealers or replacing outdated or unproductive processes with new equally unproductive processes. Instead, OEMs should consider moving from a linear customer journey and process toward a modular toolbox of applications that dealers can dive into—and pick and choose as needed.

According to the report, automakers should develop an intelligent data-driven approach to engage customers across all touchpoints, both physical and digital. This will require tools for structured analysis and interpretation, requiring comprehensive, robust data management systems and utilization strategies.

At the same time, automakers must recognize that quality data is only a starting point to derive real customer insights. Also critical is a strong, overarching, company-wide data management system and utilization strategy that includes powerful artificial intelligence and analytics technologies to support data engineering.

“Automakers should limit data collection to the areas that facilitate the relationship and truly benefit the customer experience,” Schmidt said. “When brands aren’t too possessive with customer data, the exchange becomes natural. In fact, more than 80% of customers are open to sharing their information related to car ownership, maintenance, and driving behavior — but less open to sharing other personal information.”