The way in which your customers want to communicate with your dealership is evolving – but that’s putting strain on your aftersales team. How can you satisfy customers without increasing pressure on your service advisors?
Customers seem to be getting needier than ever. We’ve written before about how 84% of dealerships feel that customers are expecting a near-immediate response to their queries, according to 2020 research we conducted into dealerships and their customers. That research also showed us that 78% of service advisors say customers call at least once per day to get an update on their service.
We also asked customers what their ideal service experience looked like. The most common quality of the ideal service was prompt and high-quality communications, with customers using words such as “continuous,” “thorough,” “quick,” and “detailed.” In short, customers seem to want to be in constant contact with their dealership. The problem is, that's stretching the capacity of many aftersales departments. What’s the solution?
How to hold more conversations at once
The key objective when meeting this need is to find a way for your service advisors to talk to more people at once, enabling them to deal with more customers in the time available to them.
One option is simply to hire more service advisors. More people can handle more customer conversations, and so give better service. However, this is potentially the costliest solution, depending on how many more service advisors you choose to hire. It’s also arguably the least flexible solution to the problem – you can’t scale your resource (and cost) to match demand on any particular day, meaning there will be quiet times when you potentially have a large volume of employees not being productive.
Are there any options that are more suited to the challenge?
"The ideal is to find a solution that balances the convenience and relatively low cost of a technological solution with the personal experience customers get from talking on the phone."
Could emails work?
Switching customer communications to email is an option. Email has the benefit of being much cheaper than hiring additional staff – in fact, it should cost nothing as long as your dealership already uses emails. It also moves the conversations away from phones, which are a fundamentally slow way of communicating with customers at scale. Instead of a 5-minute phone conversation with a customer, the same information can be conveyed in an email that takes 1 minute to write.
The challenge with emails is whether or not customers will take to them as a method of communication. Though most smartphone users can receive and send emails from their phones, the experience isn’t as slick as other applications such as WhatsApp. Emails can also come across as impersonal to customers, who are used to speaking to a real human being. You also have the risk of emails going into a customer’s spam folder – meaning they never get your replies to their message.
Balancing technology with the personal touch
The ideal is to find a solution that balances the convenience and relatively low cost of a technological solution with the personal experience customers get from talking on the phone. In that regard, in my opinion the best option for dealerships to consider is some form of web chat application.
Chat applications such as those provided by social media platforms, or platforms like Zendesk, enable customers and service advisors to chat in real time with each other – providing the immediacy and the personal touch that you get in phone calls. However, because the two parties are typing instead of speaking, those conversations happen much faster than phone conversations.
At the same time, one service advisor can have multiple conversation going on at once, handling a greater volume of customers than they could over the phone. Those chats can also serve as an audit trail of what has been said to a customer, which can be useful if a service advisor is coming into a conversation partway through, or if a customer raises a complaint.
Most chat applications will also let you share media (unlimited by file sizes as lots of email servers are) such as photos and videos. This means that you can show customers the work your dealership has done, or you can show them new issues that have been uncovered. That extra information can be used to get the customer to sign off on extra work, helping you increase customer satisfaction and secure more revenue.
Should we throw away our phones?
In short, no. There are of course situations where customers will need to talk to someone on the phone. But a chat application would enable service advisors to deal with more common queries faster, increasing throughput and making more time to deal properly with more complex queries.
Our research also uncovered that 72% of dealership customers want to communicate with their dealership digitally – considerably more than either in fast-fit or independent garages. This means that adopting a digital communication tool doesn’t just enable you to deliver better and faster service to customers – it’s also something that your customers will likely adopt with enthusiasm, and that will position your dealership as one that’s smart, customer-focused, and modern.
If you’re already evaluating different ways of communicating digitally with customers, check out our blog discussing the pros and cons of using social media to talk to customers.
To get a broader view of what customers are looking for in their experience with a car dealership, read our research paper, 2021 Dealership Customer Engagement Report.