The communication tools your DMS offers aren’t always easy to use and don’t always give your customers a premium experience. But how do you sort the wheat from the chaff when choosing an aftersales communications platform?
As an aftersales manager at a dealership, what are three things you couldn’t live without? Coffee? Your smartphone? More coffee? Your laptop? Regardless of your dealership (and your coffee preference), there’s a good chance that your DMS is high on the list.
It’s a vital system that keeps your dealership’s wheels turning smoothly – but it does have its limitations. Anyone who has tried to message a customer using their DMS can probably relate here. Most DMS have some level of communication tools built in (or that you can pay for as an extra), but those tools aren't always very useful – which is probably why so many service advisors still stick with the phone as their main way of contacting customers.
So if you’re thinking that it’s time to find a communications platform that isn’t a nightmare to use, and that gives your customers a great experience, this blog is for you. In this post I’m detailing the kinds of features that you should be looking out for when you're shopping for an aftersales communications platform. Let’s get into it.
Must-have: tight synchronisation with your DMS
The benefit of a comms tool built into your DMS is that all the data contained in the DMS is available when talking to customers: their name, their car type, their last service, and more. Any tool you look at needs to do the same. Otherwise, your service advisors will spend all their time hopping back and forth between systems – and unless you’re going to buy them all a second screen, that’s going to become very dull very quickly.
Must-have: digital-first tools
Our research we conducted last year showed us that 72% of customers want to communicate online with their dealership. We’re talking online chat and instant messaging, that sort of thing (email is digital, but it’s not exactly at the cutting edge of the digital experience). Any tool you look at needs to give your customers digital channels to communicate with you. Not only is it what customers want – it also helps your service advisors give more customers better service.
Solving the constant communication problem
Must-have: audit trails
An audit trail is a record of who said what, when. This is important for a few reasons – not just having an objective record of conversations for investigating and settling customer complaints. It also enables any service advisor to pick up a conversation with any customer and know what’s already been said – so the customer doesn't have to explain everything again, which makes them much happier. Audit trails are something that’s currently pretty hard to do with phone-based comms, and another reason to embrace digital, chat-based communications channels.
"Any tool you look at needs to give your customers digital channels to communicate with you."
Service advisors spend a lot of time talking to customers who just want to know where their car is. If you could automatically tell them the status of their car (waiting to be serviced, being serviced, ready to pick up, absolutely undrivable how-did-you-manage-to-make-it-here-in-one-piece-call-us-immediatey, and so on) then your customers would feel calmer and happier. So would your service advisors, as they’ll have fewer inbound calls to deal with (one dealer we work with cut inbound calls by 30%).
Rethinking the relationship between digital and personal
Good-to-have: personalised offers
This isn’t about bombarding customers with ads. This is about showing customers that you understand their needs, and have products and services that can meet those needs. Oil top-ups is a great example. If your comms platform offers customers an oil top-up when they drop their car off for a service, they’re more likely to go for it than if you email them a randomly chosen time of day and week. As an added bonus, if the system is smart enough NOT to offer oil top-ups to customers who drive electric cars, that’s a great sign that you've found a great platform.
Create a premium experience
Our research highlighted that two thirds of customers look for “a premium experience” when choosing where to take their car for a service, rating it 8/10 for importance. So if you want to win new customers, and hold on to the ones you have, you need to be making sure that your customers feel they’re getting the gold star treatment. This is not about providing them with a cup of coffee when they get to your dealership, or having glossy brochures for them to read while they sit on the slightly-too-stylish-to-be-comfy furniture.
For customers today, a premium experience is one that moulds itself around their lifestyle. A big part of that is communications – not only communicating using the right channels, but saying the right things at the right time so that the customer feels in control and empowered. Because DMS comms tools are usually bolted on to the core platform, they don’t usually provide best-in-class comms, focusing more on DMS integration and ease of implementation.
So perhaps it’s time to update that top 3 list I mentioned at the start, to make room for a digital communications platform for your aftersales department. That just leaves one question: whether it’s the laptop or the coffee that gets booted out of the top 3…
All this talk of ‘premium’ experience got you rolling your eyes? Turns out it’s not actually rubbish. Download our white paper The psychology behind buying premium to learn why customers are willing to pay more for particular brands – and why that doesn’t actually have much to do with the product itself…