How can automotive better communicate with customers?

The automotive sector today is grappling with an age-old industry problem; there’s a huge disconnect between the industry and its customers, says Clive Davis, head of manufacturing at Bluefin Solutions.

Clive Davis, head of manufacturing, Bluefin Solutions.
Clive Davis, head of manufacturing, Bluefin Solutions.

I believe this divide is a direct result of the multiple systems and subsequent silo processes that exist within Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and car dealers.

The disconnect that exists within the automotive industry means that OEMs and dealers quite simply do not know their customers. Subsequently, they are missing out on a wealth of potential sales and growth opportunities.

Knowing the customer

The more that is known about a customer’s profile and behaviour, the better they can be targeted with personal services and products that are more likely to end in a sale.

It’s a key lesson for any industry, but especially for the automotive sector, where profit margins on new cars are now paper-thin as customers are hanging onto their vehicles for longer.

According to a recent study, the average length of car ownership is 7.75 years – 12 years if a consumer owns their vehicle – and they change the make of their next car a staggering 76.2% of the time. This means the industry can’t even rely on brand loyalty when customers finally decide to invest in another vehicle.

The automotive disconnect

Engineering Automotive Line Stock Image
OEMs and automotive dealers too often employ disparate systems and databases.

The problem that the automotive industry faces is that due to the raft of disparate systems and databases typically held by OEMs and automotive dealers, there is no complete system that can effectively support and influence the customer experience.

This means there is no way to recognise loyalty; interaction with the brand; how the customer wants to engage, or personalised offers that can be sent at key moments in the customer’s buying cycle or service experience.

Disjointed data within the sales and services team means that sales executives or customer service advisors will not be given the resource to provide a special customer experience.

Instead they will simply try to sell a car they have in stock to a customer regardless of whether it’s what the customer really wants or needs, or leave the customer waiting in service reception for paperwork to be printed and the car recovered from the work bay, as can often happen.

The end result is lost sales opportunities and potentially lost customers of the future as a more positive experience at a different dealer may cement their brand loyalty elsewhere.

It isn’t just customer experience and sales that suffer from the existing disconnect. With data held up in silos, OEMs and dealers will struggle to have a complete view of accurate and real-time data and so will be unable to apply analytics to support end to end planning, budgeting and forecasting.

The Bentley Motors production line.
OEMs can struggle to have a complete view of accurate and real-time data.

As a result it becomes difficult to make sound and informed business decisions. It is clear that an enterprise wide approach is needed.

A 360 degree view

The only way for the automotive industry to become connected to its customers and the subsequent revenue-generating opportunities is by having a complete view of its business data. This can be achieved through enterprise wide technology to remove the silos that are causing the disconnect.

A solution that is integrated throughout the business can bring the key elements of data together to show who may be in the market for a new or pre-owned car; whose car is coming up for a service; who has been on a website; who is brand loyal and should be invited to an event, and prospects who didn’t buy last time around but may do soon.

Taking this enterprise-wide approach can, for example, enable a car dealer to arrive at work on a Monday morning and be able to see whose lease is maturing or who has filled in a car configuration sheet, what the closing ratio buy sales exec is or what customers are booked into service that own a rival brand’s car.

Cars rolling along the production line
A solution that is integrated throughout the business can bring the key elements of data together.

Not only this, the OEM can send leads that merge with CRM records and show what event the client attended or whether they asked for an online brochure on the SUV as opposed to the saloon car they drive at present.

The automotive industry has been disconnected for too long.

It already has all the data it needs to not only ensure the highest level of customer service but also to optimise the growth opportunities at hand, but this information is buried in multiple systems and owned by multiple stakeholders.

It’s time for the sector to finally become connected and start reaping the rewards of the data that is at its fingertips.