Are OEMs Ready for the CX Challenges of the Agency Sales Model?

In 2023, many car manufacturers in the automotive industry will adopt the agency sales model, taking on the responsibility of customer experience (CX) throughout the entire customer journey.  

Traditionally, dealerships would handle the lion’s share of customer interactions. On the other hand, the agency model requires that OEMs now collect prospects, keep them warm, communicate with them regularly, provide all the information they request, and conduct every other task related to pre-sales and after-sales.

If OEMs don’t adequately prepare for this transformation, they risk tarnishing their existing CX and creating many complications in the customer journey.

Let’s dive deeper into this challenge and understand how OEMs can transform their business models while adapting effectively to today’s customers with a future-proof strategy.

Multichannel Versus Omnichannel

All manufacturers are becoming adept at providing an after-sales omnichannel experience. They pamper customers with mobile apps that talk to their new cars, add buttons to dashboards that will dial contact centers immediately, and offer marketing automation and customer-experience platforms that bring everything together.

Yet during pre-sales, most car manufacturers get stuck in the multichannel era, only providing a few individual channels without connecting them into an enjoyable journey. And it works to an extent, regularly leading to a sale, so many manufacturers see no reason to change things.

However, there are two problems with providing dozens of individual channels (multichannel) without connecting them (omnichannel).

For every OEM, the first challenge is that other sectors teach today’s customers to demand enjoyable, exceptional, connected experiences at every stage of the journey. Customers won’t tolerate having to restart their journey and reset their experience every time they move between online channels, offline dealerships, apps, social media, or contact centers.

The second problem only impacts those that will adopt the agency model. On top of creating connected experiences, these transformative brands will also have complete ownership over the customer and be responsible for providing the right CX from beginning to end, which is entirely new ground for many OEMs.

Mapping the Customer Journey

The elements of an automotive customer’s journey include social media, the OEM’s website, chatbots, a contact center, a pop-up store, a dealership or two, dealers’ websites, interactions with several people, and the car itself. And all these touchpoints present themselves in different sequences and over different periods, with some repeated several times.

There are also many data silos and parties to deal with, plus dozens of different DMS, CRM, and LMS platforms to integrate to get the elusive “single view of the customer”, who at the pre-sales stage is nowhere near ready to become a customer just yet.

This complicated channel-hopping makes pre-sales more challenging for all manufacturers, especially those adopting the agency model. The solution is not that difficult, though, and requires only two interlinked components: technology and people.

Technology: Keep Things Simple

Start with the customer journey and experience, not data. There is no need to start with complex “data-unification” projects that will take years and cost millions.

The simplest way to connect channels is to provide prospects with an online interface that “follows them” around. For example, a responsive website that displays appointments, shows personalized video walkarounds of vehicles, displays trade-in or finance quotes, and allows them to manage their contact details, GDPR, and marketing preferences.

Some dealers already have this for used cars, but what’s missing are configurations for new cars and sophisticated personalization based on prospects’ behaviour and preferences. Fortunately, OEMs have more than enough resources to make this happen and absolutely should if they adopt the new sales model.

The beauty of this online portal is that this doesn’t require that mythical single data source but only a Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) solution. The CIAM understands where specific user information is stored, connects it, and provides permissions to display it in the portal. Moreover, implementing this portable “My Account” would only take months, not years, and can be done gradually, not in one risky big bang.

Adopting the Agency Sales Model through Digital Dealerships Leads to Success

Once manufacturers can unify customer journey touchpoints in a single interface, the second pillar comes into play.

Contact centers need to be the new bread-and-butter operation for manufacturers, with front-line advisors who can support consumers throughout their buying journey without needing to hand the customer relationship and experience to anyone else. We call these “digital dealerships.“

Your contact center advisors should be able to answer product and financing questions, organize offline experiences and handovers, resolve queries, proactively nurture and follow up on leads, and smooth the path from awareness through purchase to ownership, after-sales, and the next sale.

With a successful blend of technology and people, consumers can enjoy frictionless and personalized experiences, rewarding manufacturers with higher sales conversion and loyalty rates. Moreover, dealerships can massively reduce their internal contact center costs, and OEMs can better control their destiny.

Above all, digital dealerships represent a crucial opportunity for OEMs to enhance their existing business model, adopt the agency model with minimal impact on CX, and ultimately benefit everyone, especially the customer.

Learn more about the digital trends revolutionizing the automotive experience.

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