Why Car Manufacturers Need Digital Dealerships, Not Contact Centers

Automotive can be an enigmatic industry. World-leading in terms of product design, technology, and innovation—yet one of the last sectors to embrace digital to fully support their customers.

Almost all consumers will visit a manufacturer’s website at some stage when looking to buy a new car, but only a fraction will complete a purchase there. Most complete their journey elsewhere—either with competitors or offline in dealerships.

Yet around 60% of all new car buyers said buying online is appealing and they would do far more via digital channels if it were possible. This includes tasks that traditionally were only carried out in dealerships, such as understanding jargon and technical details, comparing models according to personal criteria, deciding which to buy, finding deals, calculating budgetary factors, comparing insurance and service packages, agreeing on the final price of the new car and trade-in, and checking their eligibility for finance.

Almost one-third (29%) of people would be happy to self-serve online, and the same percentage again said they would need the reassurances and interactions that only humans can provide.

The only way to reach the second group is to replicate online, the same high standard of specialist product and financing expertise that previously customers only received at a physical showroom.

Building “Digital Dealerships” represents a massive opportunity for automotive brands to provide what almost a third of their potential customers want in terms of a digital experience. While massively improving experiences for everyone and driving higher conversion rates and sales online and offline, “Digital Dealerships” will also gradually increase direct relationships with their customers.

But it’s a difficult journey.

For years, brands have asked outsourcing providers to deliver contact centers for essential customer services at scale across multiple regions, based mainly on securing the most competitive cost. To support the adoption of e-commerce, massively accelerated by COVID, manufacturers deployed chatbots and live chats, which were staffed by traditional customer-service agents, trained to capture contact details and find the nearest dealership. Today this results in frustrating and unproductive customer journeys and is no longer enough.

So how can manufacturers build their “Digital Dealerships”?

Build Digital Dealerships In-House

Some manufacturers created in-house teams capable of successfully supporting their e-commerce operations in a pilot market or two.

But they’ve found that replicating and scaling home-grown sales teams from a pilot country to multiple brands, markets, and languages requires so much more time and money, that this approach is no longer viable.

At some point, manufacturers will find that outsourcing operations is the only realistic and scalable option available.

Outsource Delivery to a Specialized Provider

Delivering a Digital Dealership is hard.

Half of the success is in developing the perfect mix of the right people with the right skills and training, data and insights, processes, and supporting technologies.

The second half lies in successfully integrating it into manufacturers’ businesses and operations.

This makes it more of a journey than an “out of the box” solution.

As a car manufacturer, your journey should start with finding a partner that brings the right mindset, people, insights, processes, and technology mix to the party – who won’t try to learn it all on your payroll.

To ensure that, we recommend you ask prospective suppliers the following questions:

  • What framework do you have to identify our maturity and current gaps, plan the journey, and manage its progress?
  • What soft and hard skills are the agents selected on, and what automotive-specific sales and product training should they undergo?
  • Would you have your agents undergo the same ongoing e-learning training and regular exams as my dealers?
  • Are your agents FCA (or equivalent) certified and trained to advise and sell finance and insurance products?
  • How incentivized are they to sell, remain, and grow?
  • What processes, data, and insights do they use to improve customer experience and sales performance?
  • Do your agents use scripts? How prescriptive they are, and how often are these evaluated and optimized?
  • What languages, operating hours and peaks can the teams cover and absorb? Do they work from the office, remotely, or both?
  • What internal technologies do they use to access and maintain knowledge, learn, test, evaluate, and improve?

These answers will enable you to create a genuine digital dealership and not a generalist customer support center.

Discover how we help top automotive manufacturers establish digital dealerships.

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