Why the next generation of car customers will demand an online experience

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Andy Clarke 25th April 2018 5 minute read

Why the next generation of car customers will demand an online experience

Andy Clarke is an Innovation Director for one of Capita Customer Management's automotive clients, a leading international brand. Here, he predicts how changing expectations will influence the future of customer experience in the industry.

The automotive sector now commonly serves four generations of customers: Silver Surfers, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. Each can have very different expectations around communication and how they gather information.

We are already seeing a shift in expectations on service, with social channels growing rapidly and set to expand further. Customers expect the ability to self-serve where possible and to have information instantly at their fingertips. If they need to contact an organisation they want to do so using a channel of their choice and at a time of their choice. They also expect that organisations will always have their full history to hand, regardless of the channel they’ve come through on.

Fighting to catch up

However the automotive sector is some way behind the curves of online capability and retail innovation that would allow it to do this. It’s quickly trying to catch up, and we are likely to see a lot of innovation over the coming years. However this isn’t going to be an overnight fix and it will also take substantial investment.

Playing a significant part in the rise of the digital channels is the Millennial population. These are the new adults of today who’ve known nothing other than a connected world. Complicating the picture still further is Generation Z - the new adults of the future who will start learning to drive in the run up to 2023 and beyond.

While they share similarities in channel and device use with Millennials, Gen Z expect smart phone or tablet capability for everything. They may also be more likely to favour shopping online, where they can compare prices and expect a slick website to navigate.

A new expectation of digital service

All these automotive customers of today and tomorrow already shop on Amazon, bank online or have groceries delivered to their home after ordering from a website. They expect the same from the automotive sector, yet at the moment, in the UK you cannot purchase a vehicle online, or even truly book a test drive (only request one)!!

So in the next five years and beyond the automotive sector needs to become fully digital. It needs to embrace ever-changing technology and think beyond the current generational mix if it is to satisfy the customers of the future.

I think that over the next few years the sector will begin to create the capability to purchase a vehicle online. It will be a phased approach, building to eventually selling a fully configured vehicle online, completing the finance agreement and even having the vehicle delivered to the customer’s house.

Self-serve is key to the success of channel shift and meeting customer expectations with as many processes as possible being able to be completed by a customer in their own time, online.

In a move towards this we have already launched a live video channel for Skoda with Live Chat, where customers can explore features and ask questions online. Technology like this will only grow over the coming years. I’d also expect Augmented Reality to begin to play a part, particularly in the ability for customers to self-serve. AR can present a wealth of information about vehicles in a totally different way to how we currently do.

In the next five years the biggest challenge in the sector will be transitioning this new online selling capability into BAU, and how that affects the role played by the dealership network.

Although many customers will still want to visit a traditional dealer to buy a vehicle in the traditional way, the new online selling capability will require a significant step change if it is to deliver the kind of journey that is expected. This will need a new operating model, new ways of working and a complete re-design of the customer journey and lifecycle across all touch points.

To read more about the role technology will play in customer experience and the contact centre of the future, check out our March 2018 edition of Intelligence on our Intelligence hub page.

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