This is Part 1 of a 10-part series of Digital Customer Experience in the automotive industry. Use the links below to navigate between parts:

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Realignment of retail roles in response to changing customer expectations

In the light of the progressing digitalization, new forms of customer interactions and great potentials for innovative business models (especially in the sales and aftersales business) are arising in the automotive industry.

On the one hand, automotive manufacturers (OEMs) acquire massive sets of data by the use of connected cars and customer portals. As a result, direct marketing models in sales and aftersales are gaining crucial relevance. On the other hand, various pieces of data are passed to the dealer via digital channels, which offer unprecedented opportunities for analyzing, profiling and directly approaching potential customers.

Strong personalization of every piece of communication about your product and service to the needs of the individual customer (see Capgemini’s Cars Online Study 2015) is required to maintain a regular interaction with well-informed customers to meet their demands at all times. On the basis of individual customer datasets, generated with the help of big data models, customers can be consistently supported throughout their life cycle. Additionally, their customer value can be optimized holistically.

However, it remains a challenge to establish an integrated customer view across all contact points and to interlink processes and IT on OEM and dealer level. For this purpose, as well as to ensure an integrated customer journey, overarching roles are required at both levels.

One current trend in the automotive industry represents the establishment of new, specialized roles and functions with a clear focus on customer consultation across all customer contact points, creating a better overall customer experience in the car dealership. Approaches towards such roles have been on the agenda of lifestyle brands such as Apple for many years and are now entering the automotive industry. This is especially true in the area of sales, where product expert roles like BMW’s “Product Genius“ or Lexus’ “Lexpert“ follow the “Apple Genius” role to create a sophisticated, unique customer experience.

In addition, the aftersales area gathers momentum, as some OEMs foster the establishment of new roles on retail level to enhance the customer’s service experience. Thus, service specialists such as the “Volvo Personal Service” are evolving, continuously supporting their personal customer base throughout the entire aftersales life cycle.

Emergence of data silos on retail level due to isolated IT-solutions

Rising customer expectations for a seamless, personalized interaction throughout their life cycle call for a convergence of online and offline processes. Thus, customers need to be empowered to stay in contact with manufacturers and dealers at any time via a great variety of channels. Even though new expert roles are intended to holistically support the customer experience on dealer site, they mostly serve the purpose to improve a specific contact point.

In addition to this, the increasing presence of dealers on digital channels makes it necessary to actually communicate with the customers on a regular basis and to consistently process the generated customer data. However, this is hindered by the traditional separation of sales and aftersales on a retail level. As a consequence, OEMs and dealers are currently facing the challenge to break up these silo structures through joint customer- and vehicle data management.

A seamless customer experience comprises a comprehensive customer consultation at the dealership as well as an integrated experience across all digital contact points, which makes it necessary to interlink systems, processes and data cross-functionally.

Holistic customer management requires an integrated role at dealer level

The more complex and analytical the data management processes at the dealer level become, the greater is the need for OEMs to support the dealers with harmonizing IT-architectures and standardizing data sets. Ideally, OEMs and dealers use networked and integrated IT-platforms to exchange data on a regular basis. This also facilitates the consistent cleansing and preparation of data.

A prerequisite for the implementation is the consent of the dealer to share data with the OEM. To sustainably and cross-functionally manage data and other core processes, an integrated role such as a CRM-manager on dealer level is of great benefit in the long-run.

In this context, a CRM-manager can act as a link between various processes and functional areas. By focusing on analytical back-office tasks, the role enables front-office employees to concentrate exclusively on their customer care core tasks. The CRM-manager’s primary task is to focus on the structured alignment of CRM-processes, as well as to ensure a targeted customer contact and an integrated customer data management.

This is especially true in regard to campaign and data management, where an integrated CRM-role can assume important customer contact points from the back-office. To ensure its independence and cross-functionality, the role should also be organizationally anchored as an overarching function, detached from sales or aftersales.

For a targeted customer approach and an optimized lead management, the CRM-manager regularly analyzes and reviews campaign results as well as the quality of the customer data base. By bundling operational responsibilities and contact channels, optimization potentials can be identified regarding segments, satisfaction results and conversion rates. Additionally, the role can strengthen the customer- centricity of the dealer.

Thus, integrated customer management requires more than the sole redesign of specialized roles in areas such as sales and aftersales. It requires cross-departmental roles, interlinked processes and harmonized system structures.

This post is the 2nd part of the blog series “Digital Customer Experience in the automobile industry“. Please consider also the first article of the series with the title “Who creates the most lighthouses?”