This is Part 4 of a 10-part series of Digital Customer Experience in the automotive industry. Use the links below to navigate between parts:

< Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 >

Getting your favourite dish delivered home with a few taps on your smartphone, ordering a cab using an app, checking the delivery status of the groceries you ordered online on the way home and booking an appointment at the hairdresser for the next day. Just a few examples of digital mobile tools that help us organise our daily lives and which today’s ‘digital natives’ have become accustomed to and are taking for granted.

However, when it comes to situations from day-to-day life in the automotive industry, the typical digital native is often disappointed by their OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer). Can you imagine booking a service appointment including a replacement vehicle using an app, reserving a timeslot at your preferred dealer to get your windscreen repaired, or receiving an individual offer for a test drive with the latest model, including a financing offer just in time when you feel the need for it?

These are only a few examples of features and digital services which most OEMs today are still struggling to provide for their customers. 

For some time now, the majority of automobile manufacturers has recognised the increasing expectations of today’s customers towards digital services and has started to revive their digital customer interaction platforms, including ownership web portals and the launch of new smartphone apps.

With 47% of all customers already using connected car services, these features are continuing to receive a high degree of attention. But what does it take to build a meaningful, value-adding and thus successful customer portal and corresponding apps? Which role will these services play in the digital end-to-end customer dialogue? 

Tearing down the silos: merge isolated services into integrated customer interaction platforms

Portals and a variety of apps exist for various services (including financial services), connected car features, communities and much more; from a business perspective, the existence of an organically grown digital portfolio appears to be reasonable. However, from a customer perspective, this variety of non-integrated services can lead to a lack of transparency in the service portfolio and thus to a bad customer experience.

The solution is to integrate the entire digital service offering into one digital customer interaction platform. The advantages are obvious: by signing up once, using one single personal customer-ID, users gain immediate access to the full range of digital services offered by the manufacturer.

In addition, integrating digital services opens up huge benefits and new opportunities from a manufacturer’s perspective as well: user registrations, frequency and ‘intensity’ of usage will most likely increase due to the added value of integrated services. Also, establishing a central database for all user data provides the one-time opportunity to create a highly personalised digital customer experience and the often proclaimed 360° customer view with the aid of smart analytics. 

A truly individual customer dialogue: creating relevance by personalising the user experience

Customers will only use digital service offers that they believe are relevant and meaningful to them. A broad variety of services alone will not create the desired relevancy and thus not lead to increased usage rates. In order to keep the service portfolio transparent and easy to navigate (and purchase decisions in the best case), the customer experience has to be tailored to a high degree by utilising the many traces of data that the customer leaves behind during most digital and traditional touchpoints.

Why for example would a business continue advertising test drives to a customer who has just bought a new vehicle and is waiting for its delivery? Why would you provide the customer with offers for spare parts for a vehicle they have not yet driven a single mile in?

Instead, in this valuable stage of the customer lifecycle, you may want to help your customer to get accustomed to the new vehicle by providing interactive multimedia features. When placing commercial offers, you may want to focus on accessories fitting the new vehicle and being offered by his or her local dealer. 

Meaningful features: creating relevance through practical, mobility-related functionalities

When designing customer portals, manufacturers often neglect the last step of the customer journey, which leaves behind confused customers who have to deal with inconsistent processes. For example, a lot of attention is paid to building innovative vehicle configurators with integrated financing or insurance calculators. However, in the worst case, customers are still expected to bring a print-out of their configuration to their dealer for the first sales talk, which means the whole processes starts all over again.

Customers expect digital services to make their automotive life easier, not more complicated. They take it for granted that their dealer has all the necessary information at hand, which they have already provided online. Customers value the possibility to use online service appointment booking tools, which are worth their time and effort. They wish to be able to receive, pay and administer workshop invoices online as well as using text, audio and video chat features on any device they have at hand.

Focusing on providing meaningful, value-adding features and services will make customer portals relevant to your customers and ultimately help to drive sales and qualified leads to dealerships. 

The next step: integrating innovative mobility and connected car services

Connected-car services are already being offered by most OEMs. However, they mostly represent so-called “lighthouse projects” and are delivered on isolated platforms. They often lack an underlying business model, making them a step short of being truly relevant to customers, manufacturers and dealers.

The next logical step is an integration of these connected-car services into the digital interaction platform described above. Connected-car services are potential drivers of usage rates, as they are of high relevance in day-to-day life with the vehicle. In addition to a higher usage frequency and growing amounts of data and customer insights, deriving usage (and driving) behaviour(s) from connected car data can be used to offer yet more personalised content, commercial offers, functionalities and a more active customer dialogue.

Besides connected car features, intermodal mobility services are being developed and run by most OEMs. Such mobility services are also suitable for being integrated into digital interaction platforms in order to extend and enlarge the target group to non-car owners. However, before doing so, the platform should reach an appropriate degree of maturity, including a high level of service integration, convenient access to digital services as well as highly personalised and meaningful features.