5 Best Practices to Improve Customer Experience in Automotive

March 27, 2024

John and Jane Smith, a married couple in their early 30s, want to purchase a car. 

They come across your offerings online and want to learn more about your products. Unfortunately, your website's information is unclear and insufficient to convince them. 

While researching other options, they share contact details for a test drive at your dealership. Your dealership contacts them ten days later, inviting them for a test drive. 

When the Smiths arrive, however, they're asked to fill out another form providing basic information on their needs. 

Disappointed about being asked for the same details again after waiting so long, John and Jane decide not to go ahead with the purchase. 

The Smiths aren't the only ones unhappy when buying an automotive. In 2023, as much as 48% of car buyers were not delighted with their purchase experience.

What is it that automotive businesses aren't getting right about customer experience? And what can you do to make it better?

Let’s find out. 

Customer preferences are evolving, so should the buying experience

Before digitisation became commonplace, John and Jane would have relied heavily on your dealership for their purchase. They'd interact with sales representatives, getting to know the product and the dealership inside out. 

Their in-person buying experience would be critical to making or breaking a sale.

Today, Mr and Mrs Smith have evolved and are looking for value beyond the product, existing throughout their journey—from awareness to post-purchase. 

Past vs Present Car buyer's journey

They're also more comfortable using digital platforms during the journey, joined by a solid 88% of potential car buyers in researching their preferred products online. 

However, the automotive buying process hasn't kept up with changing times. A meagre 9% of car buyers think it has evolved in recent years. 

That's because most OEMs and dealerships concentrate heavily on the offline, in-person experience. 

But making customers happy only at the time of purchase isn't cutting it anymore. 

Offering a buyer journey that matches customer preferences online and offline keeps attracting them to your business.

And if you succeed, there are massive benefits to reap. 

How positive customer experience solidifies your automotive business 

There are multiple upsides to keeping up with evolving automotive to improve automotive customer experience:

  1. Firstly, you create a frictionless journey for customers throughout their purchase journey. This speeds up conversions and improves ROI.
  2. Good customer experience converts a sales funnel into a sales loop. Your business is rewarded with referrals and continued purchases.  
  3. You get to build social proof when customers amplify their experience through online platforms. 
  4. Loyal buyers can come together as a community, sharing transparent customer feedback for further product development. 
  5. You can also use their valuable insights for future marketing, remarketing, and regional campaigns. 
  6. Over time, exceptional customer service improves your brand reputation, strengthens your competitive advantage, and drives shareholder value.  

The benefits have you convinced. Now, where should you begin?

Strategies to improve the automotive customer experience

Improving the customer experience needs a more data-driven, insightful approach. 

You need to meet buyers where they are in their buying journey. Bonus points if you can solve their pain points effortlessly, converting leads to loyal customers.

We’ve outlined five tried, tested, and successful strategies to help you make the leap to a better automotive customer experience.

1. Facilitate a frictionless customer journey 

The modern automotive buyer journey continues beyond awareness, consideration and purchase to include post-purchase.

The Car Buying customer journey

Moreover, the first channel a car buyer visits to discover more about an automobile is not the dealership. Instead, they search online, spending over 13 hours researching and purchasing vehicles. 

Your visibility and presence extend into online channels, even after the sale.

This makes the customer journey more complex and nonlinear, with multiple online and offline touchpoints.

How to make customer journeys work for you: 

  • Firstly, simplify the purchase journey by understanding the customer’s needs, preferences and behaviour. 
  • Be present throughout the sales cycle and mark key touchpoints both online and offline. Some of the most widely used touchpoints are search, social media, brand websites, dealership websites, review websites, videos, emails, newsletters and online automotive communities.  
  • Identify the moments of truth (make-or-break moments critical for purchase) and sources of friction at each of these touchpoints. 
  • Match the buyer’s intent with value-based content to capitalise on moments of truth and reduce friction sources. It reduces the time spent on purchases.  
  • For example, you don’t have customer testimonials to build social proof. A potential buyer loves your product but hasn't seen enough of it in the real world. Show them more by co-creating social media and blog content with reviewers and affiliates. It builds powerful social proof, instilling trust in buyers. Plus, it solidifies your SEO rankings with backlinks. 
  • Similarly, if you have information crucial for purchase (like the product description, key features and pricing), keep it easily visible or accessible on your website
  • You may simplify the process further by providing interactive tools or comparison aids for buyers. They can look at different models and decide which one to buy. 
  • Instead of buyers searching for your contact details, take your contact to them. Use native lead generation or web forms to capture potential customers on multiple channels. 
  • When it comes to the moment of purchase, use the insights gathered along the journey to make it seamless. Avoid pushing products that don’t align with the buyer’s interests. Share financing info transparently. And once the sale is done, keep the customer updated about the delivery. 
  • Convert one-time purchases into an infinity sales loop. Enrol them into customer loyalty and referral programs so they can increasingly benefit from a continued association with you. 

2. Connect the entire customer journey across channels 

By now, you’re aware that buyers use multiple touchpoints. But what compels them to do so?

Finding out everything about their preferred car from multiple sources increases purchase confidence. It’s easier to compare and get in-depth information about each option. 

Source: Audi UK - Instagram

Source: Audi UK - Website

Source: Audi UK - YouTube

The more channels they see your business on, the more they know about you and trust you. 

As a result, buyers move through several online channels during research and consideration. And when it comes to purchasing, as much as 79% of current buyers prefer to shop in person. 

However, only 37% of automotive buyers can transition from an online to an offline dealership without having to review previously shared details. Subsequently, automotive customer experience has deteriorated by 46% in-store owing to poor omnichannel integration. 

How to make omnichannel work for you: 

  • Meet buyers where they’re present. If you don’t have an online presence, now’s the time to build, polish and connect it. You can try out search, Meta (Facebook and Instagram), YouTube, automotive affiliate publishers and branded assets (such as a website). 
  • Consider this example. A potential buyer, actively looking to purchase a product from your business, sees your video on YouTube and finds it interesting or funny. They can also view more of your short videos on Instagram or TikTok. With the links in your bio, they find your website. After looking at the product information, they search for a dealership on your website and fill out the lead form to share their information. Alternatively, they may use the chatbot to find a dealership near them or call the dealership directly with the contact details on your website. 
  • It’s not just about the channels, though. You can take it further by optimising the customer experience across devices. For instance, your mobile site must load faster and be easy to navigate on a small screen. 
  • 69% of dealers want to upgrade their digital workflows by implementing technology. Join them by refining the end-to-end customer experience by syncing buyer data to the deal. 
  • To implement this, use a lead management platform like Driftrock. It syncs with over 20 lead sources and integrates all lead data with the CRM (and other marketing tools). 
  • It also helps you maintain a single or unified view of all customers. For instance, if a buyer submitted information online that they’re looking for a family car for 5, your sales team will have this data when they visit the dealership.You can then guide them to the right product, immediately improving the customer experience. 
  • Leverage contextual targeting options to remarket to the right audience. You can avoid duplication in other marketing campaigns by creating lookalike audiences and excluding previously collected leads. 
  • Don’t forget about the post-purchase stage. Bring it all together by maintaining communication. You can use live chat, emails, SMS, calls or an application to stay connected to the customer. 

3. Add a personal touch to the buying experience 

A vehicle is a high-ticket item, meaning shoppers make a series of critical decisions to purchase one.

The automotive industry is highly competitive, giving customers multiple options. Beyond a point, features, pricing and engine configurations can only take you so far.

It’s personalisation that influences the buyer to go all in on your product. 

71% of consumers expect businesses to offer them personalised customer interactions. And companies that excel at it know that tailored experiences pay off big time—generating 40% more revenue than average players. 

How to make personalisation work for you: 

  • Let’s start with the basics. It’s essential to understand that personalisation isn’t just about using a buyer’s first name in an email or SMS. It’s about building on lead data and analytics to create one-of-a-kind experiences. 
  • Today, as much as 74% of shoppers are comfortable sharing personal data with the dealer to get tailored messages. Use this first-party lead data to develop solid marketing and remarketing strategies.
  • Consolidate and connect this data to your marketing strategies through a lead management platform. 
  • Start personalising your ads by using trigger campaigns and audience segmentation. These digital campaigns target specific audience demographics, interests and behaviours so you reach the right audience at the right time. 
  • Build on your first-party data with lookalike audiences on Meta, LinkedIn and Google, among other platforms. It widens your reach to audiences that have similar interests, giving them value-based, relevant content.
  • Ensure that a buyer's online preferences are noted for future interactions. If a customer logs into your website from the Asia Pacific region, your content must be updated per their location. If you don’t offer a particular product in this region, you can’t have it showing up on the regional website. 
  • Leverage predictive analytics on Chat AI. Data driven insights let you anticipate and navigate buyer needs, redirecting them to fitting recommendations. 
  • You could also use AI to recommend custom features based on the buyer’s browsing history with you. 
  • Don’t leave out the age-old method of email marketing. Send customised offers via email based on the products a lead is interested in. 
  • At the post-purchase stage, remind buyers of their scheduled maintenance checks through a custom email, mobile app notification or automated call. It lets customers know that you care for them and understand their needs. 
  • You can also track life events through customer experience data. So, if one of your customers is looking for a second car, you’ll receive an alert and can proactively reach out to them. 

4. Ease the buying process with automation 

Connecting and facilitating a frictionless buyer journey across multiple channels while personalising customer interactions is a huge challenge. One that’s humanly impossible. 

If not done well, a bumpy buying journey leaves customers dissatisfied. 

This is where an experience-first approach matters. You can prioritise the customer experience by complementing it with automation. 

Automation makes the purchase process more fluid by digitising touchpoints, letting you exceed customer expectations. 

Take Lexus’s customer experience-centric approach as a solid example of automation done right. The automotive brand employed a completely paperless car-buying and financing process, facilitating a purchase from start to end in just a few hours. 

The customer was so happy with the experience that she even wrote an insightful article about it, benefiting Lexus with word-of-mouth advertising (one of the most powerful ways to win sales). 

How to make automation work for you: 

  • Automate the lead management process, including lead capture, real time sync, validation,  integration with conversion API and other tools, and ROI reporting. An automotive marketing platform like Driftrock can help you with these processes and consolidate data from multiple sources. It ensures the information is easily accessible for remarketing campaigns.The platform also maintains data quality so you get accurate insights for future strategies.
  • Automation also lets you create refined campaign audience segments with product-specific insights, customer preferences and regional trends. 
  • In a soon-to-be-cookieless world, conversion API is critical. Set it up on the server side to track and optimise end-to-end conversions. All major platforms, including Meta, TikTok, Google and LinkedIn, provide conversion API.
  • Sending personalised emails to different buyer segments need not be a time-consuming task. Automate it to share exclusive offers, automotive industry updates, specific product updates, loyalty program notifications and more. 
  • Similarly, you can set triggers to automatically remind customers of upcoming servicing appointments, warranty expiration, insurance renewal, and more. 
  • Chat AI is another automation that enables self-service on your website 24*7.
Chat AI

It learns from previous interactions to improve the next ones, following a more natural conversation flow. Driftrock's Chat AI can also handle queries more efficiently to stop leads from bouncing off your website. 

  • You can also automate forwarding customer quotes on WhatsApp or email instead of having buyers visit the dealership multiple times. 
  • Lead form automation lets interested buyers schedule test drives or service appointments in a few clicks. 

5. Consistently optimise experience using customer feedback 

Improving customer experience is an ongoing process that you can adapt to as customer behaviour and preferences change. Continuous feedback plays a key role here.

Direct insights from your customers give you a realistic view of their pain points. 

For instance, you may feel that your web form works perfectly fine with the right type and number of questions. However, customer feedback shows that after they fill out your form for a test drive or appointment, they receive callbacks only a week later.

You could lose profitable customers only because your sales teams aren’t following up quickly.

On digging further, you find out that the leads coming in from the web form aren’t flowing into your CRM in real time.

Customer feedback pushes you to integrate your processes better and enhance customer satisfaction. Without it, you may not have found the issue until too late. 

How to make feedback work for you: 

  • Run customer satisfaction score surveys via email, phone calls, SMS, service visits and lead forms (to collect feedback). 
  • Assess online reviews and social media comments to find specific pain points that individual users may face. 
  • Identify recurring pain points across channels, examine what’s causing them, and resolve them quickly. 
  • Say an interested buyer shares their contact information online. When they visit your dealership, the sales representatives make them fill out a detailed offline form for more information. But customers aren’t happy about this process. Asking them to spare more time leaves a bad taste in the customer’s mouth. Use the feedback to figure a way out. For instance, you could keep a slightly more detailed online form to qualify leads beforehand. 
  • When you receive positive feedback, translate it into referrals. Incentivise loyal customers with referral or word-of-mouth discounts. 
  • You may also use their feedback as positive reviews on your website, landing pages and social media. 
  • Deter negative feedback on online platforms from spreading negative sentiments. Address dissatisfied customers quickly with resolutions. 
  • Use the customer feedback to continuously update your ideal customer profile (ICP) to refine your targeting and content. 
  • Sometimes, customers have exciting new ideas. Use a test-and-learn approach to explore these suggestions. If you implement a few ideas, inform customers so they know you listen.

Leverage lead management to improve customer experience

Despite customer experience playing a crucial role in business growth, the automotive industry still faces challenges. 

The above strategies can be a roadmap to delight customers on their buying journey consistently. 

But you must have consolidated and accurate data to ensure they're a success. And most importantly, you must know how to use it. 

Sadly, only 46% of automotive companies have comprehensive customer data, and 58% don’t even have accurate or real-time data.

As a result, 78% of OEMs and retailers can’t personalise communications for specific accounts or complaints. To understand ‘what customers want’, deploy an automotive marketing platform like Driftrock. 

Our platform captures, validates, consolidates, and analyses lead data. Plus, it supports multiple integrations with the CRM, marketing tools, affiliates, lead sources, chat AI and conversion APIs. 

Leading automotive brands, including BMW, MINI, Land Rover, Honda, and over 500 dealerships, use Driftrock to deliver exceptional customer experience. 

Want to get started, too? Get in touch with us to find out more.