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Expert Talk: OEMs reinvent CX wheel to engage with customers in times of Covid-19


Author: Mr. Dimple Mehta – Head Customer Care – Domestic & International Business, Passenger Vehicle Business Unit, Tata Motors
As businesses warm up to the new norms of remote working and social distancing, it has become even more important for them to engage with their customers, understand their needs, and provide them with meaningful solutions. Given these new challenges and opportunities, customer service departments are assuming an increasingly central role in most industrial sectors, working hard to see how they can democratize strong customer experiences across all company sizes – right from industry giants and medium-sized companies to small businesses and start-ups. The auto sector is no exception as automotive manufacturers are sharpening their focus on strengthening their customer relations by delivering consistent services that indicate continuous improvement in their overall customer experience offerings. Interestingly, customer service has proven to be a vital component in helping automotive manufacturers build brand loyalty, backed by a strong emotional connection, among consumers. This connection is determined by the degree of overall positive feelings a customer has towards a brand, and the extent to which a customer relates and resonates with the brand’s key attributes.
According to a 2018 study conducted by PWC, “86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience.” With digital transformation and the evolution of automotive technology, customer service has become an integral aspect of automotive marketing strategies across the globe. Companies are now aiming towards increased personalization by indulging in efficient, simple and tailor-made dialogues with the customer. Adding to that, parameters such as hygiene, safety, and sanitization have become the primary determinants of ‘excellent quality’ service during the current COVID-19 era. Moreover, contactless service assisted by digital interventions has taken a front seat in terms of providing quality customer experience.

The nationwide lockdown has urged the automotive industry to depart from traditional methods and rejig their customer service offerings. Automakers are not only providing traditional maintenance services, but are also using customer service as a means to engage and stay connected with their consumers amidst the lockdown. Several OEMs have rolled out tips to take care of vehicles whilst at home and have extended the warranty and free service period for their users. Additionally, to keep up with safety and hygiene norms, companies have also taken a step forward by thoroughly sanitizing their vehicles and providing disposable covers for the interiors at the time of delivery.
Special customer service initiatives for frontline healthcare workers who are contributing to the fight against the pandemic have also been introduced as an added benefit. 24×7 breakdown assistance and special hotline numbers have been made available for doctors, police and essential service providers so they can continue to be of assistance without any hindrance.
Automotive OEMs are constantly communicating with their customers to encourage them to provide feedback on products and services. ‘Voice of Customer’ (VOC) plays a vital role in deploying and providing a more holistic experience to customers. VOC information helps companies make more informed decisions about product, marketing, and future service strategies. For example, having a complete view of customer feedback, complaints, and the overall sentiment would help a brand assess whether an issue in a product makes it serious enough for a recall, or whether the messaging for the upcoming marketing campaign should be adjusted to meet the evolving customer sentiment.
As people adapt to the ‘new-normal’ as well as the norms of social distancing, public transport utility has decreased while the demand for personal mobility is expected to rise. This surge in demand for private vehicles is also expected to shine a spotlight on automotive service workshops, as customers will invest more time and money in regular vehicle maintenance to ensure the safety of their loved ones. Digital intervention will be leveraged and the industry will see a change in customer requirements for car maintenance and the automotive OEMs will have to accommodate to the same to move forward in the post COVID era.
The coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on the state of the customer. The past few months have proved that the industry must not wait for a global crisis such as this one to prioritize customer experience and loyalty. No retailer can predict what the future holds and the key takeaway is that automotive brands should expand their core offerings and make it appealing for customers in times of crisis. Therefore, automakers will have to offer convenience and personalized add-on protection services that will provide their customers with reassurance, thereby labelling the manufacturer as ‘safe’ – now and in the future.

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