The Steve Jobs quote has never rung more true. There has been so much conversation of late about digital transformation, auto retail reinvention and the "new normal." I have contributed to much of it. But what does that all really mean? What can a dealer or dealership really do to transform? What does "transformation" even mean?
I believe a dealer needs to go back to basics and not get caught up in the hype of Digital Transformation. There is no silver bullet. In good automotive retailing, it has always been and will always be about delivering an exceptional customer experience. Technology is one enabler to support that effort. But it is not the end-all and be all. In today's high-tech world, we often approach an issue in the manner of "the answer is technology, what's the question again?" A dedication and execution of processes that are seamless, frictionless, integrated, omni-channel and personalized are ultimately what enables the orchestration of a customer experience.
We have been swept up in Digital Retailing, Internet Sales, eCommerce and Mobile Delivery as a pursuit of shiny objects. It is all retailing at the end of the day. To the customer, there is one retail experience (sales and service and ownership journey). Their experience. Online or off-line and through every channel, the customer wants what they want.
As a consultant and an avid forum member in many groups, I have heard the word frictionless evolve over the last year or so as it pertains to great customer experiences. To be honest, the word first hit me as rather crass and not fitting for the concept of customer experience. But in actuality, it is the perfect description. What a customer really wants is seamless engagements, personalized recognition of their need and ease of interaction (through any channel, any time and without pause or reaffirming context each time).
Frictionless also is more a result of a solid and integrated process as opposed to just a simple technology. I personally don't even like the phrases digital transformation and digital retailing. It is just transformation and it is just retailing. The idea that if something is "digital" or has a "digital" component that it is better or works well is not necessarily true. The technology or digitalization still is part of or encompasses a full process. That process has workflows and steps and sometimes humans that must all work in concert for the same alignment and direction to deliver the experience through that process, including the technology.
Many dealers have increased their technology spend and digital efforts significantly over the last few years. An average dealership now often has:
Yet, with all those technologies and recent expenditures, the auto retail industry's general CSI scores compared to other industries have not risen and in fact fallen behind in relative comparison to other industries. In many cases the same issues and customer dissatisfiers prevail now as they did a decade ago. The following is just a compilation of some recent Consumer Reports and Forum posts on common customer issues:
Do any of these sound familiar? Technology or digitization has been added in most sales, service, and dealer operations areas, yet these issues persist. In recent IBM research, Millennials overwhelmingly stated they would rather go to the dentist than a car dealership. Perhaps the issue and root cause lie more in the overall mission, process and measurement of success for the customer experience. In some hopeful news, 65%+ of Millennials also stated they would be willing to pay more for a good experience.
The journey of transformation should start with a focus on basic processes and never stop evolving. Eventually, 90% or more of a dealership's workflows and processes either touch the end customer or affect their experience in some capacity. Those processes must be scrutinized to remove friction.
In order to maximize the transformation to a value-driven customer experience, start with some basic steps. The following is a framework to approach an honest view of your dealership process issues and potential resolutions.
Start with the basics. Do not be swept up that a technology or quick fix exists to change the actual dealership DNA of customer experience. View the processes, barriers and friction from the customer's point-of-view. What do customers want and expect that is not being delivered? Then work can begin on evolving the WHAT is expected and WHY it is not currently being executed. Make or keep your North Star of customer experience as the target of all processes, and continually work on evolving them towards that goal.
MBA Marketing. Innovative Marketeer. Over 27 years of experience driving brand and customer strategy into market and profit realization. Director and VP level positions in world-class organizations including IBM, General Motors, JD Power, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Dennis has led multi-million engagements in go-to-market approaches, e-commerce strategy, revenue growth, and business transformation at blue chip clients, multiple industries, and successful start-ups.