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Blog

Apr 04, 2017

3 Emerging Customer Journeys Automakers Need to Support

trends in the auto industry customer journey

[Estimated read time: 6 minutes]

We've said it before, and we're saying it again: Consumer behavior is changing. Every industry is dealing with the ramifications of these behavioral shifts, and the auto industry is no exception.

Trends such as ride-sharing and new developments in autonomous vehicle technology are challenging automakers to stay relevant. As the Millennial generation gains buying power, the traits they value in cars (and in car brands) are being considered increasingly important. It's not about car ownership anymore; it's about access. It's not about cars as a possession anymore; it's about mobility. In fact, McKinsey & Company reports that one out of 10 cars sold in 2030 will likely be a shared vehicle -- and this number is estimated to be one in three by 2050.

These changes are having a profound effect on auto brands, and on your relationships with the people who drive your cars. No longer separated by dealerships, you are now being called upon to engage with customers as service providers.

Millennials don't value vehicles as possessions in the same way previous generations have.

Yesterday, everyone bought gasoline-powered cars, drove them to work, and parked them in a garage all day. Tomorrow, people will share a ride to work with multiple passengers in an electric, autonomous vehicle.

What can you do today to get ahead of these trends (and your competition)? In this brave new world, you will need to offer flexibility, intuitiveness, and strong customer service to survive. Start by providing support for these three emerging customer journeys:

Customer Journey 1: Scheduling a Test Drive Online

In a world where people may have more sophisticated tech in their cars than they do in their homes, their expectations for auto brands' online experiences are understandably high. Web and mobile experiences are becoming increasingly integrated into our daily lives as consumers, and this holds true for the auto industry as well. In fact, Accenture found that 75% of consumers would consider going through the entire process of purchasing a car online.

However, many automotive brands provide an online experience that doesn't quite fit consumers' high-tech expectations. When customers look for help on an auto brand's website, they often find a simple Support link in the site footer, or a keyword-based search of help articles, or a basic FAQ page... not exactly the level of sophistication that you might come to expect from the company that sold you a car that can park itself.

Let's take a look at an example of a better approach: Offering access to support on every page of your website through a chat widget.

In this example, a current customer (Dustin) is logged into Omega Auto's website. He clicks the chat widget to find out how to schedule a test drive of their new car, the Omega S.

A customer service agent (Rochelle) helps him schedule a test drive at his nearest showroom, and her response even allows him to add the appointment to his calendar.

Plot twist: Rochelle is a chatbot! Here, Omega is using narrow AI and natural language processing to understand Dustin's request and give him a resolution -- without needing to engage a human customer service agent.

Dustin gets what he needs without having to alter his behavior to suit Omega's web experience. He simply asks a question in natural language and gets a response. And Omega gets Dustin into their dealership, possibly to purchase a new vehicle, without involving a single Omega employee.

Customer Journey 2: Getting from A to B

When it comes to mobile apps, consumers want brief, easy interactions that provide quick answers to their questions. And they won't give an app very long to make a good first impression: According to data from Quettra, the average mobile app loses 77% of its daily active users within the first three days of usage. It turns out that people will install many apps on their mobile devices, but tend to decide which ones they want to keep using within a three-to-seven day period.

So how can you ensure your customers continue to use your mobile app? Give them fingertip access to what they really need.

In this example, current customer Dustin needs something else from Omega...

Right off the bat, he has the option to chat with an Omega agent, call, request roadside assistance, see answers to FAQs, or type in his own question using natural language.

He's trying to find a way to get downtown without driving his own car (maybe he doesn't currently have access to his car, or he doesn't want to mess with downtown parking). He asks the app, again in natural language, for help finding a ride to a PATH station.

As in the previous example, Omega's chatbot is able to understand what he needs and help him get it -- in this case, scheduling a mixed-mode travel itinerary that includes both ride-sharing and public transportation.

With "mobility as a service" right on the horizon, municipalities and automakers alike are laying the groundwork for these types of travel options. In the customer journey example above, Omega is giving the customer value beyond just producing great cars, acting as a true mobility service provider.

Customer Journey 3: Finding Answers and Support via Messaging

Messaging apps are where consumers spend their screen time. According to ComScore, messaging apps such as WeChat, Line, Kik, and Facebook Messenger account for 91% of all time spent on mobile devices and desktops by US users. To put that in perspective, if you spent just an hour per day on your smartphone, 55 minutes of that would spent using messaging apps.

People use messengers every day to connect with friends and family -- and now brands have joined the fray. In the example below, Omega Auto customer Matt seeks help using Facebook Messenger.

Matt's having trouble connecting his smartphone with his car via Bluetooth. Omega's Facebook Messenger chatbot responds with a helpful video walking him through the process.

Not only does Matt get his issue solved in real time, he does it without calling a 1-800 number, installing an app, or cracking open the Owner's Manual.

Then, the chatbot confirms resolution and offers even more value by answering more questions. Bots have incredible potential to allow brands to engage more deeply with their customers at scale.

To stay ahead of the curve, auto brands must begin supporting the three emerging customer journeys detailed above. Want to learn more about how to make that happen? Request a live demo of Astute Solutions' customer engagement software.

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