Detecon Study on the Customer Journey in Automotive Aftersales
Analysis of digital customer experiences at five automotive brands in Germany
Need for action in the integration of aftersales content
Customer journey not consistently oriented to customer needs
Cologne, March 27, 2020. How well are the demands of digital natives on a customer journey in aftersales met in the automotive market? For this purpose, the management and technology consulting firm Detecon analyzed the customer experiences at five automobile manufacturers within the framework of mystery shopping test purchases. The result: the potential of digital touchpoints, which other industries already use as a matter of course, is far from being fully exploited by the car manufacturers and their network of workshops. For example, many online offerings from branches and dealerships showed significant functional and visual differences. Similarly, aftersales web stores and appointment scheduling tools are hardly integrated into other services and are poorly interlinked.
For the study, Detecon examined a total of 23 stores, purchased 21 products, analyzed 66 websites, and evaluated 16 appointment tools in the German market for the brands Audi, BMW, Mercedes, VW, and Volvo in the period from October to December 2019. The consultants make no claim to completeness or empirical validation, but look at randomly selected touchpoints of the manufacturers and some of their workshops.
"Consistently aligning all processes and systems with customer needs is the key to success in the digital age. However, with the clear focus on new car sales, OEMs are neglecting the customer experience in aftersales," warns Dr. Jürgen Padberg, Managing Partner and initiator of the Detecon study. "Aftersales content hardly takes place on the attractively designed home pages and is difficult to find. Products are rarely advertised across all channels, and there is virtually no individualization of advertising based on browsing and buying behavior - in contrast to otherwise customary online presences."
Development of digital customer journeys still in its infancy
The study evaluated, on a scale from "not present" to "fully met," on the one hand the components of aftersales web presence, online appointment scheduling, online store products and online store fulfillment (delivery, returns, hotline support), and on the other hand the overall experience for buying an accessory online.
Across all OEMs and dealers, it was observed that the development of aftersales stores and the associated customer journey is still in its infancy. The focus of the stores is on the pure sales and delivery process, advertising and cross-selling potentials are hardly used so far. In some cases, online catalogs without ordering and purchasing functions were still used.
Similar to the web presences, social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram or YouTube are also used by National Sales Companies (NSC), branches or dealers almost exclusively for promoting vehicles and not yet for aftersales business. This is all the more surprising considering the high margins that can usually be achieved there.
A positive aspect of the study was that all OEMs and most subsidiaries provide tools for making online appointments with workshops via the browser or an app. All tools had user-friendly interfaces and identical functionalities. In addition, it was mostly possible to reserve additional services such as replacement mobility, although no information about prices was provided. This shows the lack of integration between the OEMs and their national companies on the one hand and the usually legally independent dealers and workshops with their own pricing authority on the other. In terms of a uniform customer journey, this is still a very big hurdle.
In the case of the web stores, it was found that it was generally not possible to individualize the purchasing experience. In some stores, customers can use their chassis number to limit the results to the parts relevant to their vehicle. However, it was rarely possible to create a profile with vehicle data or a central customer ID. In addition, there was often a lack of detailed descriptions, videos, images and chats to advise on purchases.
On a positive note, deliveries were made on time for all brands and the return of the order with the enclosed return slip was straightforward. The automotive industry is obviously benefiting here from the well-developed end customer logistics due to general online retailing.
The Detecon study "Digital Customer Journey Aftersales" is available for download here: