The service-related process is crucially important from a customer experience perspective. Should´t all automotive aftermarket players innovate to remove friction?
A good example for the current disconnect between what customers expect and what they get to experience is vehicle service: rather than a proactive, routine, and seamless experience, the car-service experience is often a hassle involving nebulously high cost and a serious time commitment that is difficult to plan.
Common pain points in the current service process include appointment making (which can require numerous phone calls), vehicle drop-off and pickup (waiting times at arrival often exceed ten minutes), and a lack of transparency regarding service completion status, cost & final payment including pickup availability only within opening hours.
The automotive aftermarket landscape
Ensuring that a vehicle is well maintained is vital to extending the working life of Europe's vehicle fleet.
The automotive aftermarket and after sales sector is a complex, robust and highly competitive market that provides the support network for Europe’s millions of cars, vans, trucks and buses. The automotive aftermarket’s multi-faceted and diverse segments cover the whole repair, maintenance and service spectrum from parts supply to fitment and servicing.
Passenger car and commercial vehicle owners rely on a network of parts suppliers, fitters and repairers to keep their vehicles in correct working order. 90% of consumers are satisfied with the repair and maintenance offerings of the highly competitive market, according to a study by European Automobile Manufacturers Association, ACEA. They make informed decisions about where to repair their vehicle based on factors such as price, convenience, quality and the age/value of their vehicle. Consumers’ preferences are not fixed, and change as their vehicles age. Accordingly, vehicle manufacturers are not dominant players in the aftermarket maintenance over the lifetime of the average vehicle.
The small and medium enterprises that comprise the so-called ‘authorized’ repair networks are an integral part of the total aftermarket and provide a valuable service for those customers who value the quality, transparency and expertise they provide. Customers choose to visit the authorized repairer network based upon their own set of deciding factors in the same way that other customers choose to use the services of the independent network.
Authorized repairers add value by focusing on a limited number of brands and by agreeing to meet the high service, training, equipment and customer service standards of the vehicle manufacturers. They are independent businesses, but it is this concentration on quality repair and maintenance which is responsible for consistently high quality and consumer satisfaction ratings. Authorized repair network customers appreciate the transparency regarding price and parts quality offered by the authorized networks.
The automobile industry is working to make sure that there is a fair and balanced automotive aftermarket in which consumers can access reliable, cost-effective repair and maintenance services that ensure the correct treatment of their vehicles over the course of their life-cycles.
European aftermarket divided into authorized and independent channels
Within the highly fragmented overall market for automotive services, two channels can be differentiated: The first, the "authorized" channel, is comprised of vehicle manufacturers, their country organizations, dealer networks and repair shops, both single- and multi-brand. The second "independent" channel is comprised of independent service providers or independent operators.
Independent service providers can be broken down into three types of repair shops: (1) franchise that offer a full range of services and are part of a dealer network or franchise system; (2) automotive centers and "fast fitters," i.e., repair shops with standardized and often limited service offers that frequently include parts retail; and finally, (3) small, "corner" shops that offer the full range of services and function completely independently.
Decreasing customer loyalty over time
After purchasing a vehicle, most customers first stay with an authorized repair shop. Reliability, good quality and warranty are the reasons customers take their vehicles to authorized repair shops when they need repairs or maintenance.
But a different picture emerges among owners of used and older vehicles. The majority favor independent repair shops with price as the deciding factor.
With new technology, "soft factors" such as time needed to get an appointment and repairs, check-in outside opening hours, flexible payment options and check-outs, are more valued as "need to have" factors that will be central to decisions to switch repair shops.
Customers demand and expect a seamless experience
Friendly customer service was an important attribute, with 10% of people choosing it as the most important attribute, according to the report 2020: Consumer Trends for the Auto Industry by Brandwatch.
When Brandwatch looked at social data, negative conversation focused mainly on people’s experiences when cars go wrong – dealerships, warranties, fixing things and things not working were big topics of discussion.
Clearly, when things go wrong with the vehicle they have, there’s an opportunity to garner favor with customers with self service interactions.
At Sharebox, we belive that the development of the competitive landscape will allow some service providers to expand their market share and small independent "corner" shops will be increasingly challenged by know-how and technology barriers.
New players are determined to win the innovation race
Many unlikely companies have their eyes set on the massive auto market. It’s no secret that Google has been working on self-driving car for some time now. Ride-sharing company Uber is working on a similar project. Despite recent setbacks, Apple is also reportedly working on autonomous vehicles (or at least the software that will power them). Of course, vehicle upstarts like Tesla and Lynk & Co. can’t be ignored, either.
To remain relevant, however, big auto companies and the aftermarket players can’t afford to slow down. If anything, they must go faster. They should take an ‘angle of pursuit’ approach. Instead of simply catching up with other innovators, automakers need a more forward-looking approach. Anticipating where customers are going tomorrow, not where they are today, is key.
Putting customers in the driver seat
The challenges facing the auto industry are significant and complex, but they share something in common: they’re driven by rapidly changing customer expectations. In the end, they don’t necessarily have to get smaller or act like a startup to win. Real competitive advantage comes from truly understanding customers — and adjusting innovation, customer experience and
business strategy based on what they know.
Increasing choices for customers
It is likely that the next customer generation, accustomed to instant gratification in the digital space, will potentially opt out of car service channels if it entails a time-intensive and inconvenient service experience.
For each repair or service event, customers can choose the offer that best fits their individual requirements and personal criteria, including performance of the repair shops, price quote, final price paid, time to get an appointment, value for money, time needed for repairs, check-in, payment options and check out around the clock.
If the car needs additional repair, digital solutions could allow the service shop to send videos and explanations to the customer’s smartphone and give a recommendation without losing time or creating any friction.
Likewise, a customer no longer has to wonder when her vehicle is ready for pickup. She receives automatic updates on her smartphone, along with mobility options to pay the invoice or slice it, before pick up of the car outside opening hours.
The good news is that technology can have a sizable effect when it comes to improving customer experience.
Service and repair shops can deploy existing third-party digital tools that facilitate appointment making or check-in and check-out processes including payment options operated on smartphones to provide even greater convenience for customers.
In the checkout, the customer can decide to pay later with an interest-free installment plan as an alternative to credit or slice it in longer-term installments. In this set up, the repair shop always get paid upfront, even if the customer pays over time.
These types of integrated solutions enable employees in the vehicle service sector to devote more attention to customers instead of having to complete administrative tasks at their touch points.
A study by Sharebox forecast that the automotive aftermarket will be digitized and disrupted. New customer service solutions will handle both booking, check-in, payment and check-out more quickly and efficiently than current conventional front desk customer receptions, with lower cost and with greater flexibility. New ideas are being explored to find ways to drop of vehicles for service outside opening hours in exchange with a rental car including personal SMS from the repair shop with the invoice after completion, giving a range of payment options with pay later or slice it over several months.