Make customer data work for you

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customer_dataIt always amazes me how as much as we say we’re going to change the way we measure the customer experience, things always seem to stay the same.  How much longer are we going to place all of our focus (and money) on “overall satisfaction” and “advocacy” or “recommendation?”

Last month, I wrote about tipping points in the industry, and I think we’re about to experience another tipping point — this time, in the way we measure the customer experience.

I see three important changes taking place that will be the key to this tipping point:

More focus on actual customer behaviour;

A move towards measuring “moments of truth;” and

More emphasis on non-rational measures.

Emphasis on behaviour 

Most of the questions in customer experience surveys are about rating experience. These tend to form the backbone of customer satisfaction indices and of compensation programs.

There is a clear trend to try to make some of these questions more “binary,” with “yes” and “no” answers instead of a rating scale.

This may help to some extent, but it will not improve the ability to differentiate between dealerships or dealer staff who perform to expectations versus those who exceed customer expectations.

Asking questions about the process the customer went through in the dealership is becoming more common and is an excellent way of identifying what impact processes have on the customer experience.

A shift in focus from getting the right CSI score to getting it right in the dealership is going to be a growing trend.

Questions covering the online shopping experience, F&I, sales experience, online service scheduling and others are extremely helpful in driving performance improvement in the dealership.  In a way, these are measurements of dealership behaviour.

The other aspect is customer behaviour. I see few questions about customer behaviour in surveys probably because they take up survey space and also because they can seem intrusive to customers.

But your customers sit on a wealth of data, and mining it can be extremely valuable.

Every time a customer visits your dealership, that person adds to the rich information you have about them, without even having to send a survey.

Over time, this information can help you build a comprehensive picture of the customer, so that your staff can be better informed, provide better service and make the most of potential revenue opportunities.

These trends will shape customer experience measurement in the future

These trends will shape customer
experience measurement in the future

The key to making this work is to break down the silos in your customer databases.  There is real value in being able to get a full picture of all the touchpoints with your customer at the same time — from sales, service, F&I and any CRM programs.

Many dealerships already have some of this in place, but it takes another level of effort to truly reap the rewards of doing this well and seamlessly.

Knowing when the customer was in for service last, what work was done and how many kilometres the customer drives on average is good, but it’s not enough to truly understand what drives customer behaviour.

The next threshold will be to use data mining to predict what customers will do in the future.

What are the clues that tell you have a customer who is likely to stray from your business and one who will remain loyal to you?

The technology available to us today makes it easier to do this, but it still takes some effort and a focus on making the most of the data you have.

Moments of truth

I think we will see a growing movement away from focusing only on the traditional measures of customer satisfaction and recommendation. What will become more important are those “moments of truth” in the customer’s dealership experience.

In sales, it’s hard to argue against the fact that negotiating the deal is a strong predictor of satisfaction with the overall sales experience.

But, from the customer’s perspective, there is a moment of truth when he or she takes delivery of the vehicle.  Was it done on time?  Was it thorough and did the sales consultant do a good job?  Was the vehicle free of defects?

These days, offering to follow up with the customer is a critical part of the process.  It is also something that sharply divides the happy customers from the not-so-happy ones.

There is a lot of evidence that shows a good recovery from a service issue can actually result in a more satisfied customer, but isn’t it better to have a satisfied customer from the get-go, without having to expend resources in fixing a problem?

I have recently used both of these metrics to help separate high performing dealerships from lower ones, even when their customer satisfaction scores are similar.

A shift in focus from getting the right CSI score to getting it right in the dealership is going to be a growing trend.

Emotions: the other half of the equation

Whether you go to a new restaurant, choose a new financial advisor or make an investment, think about the things that drove your decision to keep doing business there or that you made the right choice.

It’s often about the way you were treated, the speed and efficiency of service or the quality of the offering, though other more powerful factors are likely to be different.

Did you feel the people truly cared about you as a customer?  Do you trust them?  Is the business well run?  Do the people who work there seem engaged and do they share your values?

These strong emotional drivers are never captured in our current customer satisfaction surveys and yet they are the things that in many cases, keep customers loyal to a business.

Tapping into those less rational, but very powerful, emotional hooks will give the edge.

Look for more questions that cover how a customer feels about your business when he or she is
in your dealership.

Adapting to these changes

The sad truth is that as an industry, we have become slaves to the traditional way of looking at measuring the customer experience.

In recent years, this has become distorted to the point where, with some exceptions, CS numbers have more impact on incentive programs than they do on improving the customer experience itself.

I think this is about to change and when it does, that change will be rapid.

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