Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Look Across the Ocean – Tailored Service Offerings Are On the Rise In Europe
by Michael Lohfink

It's no secret that the automotive service business is extremely attractive for OEMs, authorized dealers, and independent service providers. In 2013, the total European Aftermarket was around EUR 196B in parts and labor (including VAT) – authorized dealers were able to capture roughly EUR 78B of that pie (Datamonitor).


Service is of crucial importance for the customer’s overall brand experience and is an important driver of customer satisfaction. Over time, service involves numerous vital customer touch points, each of which represents an opportunity for OEMs to earn the loyalty of their customers. This is when customers decide to return to the dealership for their next service or for the purchase of their next car – or not. Our recent consumer sentiment survey shows that a customer who is very satisfied with the service s/he received is 66% more likely to return to the dealership for service than a customer who had a neutral service experience. Likewise, a customer who is very satisfied with the service s/he received is 36% more likely to purchase a vehicle from the same brand than a customer who had a neutral service experience. (2014 Carlisle Consumer Sentiment Survey).


Over the last couple decades, OEMs have constantly expanded and differentiated their sales channels for new vehicles to reach ever-shrinking target groups. They’ve introduced new vehicle classes and unlocked new customer groups. This is where service has a lot of catching up to do. So far, most OEMs have tended to lump all service customers together. That is, if a customer buys a premium car for more than EUR 75,000, it is likely that s/he receives the same service as a customer who buys an economy car for EUR 15,000. Service customer touch points offer valuable opportunities for an OEM to identify individual needs and develop offerings tailored to meet those needs. The goal is to boost those customers’ satisfaction and maintain their loyalty.


OEMs have to understand that their customers will project the positive experience they have from buying a new vehicle onto Aftersales. The individual support that they received when they bought their car is what they will demand later on when they need their car serviced. And here, OEMs have to meet the expectations of numerous small target groups if they wish to increase service satisfaction and keep the customers over the long term.


Discussions during this year’s European Parts Benchmark Senior Executive Focus Day in Frankfurt, Germany, showed that some OEMs have realized this trend. They’ve started to react by offering services that are tailored to the distinct needs of individual customer groups. The ultimate goal for these OEMs is to provide each customer with a distinctive – and memorable – service experience.


Here are some examples of what two German Luxury OEMs are currently doing to individualize their offerings.


Mercedes Benz


The OEM’s long-term goal is to make each visit to the dealership an "individual service experience." Initial pilots have kicked off in England, Germany and the U.S. Each pilot dealership focuses on three clearly defined service formats which make it possible to easily tailor services to the particular needs of different customers:
  • Relax or Ride – Customers can wait for their vehicle at the dealership in a lounge with Wi-Fi, desktop computers, television, toys for the kids and refreshments, or they can take a shuttle service to any nearby destination.
  • Door to door – An employee of the dealership picks up the customer’s car and returns it when the work is complete.
  • Drop and Drive – Customers receive a courtesy vehicle for the time theirs is being serviced.
These options allow customers to tailor their own service experience to satisfy their own needs depending on the level of convenience they prefer or their budget.


BMW


Aside from segmenting its customer base by vehicle age, the German Luxury OEM has already launched initiatives to address the preferences of different customer groups. One example is the "BMW Excellence Club" that is exclusively offered in Germany. Here, only customers buying a BMW 7 Series sedan can become members of this club. Those members benefit from premium driver training, special sporting and cultural events, and exclusive offers. For example, upon request, BMW offers a service appointment guarantee within 48 hours, which is not available to drivers of other BMW models.


What’s more, BMW recently introduced “Service while you fly” from select airports in the UK. Here’s how it works:
  • A service customer leaves their car in the designated VIP parking area and checks-in with a concierge.
  • While they are away on vacation or a business trip, their vehicle will be serviced at the local dealership and will be ready for them when they return.
  • Bookings can be done online or over the phone, and payment authorization is managed electronically. This reduces customers’ waiting times and increases convenience.
These are only a few ways OEMs are trying to “spruce up” the good, old, service world by offering services that are specifically designed to appeal to individual target groups. And even though no official results have been reported yet, chances are that these programs will positively affect service satisfaction, ultimately increasing service retention and overall profits.


Bottom line


To succeed in the Aftermarket, OEMs must carefully listen to their customers, and give them the goods and services they really want. This goal must be clear from beginning to end – from the way the strategy is designed, to the services offered, and how dealers communicate with customers. Micro-marketing services tailored to each individual customer would be the ideal solution. If done correctly, attractive service offers that are feasible and profitable for OEMs will increase both service satisfaction and service retention.


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