It sounds cheesy, but if you really think about it, ‘loving’ customers is really what every successful business does. And this goes for automotive companies too, whether you’re in the leasing, parts supply, service or manufacturing industries.
I was recently at an event held by the BVRLA, where one of the speakers – from a research organisation – was looking at how businesses use something called the Net Promoters’ Score (NPS) as a measure of what percentage of their customers would recommend them. It’s a simple, robust way of measuring relative customer satisfaction. The results of the latest NPS study were fascinating and it was not a great surprise to see that big consumer brands likes Apple and Amazon, both known for great customer service, achieved a score of over +70. Conversely, businesses in the banking and telecoms markets managed to achieve a negative score of –3.
Businesses involved in leasing and related automotive services scored +12, which was seen as a disappointment to most managers in the room, which were made up of OEMs, fleet companies and automotive service organisations. Why is this score so low in a service industry, which actually spends a lot of time and effort ensuring customers receive a good experience?
There are probably a few obvious reasons for this surprisingly low score. Clearly, those in the room would tend to be self-selected ‘solid performers’ – as it’s unlikely that laggards in any industry are those interested and committed enough to attend their trade body events. Secondly, the automotive industry is relatively complex, with a myriad suppliers, partners, financial organisations and other businesses working together to provide a positive driver experience. So, it’s fair to say that a retailer, with fewer relationships to manage along the supply chain, is better placed than most automotive businesses to offer consistently good customer service.
So, what does this all mean for parts suppliers, rental companies, OEMs, leasing firms and other automotive businesses? I think the recession has provided threats, but also opportunities for the UK automotive sector. Those that are growing and improving profits have embraced the challenge and innovated processes, changing how they engage with customers. Those businesses that are seeing stagnant or even falling profits have tended to support the status quo and continued in a ‘business as usual’ vein.
Our experience of successful brands such as Alphabet, Manheim and Triumph shows that loving their customers is at the core of their organisations. These businesses keep extremely close to their customers and invest huge amounts – formally and informally – to maintain an understanding of how their customers are feeling at the moment. They are also not timid when it comes to embracing technology and new systems to engage with customers.
There’s a well-known self-help book called ‘The Road Less Travelled’ by M Scott Peck. In it, he makes the initially baffling statement that ‘Love is Work’. Here he clarifies that love (i.e. the act of caring for someone’s genuine physical and spiritual wellbeing) is more than a feeling, but is a proactive, conscious decision. That’s the bit we – as businesses in the automotive sector – need to take to heart; a planned, sophisticated and focused system that ensures our customers are looked after, even to the point of us anticipating their needs.
Now that’s hard work that pays off.
St John White