What is a customer experience vision in automotive retail and how to get it right

“In the last economic recession, companies that prioritize customer experience realized three times the shareholder returns compared to the companies that did not,” according to McKinsey research.

Times are hard and many auto retailers are scraping by. It barely feels like the right moment to start a business overhaul. But the current situation is actually accelerating the need to bring customers to the front and center.

Now really is the time to invest in customer experience, commonly known as CX.

Few auto retailers will deny the importance of transforming CX. But getting the ball rolling is a daunting task. Especially in organizations built on silos, where each department has its own challenges that need to be dealt with individually.

Pouring concrete onto a uniform surface creates a nice smooth road. If there are bumps all over the place, it’s going to be patchy. But you have to build the road if you want to get somewhere.

Thankfully, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Breaking customer experience transformation into small, manageable chunks can make the process a whole lot easier.

Defining a clear CX vision is the first step in a proven formula for transforming your customer experience and securing your competitive advantage. Let’s take a look at what we mean by a customer experience vision, why you should bother, and how to get started.

What is a customer experience vision?

A customer experience vision is a statement that outlines the impact a dealership aspires to have on its customers. It guides the whole company on how to behave when interacting with customers and how to make good decisions that are aligned with a higher purpose. As customers are the center of modern, customer-centric companies, the term may often be interchangeable with “company vision” and “company purpose.”

An example of a customer experience vision from an auto retailer

CarGurus has “a vision for helping automotive shoppers better navigate their car search.” Not only does it put what matters to customers at the center—an improved car shopping experience, it’s also tightly aligned with the company’s purpose—“building the world’s most trusted and transparent automotive marketplace.”

Three reasons car retailers need a customer experience vision

  • Increase the success of a customer experience strategy

It’s too easy to fall off the wagon when we don’t know where we’re heading. The CX vision is the guiding light for your CX strategy. It gives a company clear direction, helps you stay on track when setting goals, designing and rolling out your strategy, and always keep customers at the forefront of all company decisions.

  • Catalyst for transformation into a customer-centric culture

A customer-centric aspiration helps to spark a shift in the focus of the whole company toward the customer. Employees make decisions with the customer top of mind, execs and sales teams start talking about customers not leads. Talking about customers and not leads, you say? How will we make any sales? Well, customer-centric companies, who care about creating value for customers over “winning a sale” are 60% more profitable. It pays to talk less about sales and more about people. Oh, the irony.

  • Unify organizational silos

If you don’t know already, silos are your biggest bugbear. Departments operate in a metaphorical bubble, creating friction for customers and employees, and they make managing the dealership a whole lot harder than it should be. A customer experience vision is one way to unify these silos and create a sense of a uniform organizational culture. Departments work toward the same aspiration, employees feel more aligned with colleagues, and customers receive a more consistent experience across the board, or a “one-company experience” in the words of CustomerThink, a global community for customer-centric business strategy.

Four things your customer experience vision should be

While one company’s vision will differ from another, a few guiding principles can help you build a vision that will lead to success.

Typically, a strong vision is:

  • Customer- and company-centric

Yes, the foundation for CX vision is customers’ wants and needs. But the vision must also align with the business: its vision, values and purpose. The vision of a dealership who aspires to provide affordable cars to the many will be a far cry from that of a high-end auto retailer with a niche target market. To work for you, your vision must be specific to your company and your customers.

  • Short and to-the-point

Long-winded vision statements can sound impressive but will likely fall flat. They can be hard for employees to interpret, let alone remember. Your vision statement should contain a simple, key message that can be communicated in a short sentence. It’s thought that anything between five to eight words is the sweet spot, but use as many words as you need to get your aspiration across without the message getting lost. The more succinct your vision statement, the easier it will be for employees to keep top of mind.

  • Easy to interpret at every organizational level

Avoid jargon, superlatives, and any subjective words that could lead to ambiguity, like “great”, “best” and “superior.” Use plain terms that don’t require explanation. You should ask employees for their input to create something that the whole dealership can understand and deliver.

How to create an automotive customer experience vision

  • Understand what customers value

Many companies fall into the trap of making assumptions about what customers care about. We said it before and we’ll keep on saying it. You have to invest in getting to know your customers on a deep level before you pen a customer experience strategy.

One way to get there is end-to-end customer journey mapping. Gather and analyze customer data from every stage of the customer journey. Get data from your CRM, gather feedback from customer-facing employees, and enjoy some drawn-out conversations with your customers.  Learn more about Spectrums AI Draw out a map of the whole journey and pinpoint the areas that drive loyalty, drive customers away, and anything you’re not doing that you should.

  • Know your company purpose

It’s good advice to remind yourself of your company’s wider values, purpose, and vision. This could also be an opportunity to revisit them if no longer relevant. You need to deeply understand your company’s DNA to define a unique CX vision that sets you apart from your competitors.

  • Co-create your vision

With a good understanding of customers and company values, gather input from the whole dealership to create a shared vision. This helps to get the whole company on board, especially front-line workers, who deal directly with customers.

A smooth road ahead

The automotive industry at the cusp of complete disruption and auto retailers have no choice but to reshape the experience they offer to fit today’s buyers. This may involve a few tweaks of a few touchpoints, but more likely, a radical overhaul. Either way, a clear-cut vision that guides your strategy going forward and your entire dealership is crucial for getting you where you need to be, and swerving any bumps on the way there.