To get ahead of rivals, automakers have invested billions in vehicle quality, comfort, performance, design, value for money, and fuel efficiency. Now, the customer experience has become the next critical area of differentiation. In fact, Bain’s NPS PrismSM benchmarking data shows that customers who are satisfied with their experience are far more likely to repurchase a brand, making it as important as the vehicle itself (for more, see “What Automakers Need to Know about Customer Delight”).
But determining exactly where to invest can be an overwhelming prospect for automakers; the car-buying and ownership experience is composed of dozens of discrete episodes. Using quarterly, episode-level data from NPS Prism, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), dealers, and other service providers are discovering which moments have the greatest effect on customer loyalty. Based on survey responses from thousands of consumers, we’ve identified many ways that automakers and service providers can increase their Net Promoter Score℠—a measure of customers’ likelihood to recommend a store or brand—at the episode level, including three simple actions with an outsize impact.
First, leading OEMs focus on “postsales” activities, understanding that a vehicle purchase is not a one-time transaction, but rather a chance to develop an ongoing relationship with customers. For instance, automakers that follow up with customers to offer help or support after a vehicle purchase see a 26-point bump, on average, in their Net Promoter Score for the “purchase or lease a vehicle” episode. However, few OEMs are taking advantage of this opportunity to strengthen customer advocacy: On average, only about 30% of customers say they have received a follow-up call.
When it comes to financing, NPS Prism data reveals that customers are more annoyed by idle wait time than by longer total time spent on the process. Automakers that minimize wait time to less than 25% of the total time spent financing boost their episode Net Promoter Score by 22 points on average. Meanwhile, when customers spend less than an hour completing the financing process, automakers increase their episode Net Promoter Score by only 9 points on average. To maximize customer satisfaction, OEMs can keep the financing process efficient, but more important, they can entertain their customers during wait times.
Finally, engaging customers with digital platforms early on is an easy way for automakers to generate advocacy. On average, when OEMs introduce the mobile app at the time of vehicle purchase, they see a 24-point lift in Net Promoter Score for the app episode. That said, the level of improvement varies significantly across providers, with some OEMs raising their Net Promoter Score by nearly 60 points.
Simple investments in the customer experience, such as follow-up calls and lower wait times, are easy to overlook. But OEMs shouldn’t underestimate the power these episode-level enhancements have to boost their overall customer loyalty and competitive advantage.