Authored by David Morton, Sales and Solutions Director at Arvato CRM Solutions
When it comes to car ownership, consumers are increasingly considering alternative commercial models, leaving behind the traditional ‘buy and drive’ model in favour of new ‘shared vehicle’ concepts.
These rapidly emerging engagement models enable drivers to access vehicles with increased flexibility whilst without having to own them outright.
The idea of not owning a vehicle isn’t new. But – as more and more people live in cities and have access to public transport links, are increasingly conscious of their environmental impact and as pay-as-you-go models become normalised in everything from retail to entertainment – they’re rapidly gaining traction. So much so that, by 2030, PwC has forecast that nearly a third of kilometres driven will involve some form of shared vehicle arrangement1.
Shared concepts are prompting new customer experience considerations for automotive businesses, including manufacturers, particularly when it comes to retention. How can brands adapt?
‘Shared vehicle’ models are neither the rental we’re familiar with, nor traditional leasing. This is a radically more flexible way for drivers to access a wide range of vehicles, when and where they need to, for only as long as they need to.
There are many examples already in operation.
‘Car clubs’ have rapidly expanded in the UK – with memberships soaring from 200,000 in 2016 to nearly 700,000 today2. Led by brands such as Enterprise, ZipCar and Co-Wheels, these enable drivers to almost instantly access shared vehicles when they need them, straight off the street.
Manufacturers themselves are getting in on the game, running car club-style schemes and even designing models primed for sharing service use. In 2019, Renault announced that car sharing technology would be fitted as standard in new models of the Zoe, enabling features like monitoring for charging and invoicing, and technology to let drivers unlock the vehicle through their mobile device.
Car clubs give instant access. But carmakers are also exploring ways that they can deliver shared services on a medium-term basis, using their own vehicles, for their own drivers.
In 2019, Porsche launched a service that enables consumers to drive – and switch – its cars on a three-month basis. This followed a pilot service that allowed drivers to rent vehicles directly from current Porsche owners, and has since been followed with similar offerings from other manufacturers, including Volvo and Hyundai.
Accessing a car or van on a shared basis has clear advantages of drivers – primarily flexibility and cost. Buying and running a vehicle can be expensive. For many shared services, factors such as insurance, tax and maintenance are all included as part of a hire or subscription fee. With the average car estimated to be parked for 95% of its lifespan3, this ensures drivers are only paying for what they need. There’s also the advantage of choice. Drivers can select a vehicle to suit their specific needs, in some cases on a day-to-day basis – whether that’s a taking a people carrier for a family road trip, or a 4×4 for a hiking trip to the hills.
Sharing and caring
It is, however, this very flexibility and choice that poses a retention risk. If drivers can go anywhere, and drive anything, why would they choose to stay with one provider?
Excellent customer experience will be critical to driving loyalty. Brands have a huge opportunity now to deepen and strengthen customer relationships.
Key to this will be developing a full understanding, or 360-degree view, of the customer – covering everything from their driving preferences and habits, to their lifestyle and previous engagement with the brand.
The fact that many shared vehicle concepts are digitally native – involving online sign-up or registration – gives brands the chance to gather this info right from the start. Combined with the wealth of information generated by increasingly connected cars, and there’s more information available than ever before.
Collecting this data enables businesses to deliver both hyper-personalisation, and to be proactive in how they engage with customers – both key ingredients to retention.
This could mean tailoring how they communicate with drivers, on what platform, and when – something that can be supported by conversational artificial intelligence (AI) technology. This automatically starts conversations with customers, and then manages them through procedures – from prompts to renew subscriptions, to reminders to submit receipts for any fuel used, or to upload data to confirm their driving licence is still valid.
It could also empower brands to deliver bespoke offers to drivers, tailored to their circumstances. This might involve offering lower prices for vehicle hire for times when customer data shows they are most likely to be travelling, or offering discounts on specific vehicle types that align with their lifestyle or plans – whether that’s the people carrier or the 4×4.
With so much information, and so many contact channels to cover – from phone to social media – it’s essential all of this is collated in one single place.
This enables a joined-up picture of a customer across an organisation, but also means that agent and automated tools like chatbots can deliver a fast and smooth response to any enquiries, at every stage of the customer journey. Ultimately, this reduces customer effort, delivering an experience that will stand-out in their minds, and supports them coming back time and time again.
Being able to draw on a central customer record will be particularly important in a shared vehicle world. The prospect of being able to switch vehicles, at any time, increases the chance of drivers having questions about what they’re driving. Knowing what experience a driver has with similar cars, as well as previous questions they’ve asked customer support teams, will mean agents can offer relevant, personalised and helpful responses – first time and every time.
The road ahead
The shift from possession to shared concepts is likely to only gather pace. Brands across the automotive ecosystem must ensure they’re not asleep at the wheel, and are adapting customer experience offering to keep up.
To learn more about how our experts can help you deliver CX that keep your customers on board, contact us today by emailing: CRMSE@arvato.co.uk.