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When you think about buying a car, what comes to mind? For many, a typical customer journey looks something like this: Online research, followed by conversations with well-meaning friends and family. Then, a shortlist of three to five favorites. And finally, test drives at the dealership.
That final step has been a little tricky lately. With COVID-19 mandating businesses to close and citizens to stay indoors, in-person customer service interactions are largely off the table — leaving dealerships stuck in neutral. Car sales are already projected to decline this year. The number of automotive shoppers in the first half of March fell by 25% year over year, according to USA Today.
It’s clear the automotive industry needs to quickly shift gears to accommodate the new norm.
And those gears just might be virtual.
Dilawri gets it. Showcasing 32 brands at 74 locations, Dilawri is Canada’s largest car dealership group. In the weeks following the pandemic, Dilawri has fast-tracked technology projects to improve their online customer experience. Acquire is one of those projects. Dilawri’s employees will use Acquire across all its locations to communicate with customers remotely via live chat, chatbots, video chat, and cobrowsing.
We sat down with Dilawri’s David Boots, VP of Strategic Development, and Kirk Linkletter, Head of Digital Strategy and Integration, to dive into Dilawri’s digital transformation efforts during this time. Here’s why Dilawri decided to use Acquire:
Car sales rely heavily on the in-person experience. Walking the showroom and taking the latest models for a spin make the purchase process come to life. With social distancing keeping customers remote, Dilawri needed a way to recreate the in-person experience online. Enter Acquire.
“This more immediate need to interact remotely with our customers led us to evaluate the Acquire platform,” Boots said.
Dilawri will use Acquire to engage customers across various stages in their sales funnel using website chat, cobrowsing, chatbots, and video. For customers who can’t make it to a physical location but want to see cars up close and personal, Dilawri reps plan to conduct video tours around their lots. Acquire’s support and sales bots will help Dilawri stay connected with online visitors 24/7.
“Website chat will help us generate new inquiries and leads, cobrowsing allows us to explain vehicle options to potential customers, and video chat will allow us to conduct remote vehicle walkarounds,” Linkletter said. “Out of the gate, the sales bot will help us engage customers after hours and we look forward to exploring our use cases for the service bot.”
Today’s buyers want to interact with businesses instantly and seamlessly across all channels — digital and physical. Beyond an immediate need to connect with buyers, Dilawri also wanted a platform that would help them improve their omnichannel customer experience.
“As an automotive retailer, we fundamentally believe that a great customer experience is about transparency, flexibility and convenience,” Boots said.
To that end, Acquire fits in nicely with Dilawri’s goals, because the Acquire Platform enables Dilawri to connect with customers across a variety of channels, without the need for dozens of different tools.
“The all-in-one solution Acquire delivers for our requirements was definitely high on our decision list,” Linkletter said. “Instead of trying to manage multiple solutions where our customer interactions would be fragmented, Acquire allows us to deliver multiple experiences within a single platform. The breadth of functionality is superior to other solutions, including features such as cobrowsing and bots that were not even in our original requirements list.”
Boots added, “We also envision a future where we integrate other systems via the Acquire APIs to create even more immersive interactions with our customers.”
Ultimately, Dilawri wants to build a customer service function that better caters to millennials and younger generations. And speed, along with convenience, is key with these groups. According to Salesforce, 22% of millennials expect to get a response to customer support requests within 10 minutes. They also prefer self-service, and may not even want to step inside a dealership. Dilawri wants to make sure they have options for these customers.
“We see Acquire as a central component to online customer engagement,” Boots said. “Customer behavior has been changing for some time and we see a new demographic, namely millennials, becoming the predominant segment of vehicle purchasers. Acquire will provide us a new channel to engage our tech- and social-savvy customers that is both familiar and personal, without necessarily standing inside a dealership.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses and industries to change how they do things. It’s tempting to fall into a knee-jerk reaction and charge forward with rapid-fire technological implementations just as a stopgap. But Boots and Linkletter urge their peers to be objective.
“In our case, we could have patched together several fragmented technologies that would likely get us through the current challenges,” Boots said. “However, remote interaction is also part of a longer-term vision for us so we sought a solution with longevity. There is no point in throwing out the hard work that goes into bringing a solution to market if there is a long-term benefit to that solution.”
For Dilawri, that benefit is the transformation of their digital customer experience.
“Our goal is to provide our customers with an unparalleled experience whenever and however they engage with us to purchase a vehicle,” Linkletter said. “This is true of our physical dealerships and, increasingly, our digital presence. We believe that Acquire will help us achieve this goal as a technology partner that will equip our people with several tools to interact with their customers.”