No matter how Louwman’s end customer seeks contact: all underlying processes are done via one system. The technology that makes this possible will be rolled out over the dealerships in the coming months. Operational director of the Louwman Dealer Group, Patrick van Meerwijk explains:
From a customer perspective, it is not at all relevant how contact is made, as is the reasoning at Patrick van Meerwijk. “If a customer contacts, he or she chooses the way that fits best. For some, that’s the phone, while another prefers to email or send an app. “Another one just wants to be able to walk in. As a dealer group with different locations and a multitude of people who communicate through all kinds of different channels, how are you going to ensure that the customer is always optimally served?”
In search of the best customer experience, Van Meerwijk came into conversation with the people behind Autofacets. Together they visited Autofacets customer Bertel O. Steen in Norway. Like Louwman, that company combines the import and retail functions. A number of brands are fed by both Louwman and Bertel O. Steen, so there are parallels there too. A final and not insignificant element is that they are both family businesses. “This background draws the vision and direction of Eric Louwman. For him, it’s all about the customer and that’s what the whole company has to put forward. That vision and the search for digitization do not automatically go well together. ”
That requires an explanation. “Many digital projects in the automotive industry revolve around the provider and not the customer. Our first question is always: what’s in it for the customer? ” In order to optimally serve the customer within a dealer group of the format such as Louwman, good data management is a requirement. Regardless of when and by what means the customer is reaching out, the right and the most up-to-date data must be central. “The trick, despite the size of the company, is to give the customer a personal experience.”
To achieve this, the total customer journey has been mapped out to see how that customer can best be helped. “I’m not looking for solutions,” says Van Meerwijk. This statement is reminiscent of Henry Ford when he stated that consumers mostly wanted a faster horse before the arrival of the car. A solution is rarely an answer to the question behind the question. And that’s exactly what Louwman wants to achieve.
The result is more than just knotted systems. And Louwman, just like any dealer group, uses a variety of dealer management systems. “By tying systems together, you run the risk that the speed will go out. I don’t think that’s acceptable.” Autofacets therefore works with decentralized systems that are constantly updated in the background with the most up-to-date information. In ordinary human language: there is a central container of data for all customer contacts. This provides the 360 degree customer view that is so important in marketing terms. It does not matter whether the customer is at the counter or makes contact by telephone. The websites are of course also part of this masterplan, as is the customer contact center. The main thing is that we don’t push a channel, the customer chooses what the customer wants to use. ”
The customer can always view and change their own data via a shielded environment. This is an online environment that adapts to the platform used (phone, tablet or PC). “The individual parts are not new,” Van Meerwijk acknowledges. “The thought of bundling everything is also not new. ” I haven’t come across the overall picture like this before.”
Although all business units benefit from this platform, there is significant profit on the after-sales side. Thanks to the technology, the customer who makes an appointment online can now also do this outside office hours. An appointment is scheduled based on the available information and any requests from the customer. The customer already sees prices and after agreement a work order is created. “That work order is directly in the technician’s iPad when he needs to start the job. That also saves the workshop receptionist time. In the old situation, sometimes up to 37 screens had to be gone through to schedule a workshop visit. That is not efficient and can lead to errors. ” Does the customer want replacement transport? That can be arranged immediately. “You can even go so far that the customer is already allocated a parking space and also knows in which box the loan car is located. This means that the mechanic also knows where the next car is and does not have to search. You shouldn’t underestimate the efficiency gains of that kind of thing.” It is also possible to work more efficiently during the work itself. Will additional work emerge that requires customer approval? With the iPad, the technician/mechanic can show the customer what is going on. “By agreement, the customer can give the confirmation digitally.”
Such an intelligent system must also have knowledge of any tailor-made agreements. To make this possible, a dynamic pricing module is active that links the right prices to the right activities and the right customer. An important role in the overall picture is reserved for artificial intelligence, called AI for short, after the English abbreviation. “We also use chatbots to answer frequently asked customer questions,” says Van Meerwijk. “I personally find the quality of many of these systems to be inadquate. We have now reached a level where it is very difficult to distinguish between one of the employees and the chatbot. ”
“It’s a self-learning system,” says Ashit Shah, CEO of Autofacets. “We have fed it not only with countless/numerous scenarios, but also with a certain intelligence to independently draw conclusions and make decisions autonomously.” Of course within certain bandwidths and with the possibility of correction where necessary, according to the gentlemen. “However, the aim is to intervene as little as possible, the faster the system learns.”
The roll-out of the system has now started after successfully completing the pilot phase. In the coming months it will be implemented in phases at the various locations.