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After the Thrill Has Gone: Why Automotive Needs to Work Harder on Long-Term Customer Engagement

3 minute read

Marcos Araujo, Associate Director, CX, Ipsos

Customer feedback shows that emotional engagement declines as the automotive customer lifecycle advances. So what can be done to maintain loyalty and intention to repurchase, and where should the focus be?

Rapid evolution in the automotive marketplace has made buying a vehicle increasingly complex, with multiple technologies, brands and channels to choose from. During the early stages of the customer lifecycle – consideration, purchase and delivery – automotive retailers and brands pull out all the stops to differentiate themselves from competitors and build customer confidence. But after delivery has taken place, how do dealers and brands maintain the rapport they have so carefully built with their customer?

Data gathered for the UK CX Report by Ipsos and Engage Business Media shows how customer sentiment declines throughout the automotive customer lifecycle. The study uses Ipsos’ proprietary framework, the Forces of Customer Experience, to measure the level of emotional connection between brands and customers.

There is a clear pattern in our findings. Across most of the CX Forces, the in-life experience is less positive than at the consideration, purchase and delivery phases. While declines are seen in Control and Fair Treatment, they are most notable in Status, Enjoyment and Belonging. These findings show the challenge of delivering emotionally engaging experiences over time, making it difficult for brands to sustain strong relationships and maintain loyalty. This is a concern, given that the in-life experience is by far the longest stage of the end-to-end customer journey.

Focus on in-life emotional engagement is essential

What can be done to address this? Automotive brands must leverage their technology to deliver a seamless customer experience post-purchase. For example, features like "Pay to Fuel", rolled out in 2023 for Škoda vehicles in select European markets, enables drivers to pay for fuel right from their car's infotainment screen, reinforcing customers' perception of Control and Enjoyment. Meanwhile, significant investment in AI-driven tools from luxury brands such as BMW and JLR will enable vehicles to identify current issues and forecast service needs, enhancing a sense of Certainty as well as Status.

Maintaining a strong sense of brand affiliation also requires the creation and execution of engagement and service strategies that bring customers closer, building the in-life Forces of CX to the levels seen at consideration, or higher. We can see initiatives addressing this elsewhere in the auto market. For example, Kwik Fit won the 2021 NTDA award for product innovation for launching its Kwik Fit Club – a monthly subscription model that gives customers access to premium tyre options and servicing while spreading out costs. They positioned this as shifting customers from a cure to a prevention model that is normally quicker, cheaper and safer in the long run. We would also expect it to strengthen relationships by improving customers’ perceptions of Certainty (knowing exactly what they are paying each year), Control (selecting the subscription level that works for them), and increasing their sense of Status (access to premium tyres) and Belonging (via the club model).

Three things that automotive businesses can be doing right now:

  • Measuring how effective the Forces of Customer Experience are in your organisation.
  • Revisiting customer experience and service maps to remediate problems, identify quick wins, and create opportunities for building emotional connection post-delivery. Remember to look at journeys from a dealer/employee perspective – what support do they need?
  • Establish a clear return on CX investment model for in-life engagement, to evidence your business case, quantify the commercial benefits and prioritise actions.

To find out more, you can reach out to Marcos directly:

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