Digitisation means different things in terms of aftersales, but one area it must embrace is meeting the desire of a growing audience of customers to self-serve. It is a momentum that is building as more customers drive cars that are getting more technical and integrated with apps and connectivity.

Not every customer wants to self-serve, but to ignore the potential it offers consumers and aftersales would be a brave call.

Retail shopping has helped to drive the possibilities of self-serve into the consciousness of consumers, and this has continued to grow in motor retailing. Buying a high-value item like a car can have high levels of emotional engagement – especially used car sales, which are predominantly private purchase decisions. Enabling customers to have a choice is all-important, and motor retailers have seen the value of combining digitisation with physical experience to embrace an omnichannel approach. It is an ethos that is equally valid in aftersales.

Digitisation isn’t scary

According to Michael Widdup, Head of UK Aftersales at Inchcape UK: “Digitisation and connectivity is still in its infancy. We’re just switching on to the fact that this is our future way of retaining customers and communicating. Technological advances are going as far as self-diagnostic vehicles, so digitisation will be key to the future of the industry, especially in the automotive industry.”

However, as Alistair Jeff, Commercial Director at REALtime Communications, reflects, digitisation should not be thought of as scary. He notes: “Digitisation encapsulates physical and online processes into multiple channels that support the customer when and where and how they want. A modern dealer shouldn’t have physical and digital as separate channels, but rather have them blended seamlessly. In aftersales, this can include enabling customers to book their service requirements online, receive a digital invoice and have the capacity to pay their bill via their phone.”

It is a view that Christian Mark, CEO and Co-Founder of Tjekvik, agrees with, observing: “We’ve reached a critical point where more consumers ask for digital solutions in all walks of life, and automotive is no different. People want flexibility and choice. That’s what makes a good digital dealership.”

Moving to a future that embraces digital

Building a dealer’s digital capabilities to develop an omnichannel model should be a priority for aftersales. It can be good for dealers and consumers; improving document management, reducing environmental impact and enhancing the customer experience are just some potential benefits.

The urgency of establishing a new omnichannel aftersales model is crystalised by the emergence of EVs, whose aftersales needs are distinctly different to ICE vehicles. And the change is not just about technology, as Anders Kragelund, COO at Tjekvik, notes: “Expanding the use of digital tools requires careful planning, collaboration and communication to ensure that both service teams and customers are ready for the changes.”

Alistair Jeff concludes: “Agility is a crucial part of success in motor retailing. In aftersales, embracing increased digitisation as part of an omnichannel model can enhance a dealer’s capacity to meet customers’ emerging needs. A good dealership thrives by tailoring its approach to meet everyone’s needs, whether they are a tech-savvy user who prefers to check in online or those who like to chat with service advisors. The key is to integrate the two so that if a customer changes their mind, their information is already in their preferred channel, ready to use.

“Get it right, and customers can be delighted, with money made and costs saved.”