The connected car market is booming as consumers choose for vehicles that offer them the comforts and convenience of a wide range of digital innovations. Numerous car manufacturers are, however, missing out on this business, research by BearingPoint shows. According to the firm, many producers lack the needed support services available throughout the day, tech savvy support staff able to provide customers with information about their product, and strong ‘vehicle on boarding’ practices for new buyers regarding the digital feature.
The connected car market is expected to grow 204% from 2016’s €40.3 billion to €122.6 billion in 2021. The over-large part of the development of connected cars will be focused on features relating to safety and automation. However, entertainment, wellbeing and vehicle & mobility management features will also play a considerable part. According to BearingPoint, 80% of all new vehicles will be connected to digital services by 2020, and this year a wide range of connected services are already installed on new cars. The rapid adoption of the technology means that a certain level of maturity has reached the market, with connected features becoming the norm rather than an addition to new vehicles.
A new BearingPoint report, titled ‘Upgrade customer services, or risk falling behind’, considers the consequences of the normalisation of connected car features on the wider services ecosystem. The firm’s analysis looks at how far the customer services offering of major brands meets the needs and expectation of consumers and their recently acquired connected vehicles. The study finds that the added value of connected cars is firmly understood by customers, whose choice in vehicle will now likely come to rest on the one that supplies superior infotainment and a system that tells them about upcoming congestion or the availability of local parking.
The addition of connected features brings with it additional complexity for the customer, who now may have in-depth questions about how to operate their new vehicle. In the past, questions tended to be related to complaints, warranty questions, product information or dealer issues. Today, a large number of additional issues have come to the fore, from vehicle software upgrades, remote diagnostics, connectivity issues, access, passwords and security issues, account management and set up, among others.
The increase in connectivity places an increased burden on the customer services representatives that come to deal with those issues. To find out in how far the top brands in France, Germany and the UK fare in dealing with their customers’ enquiries regarding connected features, the consulting firm contacted the vehicle manufactures’ support lines, website and call centres, with various questions about the brands’ connectivity offerings – scoring their respective performances. The research highlights that support for connectivity features is the best offered in the UK (5.0 average), followed by Germany (4.9 average) and France last (4.3 average). The researchers also find that German and UK consumers are considerably more interested in connectivity, with the French market only recently opening up for many of the manufacturers.
The reputation of German brand B is the most advanced across all market, scoring 7.7 in the UK, followed by 7.3 in Germany. brands G and I also had strong performances in the UK (both at 6.8). Many players even in the UK have relatively weak connected vehicle services offerings, and call centres are, for the most part, better at providing services than websites. Finding information on how a feature works is one of the biggest challenges for most call centre staff – suggesting that they need to be better trained to deal with technical questions regarding respective vehicles.
Differentiation with respect to service is one way in which vehicle manufactures can set themselves apart from the pack. Given the relatively large capital investment new cars represent, providing a strong customer services line is likely to increase loyalty as well as brand reputation. Further, providing a strong service support allows manufactures to build a more personal relationship with their customers, as well as the opportunity to leverage new revenue streams. Streamlining the customer services channels to provide customers with their need with respect to their connectivity questions and issues therefore needs to be taken seriously, BearingPoint stresses. “Customers recognise the value of a connected experience. To win brand loyalty, car manufacturers need to transform their customer support and make sure that they connect customers to their connected cars,” explains Sarah-Jayne Williams, BearingPoint Partner and study author.