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The missing piece in the Agency model puzzle.

In 2023, more car manufacturers will adopt the "Agency model". In theory, customers should benefit from it.

Transparent pricing should eliminate the need to shop around and haggle, the two experiences increasingly more car buyers don't enjoy.

It should also connect today's disjointed shopping journeys into a single enjoyable experience centred around the customer. .

Customer journey today

As a buyer, I first engage with the manufacturer. In the media, on the internet, on the OEM's website, with their call centre staff and through the emails and texts received.

Then I am handed over to a dealer, who manages my car viewing, test drive, part exchange, financing on behalf of the lender, and finally, the car handover.

Then I interact with the dealer's service department, OEM's call centre for recalls, warranty claims and assistance, another OEM's call centre for any communications through the connected car or a mobile app, the bank's call centre for anything to do with finance, and the insurance's call centre for insurance support. And if my car is an EV, also with the people who have installed my wall box and those who own the chargers on the motorway. And I receive many "helpful" emails and texts from each for the duration of the ownership and beyond.

Customer experience tomorrow

The problem is that the Agency model won't change much of this.

A dealer might enter my details into a different database, but that's about it.

My experience still wouldn't get anywhere near the simple, pleasurable and highly personalised journey when buying meat from the village butcher or a suit from the shop I have been visiting for years.

Yes, a car is not steak or a pair of trousers, but surely that should make buying and using it even more special, memorable and experiential!

The problem

Car manufacturers are smart, innovative, and forward-looking and spend incredible amounts on customer experience and digital technologies.

So what's stopping them from fixing the simple customer journeys, the success of which will determine whether they stay in business?

It seems that the reasons are on two different levels.

Some manufacturers don't even recognise they should. For them, the Agency model is just another exercise in cutting costs and improving margins. They have already installed more efficient light bulbs in the factories, switched from three to two shifts, and cut down on company cars, and reducing costs of sale is the next item on the list.

Others accept the need to improve customer experience, but various obstacles delay or stop them altogether. The following three seem to be the most prevalent.

1. Data ownership and GDPR consent

The ownership of customer data seems to be a big issue for everyone. With so many parties involved, understanding who owns which piece of customer data and which GDPR consent applies where is tough.

2. Customer ownership

The next challenge is that no party wants to give up any piece of the customer for fear of losing out. The Judgement of Solomon springs in mind here.

3. Technical integrations

During the purchase and ownership journey, the customer goes through several individual manufacturer's and dealers' websites, booking platforms, forms, CRMs, portals and applications. They all run on different technologies, are managed by many vendors and owned by the many parties in the chain.

Integrating all this customer data, tracking, and customer sessions into a connected journey seem practically impossible. The main reason is that the technical solution is typically envisaged as a big central database in the sky, requiring far more time and money than anyone can afford.

The solution

The solution isn't a central database and single ownership of customer data and GDPR. Or at least not until the manufacturers rent cars directly to customers without any 3rd party dealers or lenders involved.

It is far simpler and requires:

  1. Leaving all the data and its ownership as it is today

  2. Using a Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) platform to connect all the databases to understand where each piece of customer data and GDPR consent is stored and who owns it

  3. Using that CIAM solution to provide single sign-on functionality and GDPR consent management to all websites, mobile applications, and cars the customers use on their journeys

  4. Centralising all digital communications (not data) from across the entire buying and ownership journey into a manufacturer-owned marketing automation platform

  5. Centralising all human communications into a well-trained and well-managed call centre, supporting customers throughout the entire journey

  6. And, as a cherry on top of the cake, providing customers with an online interface that "follows them" around across all websites and apps they visit and displays their communication history, saved cars, appointments, personalised video walkarounds of vehicles, trade-ins and finance quotes, and allows them to manage all their contact details, GDPR, and marketing preferences. That also only requires a CIAM solution with a simple web application on top of it.

The advantage of this solution is that:

  • It can be implemented relatively quickly in smaller steps and gradually improved on (e.g. points 1, 2 and 3 in Phase 1, 4 in Phase 2, 5 in Phase 3 and 6 any time in between)

  • It doesn't bring the risks and costs associated with a single database solution

  • It addresses all the data ownership, GDPR, compliance and security concerns

  • All parties benefit without having to give up anything important

  • Points 4 and 5 should provide savings significant enough for dealers, lenders and other 3rd parties to make points 2 and 6 happen

And most importantly, this solution would genuinely revolutionise the customer experience, sales conversion and loyalty rates.

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