Transforming customer experience for tyre retail
By Kazutoshi Oyama*
Do you own a vehicle? If you do, or have owned one before, think back to the last time you spent time visiting an automotive shop – be it a service centre, or even your own local mechanic. Chances are, like most people out there, your experience was time consuming, perhaps taking up about two to three hours? This is a common symptom in the automotive industry, one which – thankfully – brands are starting to take notice of.
The Customer Experience is everything in a digital world. Why is this shift taking place? The digitisation of the economy. In today’s world – accelerated by connectivity – customers are expecting better and more seamless experiences as they interact with a brand. Today, brands which design a great pre-sales experience but serve up a terrible one post-sales, will get called out by their customers. Simply put, the customer is smarter, better connected, and more demanding as a result.
Research by Adobe has shown that the customer experience is everything, and indeed, one of the most valuable brand equity assets there are. Research has shown that a good customer experience improves loyalty, as well as creates significant uplift in brand engagement and many other key business indicators. At the same time, with disruption being a key theme of the digital economy, brands who are able to delight the customer at the end of the day will win their loyalty – regardless of whether you’re a 100-year organization or just a 2-year start-up.
Changing tyre retail
You might think that tyre retail can operate the way it’s always done, but at Bridgestone, we’re starting to look at this differently. The team at Bridgestone has embarked on initiatives to transform the tyre and automotive retail experience when customers come to do business. Moving away from traditional business practices, the team at Bridgestone is creating environments and experiences which aim to delight the customer as they continue to return for their needs.
With an eye on the next five years, Bridgestone recognises that it is not in the tyre business, but rather, in the retail business. This means competing with the customer experience of companies like Tesco, Nordstrom, Burberry and many more. While a bold statement, redefining the space that we play in allows the company mindset to be open to new innovations that it typically wouldn’t have considered.
The whole transformation of the retail experience has to start with the customer, with the bigger business goal in mind being about customer acquisition and retention. To do so, we’re moving away from transactional business practices. Instead of looking at customers being touch-and-go, we start to look at customer life cycles, understanding when they are likely to return, and for what needs. We want to create an environment where the customer looks forward to coming back to Bridgestone for his or her automotive maintenance needs, much like how shoppers love to keep flocking back to their favourite fashion boutiques.
One of the concepts being tested out by our Thailand counterparts is the creation of the ACT tyre store, in which customer experiences are continually being improved. Some of the features of this brand new retail experience include:
Exemplary customer service: Bridgestone employees greet customers as they enter the store, in order to find out what they need. Additionally, the staff use mobile applications to help speed up the process of customer service. This makes it feel more like a high-end fashion retail experience, or even a hotel! The aim, of course, is to delight the customer from the offset
Retail Merchandise: The retail stores have a wall or corner where Bridgestone merchandise from our retail partners including motor oil, automotive batteries, and more. While customers wait, we can provide them with some value for their time through initiatives such as these
That’s on the front end, but what about the back-end? We also know that, despite how fun a store can be, customers still don’t want to spend that much time with us whilst waiting for their cars to be serviced. Thus, we are testing out and applying lean manufacturing principles, combined with technology, to speed up vehicle diagnosis and subsequent repair.
In stores, vehicle inspections are conducted with a digital inspection platform that provides an alignment and tire check using a laser-based drive-over inspection system, tire pressure check, car battery check, and fluid level check. Automation means that we can reduce the inspection process to as little as two or three minutes. And on overall, an oil change that typically takes 45 minutes can be completed in 15.
This is another crucial element to customer delight – helping them save on one of the most precious commodities: time. No more will customers dread to bring their vehicles for servicing – we want them to look forward to and enjoy the process!
Can we make this even better? Yes, with the use of data. The vehicle inspection data, already done by machine, is captured digitally, into a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. By aggregating and analyzing this data, it’s pretty simple to predict when a vehicle will be due for service again, allowing us to trigger communications to remind customers that it’s time for another visit. Customers appreciate this sort of service, and allows them to rest in peace knowing that we are really invested in helping them look after their vehicle!
Eye on the future: As mentioned earlier, all the above is done with one eye on the future and one eye in the present. As we move forward on this, we have to continue to design, test and further optimize service delivery and operating models. Improving the customer experience will be a never-ending process.
* Kazutoshi Oyama is Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Administrative Officer at Bridgestone Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd.