Uncertainty with cars.

Is Your Cat Hiding? Here’s Why — And What to Do

Hiding is common and oftentimes just silly and normal cat behavior. So, why is your cat hiding? Does cat hiding ever indicate something serious?

Obviously, my article is not about cats but cars and a rather annoying experience I am currently undergoing as I’ve ordered one of these. Since then the dealer seems to be hiding.  So let’s start at the beginning.

Car producers and car brands are without any question among the high performers when it comes to engineering, branding, advertising, and keeping customers engaged but nevertheless, even they suck from time to time. It all starts already with the wonderful tool of online configurators. This beautiful thing where you as an interested customer can create your fully equipped 100k + € car – that most users will never buy but that gives value to even the lowest-priced car you can select in the end. Because it’s the premium/ luxury dream that creates this desire. – BUT

why are all configurators the same?  Why can I not select big 22“ wheels with the multimedia system? Why can I not have blue color with heated seats? I mean yes I understand this all has to be reflected in the backend and it would create millions of possibilities to configure a car and equally many possibilities to build it after that. But why would you then give any potential customer the impression of being able to create the car they want and why are the impossible combinations always as strange as described – no xenon lights in combination with better breaks. I mean wtf? Why?

Jaguar selection breaks

As I was researching quite a lot of cars – so following the typical customer journey of a car buyer, next to Jaguar I also stumbled across the configurators of AUDI, Mercedes (with nothing new to add) and the ones of TESLA and Polestar which were refreshingly different. Both have around five or six steps with maybe two or three options per step and a straight forward configuration process.

Polestar Configurator

So less is more. Of course, we don’t have to push it as far as Ford once did by saying „You can have every color as long as it’s black.“ But the current approach of most configurators frustrates and in the worst-case destroys the ambition for a bigger car with a horrible user experience.

Choice architecture is an art of itself. Tesla for example has limited choice to a number of selections, which is clear and simple for the customer. (And remember Steve Jobs when he got back to Apple and slashed the product portfolio down to a simple private/professional vs. desktop/portable matrix… simplicity.) Also, choices should embed a clear rationale: Customers seem less likely to expect why special wheels have to be charged for another 250 EUR when the car itself costs more than 80k. 

Just to share some numbers on user experience in general:

So to continue with my experience. I’ve ordered the car (by mail) as everything has to be done by mail currently due to COVID19 and – nothing.

For days. Nothing.

Not even a short mail reply thanks for your e-Mail – we will get back to you as soon as we can.

No simply nothing.

Then after a week.

An E-mail with five attachments and the following copy: „Hello Mr. Kunkel thank you very much for your order. Please find attached the contract. Print it twice, sign it and send it to us.“

Okay, at least they received my order. Let’s do this. So I printed the 124 pages twice. Signed them and send them to the dealer by mail. Let me ask the question again why did they not send me the contract? Why did they not invite me to the dealer to sign it? (There was no lockdown back then) And why do I have to do the heavy lifting to print 250 pages and send them by mail?

But it doesn’t stop here.

Currently, we are back to no comms. After I send them the contract I didn’t receive anything. I send an additional two emails and tried to call them three times until I reached the person in charge to ask if everything arrived well and until when I could expect the car, the invoice, and the handover.

And I simply don’t understand this. They seem to be hiding from me like a cat hunting for prey. And this uncertainty of waiting and not knowing anything truly sucks. In fact, from a behavioral science perspective, the avoidance of uncertainty (ambiguity) is a key driver to choose the known over the unknown even though the known might potentially be the worse choice.

Clear communication is everything, especially when we are talking about these kinds of investments. A look into customer experience metrics clearly shows that customers demand clarity. This includes outlining clear steps as well as talking to a customer in layman’s terms. And even at this stage, the buyer begins to connect the dots: If communications during the buying process – where I want to spend money – feels like pain, how will I behave if I really have a problem? 

No problem here from a sales perspective one might argue as I already ordered. But really is this so? Or is the possibility of me not recommending the brand I ordered my car from not the much more pressing issue here as my experience is really getting worse with every day that I am waiting for – similar to what we all experienced with the votes being counted in the 2020 US elections. 

Recent studies by consultancies show that especially more connected car drivers don’t want to be treated like “being transacted to” anymore. Keep in mind that buying a car is a huge commitment – even more so in times of Covid-19, where the urge of individual (and safe) commute met uncertainty in terms of jobs and income.  

Brands cannot allow to drop and neglect the customer after a sale, because during the first days and weeks of ownership, the customer really wants confirmation that his choice was right. Nurturing this relationship by providing an excellent post-sale experience is crucial. Investing in improving this experience will pay off when a customer considers a new vehicle after a 2-year lease because circumstances have changed. 

So what could be a solution? Actually, car producers should learn from e-commerce – by keeping your customers informed.

We received your order. Your parcel has been shipped. Your package has just been delivered how was your experience?

Or even better from crowd-fundings with keeping your customers and supporters engaged:

Thanks for your funding. This week we finalized the prototype. Check our latest blog entry on material quality. We started mass production. Our first five orders have been delivered – read how funders perceived our product. Give us feedback on your first experience with the innovation – what could we improve further?

It seems quite strange from my perspective and experience in CRM, automotive, and CX that this is not the case already. But it’s an opportunity to raise customer engagement, customer experience, and overall recommendations and retention.
And it’s a rather low hanging fruit that could be solved with a CRM journey (push) or an online tool for consumers (self-service) that informs them on the current status of their order, how long it might still take and what they can expect next. Just to mention some benefits.

In the end, it makes the cat visible and gives consumers clarity and me, piece of mind because I would finally know how much longer I will have to wait and what will happen next.

Thanks a lot to my colleague Jan for writing this article together with me.

We are happy for any feedback or perspectives on this.

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