That New Car Smell and Invisible Customer Service

That New Car Smell and Invisible Customer Service

Not all customer service needs to be red carpet, or concierge service. Sometimes invisible customer service is the best and what the customer wants. Credit unions may need to consider whether their members need much more than this in general.

By Kevin Smith

That New Car Smell and Invisible Customer Service

Yes. This is my actual car. Pretty, isn’t it?

So, I just bought a new car recently, a 2020 Suburu Outback. And in case you think that this sounds a bit bragg-y, this car is a replacement for a 2006 Minivan with 165K miles, a rebuilt transmission, and in my favorite color (my favorite color = paid for). No, I’m not a new car every year kind of guy. For anyone that knows me this is a “no kidding” moment if there ever was one.

I’ve been reflecting on the experience of buying a new car and how much that’s changed over the years, even before the Minivan. And I’ve been comparing this with my experience working with credit unions as they try to engage with their members and compete with other providers.

90% of the buying experience was done before we even walked on a dealer lot. My wife and I narrowed down our options to 3-4 that suited our needs. We did research online and pretty much knew what we wanted and what we were going to pay when we left the house.

Our biggest decision was in comparing the low miles 2019 version on the lot and the brand new 2020. (You know how that ended).

Can a Car Salesperson Be Model?

Dealing with car salespeople is the stuff of legends. Stereotypes abound of greasy hucksters and high-pressure tactics but as you all know the world has changed. Our experience with the dealer, the salesperson, the finance person, the showroom manager, everyone, was … well, fine. They neither over- nor under-whelmed. They just whelmed us. (Can you do that? Just whelm? I like it.)

Here’s the thing, the salesperson literally took a backseat to let the product sell itself. He watched as we drove and supported the process from the back seat, showing us what we couldn’t find immediately and explaining as questions arose. He melted into the background. So much of the technology is intuitive these days. It was hands-on experiential learning (a blog post topic for another day, thanks @amyclimer).

And the technology of the new car was very overwhelming to me, a guy who was hanging on to the 2006 minivan with all his might. It’s very cool. When I sit in the car, it scans and knows it’s me and automatically adjusts my seat and mirrors to my settings. And that’s just ONE THING! The car sold itself … with a little bit of human support.

Invisible Service to Create Raving Fans

Am I a raving fan? Well, the car has less than 200 miles on it yet so we’ll have to wait and see, but all signs point to “yes” so far. Will I send people to that dealership? You bet yer bippy I will!

I didn’t need or want to have my socks knocked off with customer service. I wanted my needs met as easily as possible and wanted the support exactly when I needed it (not too early, and certainly not too late. My boss calls this the ZMOT, zero moment of truth).

For credit unions out there – I worry that we’re missing a great customer member-service option in letting the product sell itself and in having the right awareness of member needs to support them along the path, from the backseat. (No, I don’t want a latte. I want you to make sure my deposit cleared and get me my replacement debit card five minutes ago.)

Is there opportunity in invisibility? (Marketing people, just bite your tongues. This is not about branding. Note my very first sentence.) Do people really need red carpet service at their PFI?

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