Founded in South Korea in 1944, Kia Motors Corporation is the nation's oldest manufacturer of motor vehicles. The brand came to the UK in 1991 and has continued to grow ever since, now operating through 190+ dealerships, with the Kia UK line-up currently consisting of 19 models - ranging from small city cars to large SUVs, with engine options that include full-electric, a range of hybrid vehicles, petrol and diesel.
But even for such a well-known brand, building consumer trust in the automotive sector can be a challenge. Buying a car is one of the biggest purchases people will make in their lifetime, and it's often one of the most emotive, so there is an emphasis in the trade to try and build an emotional connection with customers to ensure that they feel reassured and confident in their purchase.
David Hart, Customer Experience Manager at Kia UK Limited, leads a team of customer experience improvement managers at the company trying to do just this. The team has been using so-called ‘CX' (customer experience) technology to try and achieve this - with a tactic of sharing positive Kia owner and driver sentiment. Hart says:
We knew our customers loved our products, but we didn't have the ability to share reviews with future customers. These reviews offer genuine verified customer testimonials to help inform new customers and reinforce their purchasing decisions, and we recognized that we needed a complete reviews platform that could be fully integrated into our website and dealer websites.
Customers who engage with reviews, and who are directed towards reviews, correlate directly to conversion or other actions taken and an increased level of engagement. Our overall marketing/CX objective here, then, was to use independent customer reviews from real Kia owners as positive advocacy on Kia.com/uk to drive search, traffic, engagement and conversion to the brand.
However, with so many dealerships across the UK and so many thousands of customers investigating Kia's latest models online and in person, the task of collating all this individual feedback was not a trivial task. The brand also wanted to ensure every customer has a personalized experience and to feel that they have a voice, Hart told diginomica.
Connecting reviews and further action
This is all being aided by the work Kia is doing with a reviews and CX platform solution from a company called Feefo, which utilizes AI technology and data analytics tools to better understand customers. The vendor showed Kia research demonstrating that over 90% of customers use reviews in some way, and that 50% of consumers are more likely to choose a brand if reviews are authenticated by a third party.
To Hart and his team, such metrics prove the connection between reviews and further action taken by prospective customers. They also suggested Kia's website would potentially benefit from customer dwell time and the trust placed in a ratified third-party opinion. A final key factor in the software being selected, he adds, is an ‘invite-only approach', that means customers would have access to reliable and independent feedback from Kia owners ahead of making any purchasing decision.
Has it worked? It's a definite green signal from Hart:
Our new CX platform not only helps us collect accurate reliable reviews, but also provides us with the technology we need to turn feedback into actionable insights. We're also able to gain a deeper understanding of what customers value and use this to adapt and develop our future products and services.
The ability to implement on-page product reviews for different car models has also helped improve the functionality of our website and enhance our overall digital customer experience, while the platform's AI technology helps display the most relevant reviews for certain products at the right time, allowing shoppers to find the feedback and the extra reassurance they need. Finally, reviews are fully customizable to our branding, providing a seamless experience."
The power of sentiment analysis
AI isn't doing just that, it turns out: Kia UK says it's using the supplier's sentiment analysis functionality to analyze customer sentiment and identify customer opinions on specific model features across the Kia range. Hart says:
We need to understand how customers feel about the latest developments and channel this into future plans or adapt our services accordingly. This helps to improve our products across a broad spectrum, which is particularly important as we bring out new models.
A case in point is the company's push in the electric vehicles (EV) market. With many drivers looking to purchase such a car, the Customer Experience team recently used the CX platform to understand feedback from EV and non-EV owners, which was then shared with the product development team who are implementing this feedback to develop future trim grades. Finally, every quarter now, the team shares the data and insights gathered by the platform with both senior management but also its dealer network.
That's because in this industry, dealers are extremely important, of course-and is another area of company close attention, Hart stresses:
Our dealer service ratings are consistently high at 4.6 out of five, while our product rating is 4.7 out of five. By adding service ratings to our dealer websites soon, we'll be able to allow customers to choose a dealer based on their service provision. Seeing the value that real-time feedback can provide, our network of dealers has consistently voted Kia highly amongst its competitors.
Cross-functional and collaborative implementation
Next steps for AI and CX at the company include continuing to improve the Kia digital presence and elevate its customer experience. It also hopes to gain a consolidated view via surveys and reviews of customer experience that will be used to help identify any ‘pain points' customers may experience across their journey and offer resolutions at each stage.
And last but not least, cross-functional and collaborative implementation is a part of a wider digital transformation strategy at Kia, Hart notes, so several departments also leverage insights from the platform, such as Marketing, Web, Contact Centre and Data Strategy teams, who all get results to ensure they each have access to customer feedback and can act on it.
The software is also part of the car maker's response to the global health crisis in the UK. Hart adds:
COVID-19 meant it was more important than ever to listen to our customers. By sending out surveys via the CX platform, we were able to gain valuable insights into their feelings and experiences during this challenging time. This feedback has proven invaluable as we emerge from lockdown and look to make permanent changes to our CX strategy.