The pandemic and its lockdowns have no doubt changed the way we live in more ways than one. Most, if not all, classes are now conducted online, we rely on Grab to provide dinner and even fishmongers are getting into e-commerce.
The dramatic change in circumstances has also affected the way the automotive industry works; everything from sales to after-sales, manufacturing, customer service, and at Mercedes-Benz Malaysia, the company is looking to ride on the situation and accelerate its digital offense.
Speaking to the new President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Malaysia (MBM), Sagree Sardien, and Head of Sales & Marketing for Mercedes-Benz Malaysia and SEA, Michael Jopp, the new CEO relished the current situation and sees it as an opportunity instead to start focussing on different ways to approach various aspects of the business.
“The introduction of digital initiatives will be the fundamental gamechanger for the future, on how we interact and transact with our customers. We want to be able to offer end-to-end digital services, which not only includes vehicles sales but also digital after-sales services,” she said.
By 2025, Mercedes-Benz aims for 25% of its cars globally to be sold online per year; that’s 1 out of 4 Mercedes-Benz vehicles sold. A tall order but there are already steps being taken locally towards that direction.
In January this year, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia launched its first virtual showroom to showcase brand new and certified pre-owned vehicles online.
The new virtual showroom will not only allow vehicles to view vehicles up close without stepping out of their homes but also check on stock availability based on their area, request quotes and research financing options.
“Customers want speed and convenience and the lockdown has allowed us to focus on these aspects of digitalisation for a complete peace of mind,” she added.
MMB’s digital offense may have spiked in the last 18 months due to the pandemic, like most car brands in Malaysia, but it is unlikely that it will be forgotten beyond the pandemic.
“The Virtual Showroom looks different now from when it was launched as we have to keep evolving to meet our customer’s needs. There is a wider range of cars listed in the Virtual Showroom, with more details and additional features provided. Recently, we also added the “online chat” function to the Virtual Showroom,” said Jopp.
“The end goal is to make a complete online car-buying experience possible. In the future, there will be further improvements made to enhance customer experience,” he added.
Jopp also highlighted the company’s attention towards customer service by adding that most requests submitted via the Virtual Showroom are contacted by sales representatives within an hour.
CEO Sardien said the company’s accelerated digital efforts are not just for the lockdowns but will extend beyond the pandemic.
“The way we market our cars will change in the future. There will be various aspects of the business that will transition to digital. It has to happen; we have to become more efficient, effective, and more customer-centric,” CEO Sardien said.
In light of the digital transition, CEO Sardien assured that face-to-face, personal customer experience, and a seamless car-buying experience are still important to the company and that’s where its sales executives and dealerships still have a huge role to play in “online to offline” situations.
“We are not merely digitalising our operations but rather using digital as a complementary element to better serve our customers.”