In the mid-1990s, Infiniti ranked among the worst luxury brands in customer-experience surveys.
“You can’t operate that way,” says Jon Finkel, global director of Infiniti Client Experience.
So Nissan’s premium brand set out to fix that through various initiatives, including dealer reward and accountability programs. It saw progress, reaching as high as No.2 on a J.D. Power customer satisfaction ranking and No.5 most recently.
Now, the Japanese brand is putting money into an industry-first mobile app called ICAR-X. Used in conjunction with a computer tablet and other mobile devices, it is designed to speed up vehicle selection, buying, financing and delivery, and ultimately please customers.
Infiniti says it is the first auto brand to develop such a fully integrated digital platform. “It mitigates pain points along the way and lets shoppers proceed at their own pace,” Finkel says. “It puts power in their hands.”
The length of time spent during the sales process “is a critical driver of client satisfaction,” Finkel says. “Infiniti developed ICAR-X to eliminate many of the redundancies and inefficiencies inherent in today’s vehicle purchase process that typically frustrate clients.”
Customers’ desired times may vary for the delivery process, which consists of going over vehicle features and wrapping up paperwork once a shopper has settled on a vehicle.
“We say, ‘Mr. Customer, you tell us,’” Finkel says at a Thought Leadership Summit session on innovative technology. “The salesperson goes through what the customer wants. So later, when a customer survey asks, ‘Did the salesperson spend enough time with you at the vehicle delivery?” the answer must be, “Yes.”
Dealers served on the ICAR-X development team. Consequently, the dealer adaption rate has been high, Finkel says. Moreover, Infiniti covered development costs. “We didn’t charge dealers, although the tablet application cost millions of dollars to develop.”
When a shopper inputs information online or in-person at an Infiniti retailer, the contact information is stored in the app for up to 30 days including vehicle interest, trims and location. If a client visits a different Infiniti retailer, their information is still available through the ICAR-X app.
Shoppers can review local retailer inventory and price points in real time. Each VIN-specific vehicle listing includes a detailed description of features and packages.
Once shoppers select a vehicle they are interested in, the salesperson can contact the lot porter to obtain the vehicle for a test drive. At the dealership, a sales consultant can use ICAR-X to review the client’s pre-selected vehicle interest and preferences. This allows for a customized vehicle presentation.
Once shoppers decide on a specific vehicle, ICAR-X allows them to submit their credit application, review financing and leasing options and begin negotiating a deal electronically in real-time. The sales consultant can remain with the client throughout the entire negotiation process.
As financing is finalized, buyers can review a VIN-specific delivery checklist in ICAR-X to prioritize features they’d like to review with their sales consultant during the final walk-around.
Nissan dealers will get a similar application soon. Also in the works is an artificial-intelligence enhancement. “It would be much more anticipatory,” Finkel says.