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29 Jul 19

How Mercedes woos the company car driver – physically and digitally

A seamless customer journey, linking digital to physical while offering a premium customer experience across the board: that is what Mercedes-Benz wants to offer its discerning customers with a concept called Best Customer Experience 4.0. Fleet Europe went to the brand’s flagship store in The Hague to find out what this means for the company car driver.

As everything in retail shifts from physical to digital, car makers and their dealers need to reconsider the way they interact with their customers. Showroom traffic is declining as people gather information on the internet, where they can configure the car of their dreams whenever and wherever they want, not just during business hours and at a specific location.
 
Most customers still go to the dealer’s to finalise the order, possibly adding insurance and finance, and take delivery of their car a few weeks or months later. That too is about to change, though.

Mercedes Me I.D.

Mercedes-Benz even predicts that by 2025, a quarter of all its sales will be online. To accommodate these and other digital transactions, Mercedes-Benz has created the Mercedes Me I.D. Once you have signed up, you can use the bespoke app to configure your car, select your dealer, browse in the national vehicle stock and sign the order form, for instance. Every transaction is registered in your account, from vehicle purchase to maintenance and repair all the way through to connected services.

In fact, you don’t even have to drive a Mercedes to benefit from a Mercedes Me I.D. You can use it to purchase mobility solutions, too, such as Reach Now for multimodal transport, Charge Now for charging, Free Now for taxi ride-hailing, Park Now for parking and Share Now for car-sharing. For the latter five services, Daimler has joined hands with BMW to benefit from economies of scale and leverage each other’s knowledge and network.

Lessor or driver: who owns the I.D.?

This all sounds very interesting and Mercedes assures its users that “in line with the core value of the brand - security - the company pays special attention to the protection of customer data and great importance is attached to transparency and responsible handling of data. Customers always decide for themselves which services they want to use and which data they want to share”.
 
In a leasing context, things are a bit more complicated. The car is owned by the leasing company and leased to their corporate customer, but the real user is the employee. Who has to give consent and which data are passed on? Can (some) of these data (mileage, service need, malfunctions, etc) be used by the leasing company? To clarify things, we contacted Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart.

“The Mercedes Me I.D. exclusively addresses natural persons, i.e. the driver of the car. Nonetheless, the leasing company, who owns the car, would have to agree to the driver’s use of Mercedes Me Connect for their car. We will then provide the service to the individual customer only – not to the leasing company. In this situation, the driver is the one who is in control of the services he or she wants to use”, a spokesperson stated.

“The protection of the personal data of our customers is an important concern for us. Which data is processed in connection with the digital vehicle services depends on which services the customer uses. In the Mercedes Me Connect terms of use, we make transparent to the customer what we need his data for and how we process it. He determines which services he wants to use and which data he wants to pass on - either by consent, by contract or at the push of a button. That is also true for providing data to the leasing company.”

Connectivity for the fleet manager and leasing company

In short, the Mercedes Me I.D. focuses on the driver, not the owner or fleet manager. For the latter, Mercedes has developed Connect Business. “Mercedes-Benz Connectivity Services GmbH develops and offers connectivity services and digital solutions to manage their fleets. While drivers can take advantage of the Digital Driver’s Log and intelligent privacy management functions, fleet managers have the ability to holistically manage and steer their fleets based on fleet-relevant real-time data”, Mercedes-Benz explained.

“The services Vehicle Monitoring Maintenance for all relevant consumption, diagnostic and vehicle status data, the GPS-based functions of Vehicle Logistics, real-time traffic data with Live Traffic Information and the messaging service Driver Messaging are at their disposal.  Unlike Mercedes Me Connect, these services are not addressed to the driver but to the corporate fleet manager and the company. The usage of the data is regulated in a contract between the company and Mercedes-Benz Connectivity Services GmbH.”

The driver is not involved in any contractual matters. “Regarding data protection, the contractual setup is ‘data processing on behalf’: Mercedes-Benz Connectivity Services GmbH processes the data of the fleet customer on his behalf, meaning that the customer is the controller from a data protection point of view. For this reason, the customer can decide who else should have access to the data, e.g. a leasing company or fleet management company.”

The human touch

As to the rare physical customer touch points that will remain, Mercedes-Benz wants to make sure they are memorable. Best Customer Experience 4.0 therefore does away with the conventional split between sales and after sales and shuffles the cards in the dealer staff department.
 
It starts with the customer's car being automatically recognised through its registration as soon as they enter the parking lot. What follows is a personalised welcome message and parking space attribution. Once you enter the building, a Star Assistant will welcome you and register the purpose of your visit. She or he will direct you to the loungy waiting area, where a product wizzard - not a sales guy - will come and pick you up and tell you all you need to know. Unless of course you are just there for servicing, in which case an after sales person will do the intake and note down any issues or desires in the presence of your car.
 
The so-called "key-thrower" - your average lease car driver - values only one thing: time. For him or her, Mercedes-Benz has put a 10-minute target in place between parking the car and leaving the premises with a replacement vehicle.The Mercedes Me app will inform him or her of the status of the vehicle, while the nitty gritty is handled directly with the leasing company, as usual.
 
The competition will surely be keeping an eye on Mercedes' new approach to check whether it pays dividends - and to whom in particular: Mercedes-Benz, the dealer or the end user.
 
Authored by: Dieter Quartier