How CarMax Is Disrupting Automotive Retail for a Second Time

Time to read: 4.4 minutes

There’s a good reason why CarMax is the largest retailer of used vehicles in the United States: because of the trust it has created with its customers.

“Trust is at the core of why CarMax exists,” said Shamim Mohammad, the company’s Chief Information and Technology Officer. “We brought integrity and transparency into the car buying process — and we made the process very simple and easy.”

Having first disrupted the automotive retail sector when it launched in 1993, CarMax disrupted the industry for a second time by launching a true omni-channel experience that empowers customers to buy a car on their terms: online, in-store, and a seamless integration of both. Here’s how the company used Salesforce to create that experience, delight customers in new and innovative ways, and reimagine car buying.

 

By delivering an omni-channel experience, we’re putting our customers in the driver’s seat. They now have the flexibility to interact and transact with us however they want. They can begin their journey online and progress as much or as little as they like to online.”

Shamim Mohammad | Chief Information and Technology Officer

Contents

In this video [1:55], discover how CarMax is revolutionizing the car buying experience with a seamless combination of online and in-store buying through Customer 360. Skip to 0:41 to hear the story of how CarMax personalized the experience for a new mom.

1. Create an omni-channel experience.

Anticipating its customers would want more control of the car-buying journey, the company set about creating a human-centered, omni-channel experience that enabled customers to interact seamlessly online and with their stores, and truly buy a car on their terms.

The car buying process isn't completely linear, and a single customer may interact with multiple associates during their unique journey, from remote support specialists to in-store associates. So, CarMax worked with Salesforce to create a centralized view of the customer to provide a seamless experience across all touchpoints.

As Shamim said, “It gives us the single source of truth. With a 360-degree view, we know exactly where a customer is on their car-shopping journey. Whether it’s our sales, support, or delivery people, they can give the customer an outstanding experience.”

The company uses artificial intelligence (AI) to personalize customer experiences across channels, providing product recommendations for customers and time-saving “next best actions” for associates. It also uses AI to automatically classify and route incoming customer SMS messages, increasing associates’ productivity and customer satisfaction.

In addition, the company launched multiple contact centers to provide remote concierge support that helps customers via phone, text, and digital channels while they’re shopping online.

Watch this short video [0:50] to discover how CarMax used Service Cloud to provide associates with a single source of truth for insight into every customer interaction.
 
 
 
 

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2. Reimagine the in-person customer experience.

Before 2020, CarMax was already well underway with its ambitious digital transformation. Then the pandemic hit.

With its strong, digital foundation in place, the company was able to quickly pivot, accelerating the launch of its omni-channel experience to the rest of the country and rolling out CarMax curbside delivery within three weeks.

 

CarMax Curbside is a new contactless way for customers to test drive and buy a new car with adherence to social-distancing practices. CarMax also offers a home delivery option for most customers.

Associates can concentrate on providing outstanding onsite customer service experiences, thanks to appointment scheduling, guided checklists, and other workflows.

“Now, when you book an appointment for a test drive online, it triggers a workflow that ensures the car is checked, clean, comfortable, and ready for you to drive,” said Permjit Ghotra, AVP, Head of Customer Shopping and Transactions Technology at CarMax.

The buying experience is just as seamless. Customers can save time by completing most of the process online in advance, such as getting preapproval for financing.

 

We rolled out CarMax Curbside to the whole country — to thousands of associates and all our customers — in less than three weeks. All this was possible because of the Salesforce Customer 360’s ability to scale and allow us to move at great speed.”

Shamim Mohammad | Chief Information and Technology Officer

In this short video [0:58], see how CarMax enabled curbside delivery during the pandemic so customers could touch, feel, and drive their car before purchasing.

3. Enable great customer experiences through great employee experiences.

One important reason for CarMax’s success is that it puts both customers and employees at the center of every decision.

CarMax redesigned its customer experiences at a fundamental level with intentional relationship design. This involved listening to customers and using design thinking and other tools to empathetically, but deliberately, evolve its relationships with customers.

Custom apps also enhance experiences for both employees and customers. The company’s coders benefit from a modern agile developer experience and use prebuilt partner solutions to accelerate the time-to-market for their apps. On the front end, CarMax’s associates have the tools and information they need to delight customers.

 

For example, our delivery team learned that a customer had a new baby, so they included a gift of toys with the car delivery. It was a nice surprise for the new mom.”

Shamim Mohammad | Chief Information and Technology Officer

In this short video [0:59], you’ll see how Customer 360 played a crucial role in deploying CarMax’s curbside delivery option in less than three weeks through a scalable platform.

4. Find a new gear to accelerate change.

Since the start of the pandemic, CarMax has “found a new gear,” according to Bryan Ennis, Vice President, Customer Experience Centers and Customer Relations. “We’re able to move and innovate faster than ever before,” he said.

Customer-facing associates play a vital role, with some included in the company’s product teams. This ensures development initiatives address user pain points from the beginning, and meaningful testing and training starts early. As a result, it now takes days, not months, to train staff when a new capability or app is rolled out.

Ultimately, it’s this combination of people, culture, and technology that enables this rapid change and allows CarMax to continue to reimagine the future of car buying."

 

CarMax has always had an amazing culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. But lately, we've brought in a lot of digital-native characteristics, so we operate like a digital technology company.”

Shamim Mohammad | Chief Information and Technology Officer
 

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