How did Carvago use Salesforce to turn buying a used car into a pleasant experience?

September 25, 2022
August 24, 2022
Jaroslava Frišová

Carvago is a unique start-up that set out to make the process of buying a used car an enjoyable experience. They've managed an amazing start, but at such a quick growth rate, you need to unify your communication, automate, reduce human error and set up reporting and processes. How did Salesforce Service Cloud and Pardot help Carvago do just that? Was the complex project successfully deployed across the company in four months? Is it possible to get change requests into production every day? Filip Malík, Product and Project Leader, told us all about it.   

We can all guess how the used car market works. If you're lucky, you'll come across an honest dealer who will give you all the necessary information. Otherwise, you're buying a bit of a “pig in a poke” and weeks after the purchase you might find out something surprising about the car.  

Filip, can you introduce us to Carvago and the market you operate on? 

Carvago is an online marketplace for buying and selling used cars operating in seven European countries. Imagine for used cars – we connect supply with demand and wrap it all into a unique service. The used car market in Europe is worth around €600 billion with 36 million cars sold per year. Only less than 1% of transactions are made online today and that's our opportunity. From my point of view, this is the last and fastest-growing sector where there has been no technological disruption, no transition to online and no one has built a love brand there yet. 

The market has no set standards and it is in extreme need of a positive client experience that people would want to go through again. 

Why do you think that is? 

The whole industry is complicated and that is probably why other companies in Europe are not entering it with such determination. Just look at how the experience usually works. The customer chooses from a range of cars that are on average within a 100km driving distance, so they often have to compromise. At the same time, the sale itself carries negative externalities. One of the most common is uneven distribution of information. It is still common to see changed speedometer readings, lies about the true condition of the vehicle or pressure on the customer. The market has no set standards and it is in extreme need of a positive client experience that people would want to go through again.  

How do you want to transform this experience? 

Our mission is to overcome mistrust in the market and prove that this kind of transaction can also be done online. We bring cars together in an integrated international marketplace. We don't physically own the cars, which is a huge advantage. It doesn't matter to us which dealer or which country the customer chooses the car from. What's important to us is to build a love brand and gain trust. The only way we can do that is by being a partner to the buyer and helping them choose the best possible car on the market.   
We sell verified cars both in terms of data and physical checks. You can get insurance, financing, extended warranty, shipping and other optional services all in one place. In practice, the whole process works the same way you see it in the commercials – just use your phone to order a car, finance it, and have it parked in front of your house within 14 days, all from the comfort of your couch.

You need to choose cars carefully when the customer has the option to return it within 14 days. 

That's right. There are about 7.5 million ads for cars for sale at the beginning of the process. Thanks to our know-how and a sophisticated system with up to 300 criteria, an approximate 10% of them make it into our offer. To give you a better idea – these are basic criteria ranging from mileage or age through analytical data checks to tracking dealer ratings on Google, Autoscout, Mobile.  Additionally, after a customer orders a car, there is always a Cebia inspection followed by a physical inspection by a mechanic. The vehicles that make it into the offer meet our high standards.  

Can you describe the customer journey? 

When a client chooses a car, we perform a physical and data check and send the result along with our recommendation. The result might be wrong, and that's when we simply don't sell the car. However, if both we and the customer are happy with the result of the checks, the customer chooses the delivery location, extended warranty option, financing, insurance and other add-on services. These include servicing, winter tyres, protective foils, body polishing, etc. We offer an extended warranty of up to 42 months, the same as factory warranty. With this service, we have also managed to eliminate the common dealer practice of making it very difficult and uncomfortable to discuss defects discovered later after purchase. In addition, we always provide a minimum of 6 months extended warranty free of charge.  

Why did you decide to use a single platform to manage your business, including the digitization of your business and marketing processes? 

Carvago was growing too fast for the internal and sales processes and company management to keep up. At that pace of growth, we would have very soon started to face internal capacity shortages that would have affected the quality of service. And we clearly didn't want that. Each department was using a different tool – Google Sheet, Trello, Excel, Data Studio. There was a lack of transparency across the company. I couldn't easily see what stage an order was at or what the next steps were. I had to go around asking specific people. There was a lack of culture and processes in internal and external communication, and there was room for operational risk because we were doing a lot of actions manually. We didn't have the right reporting set up and we were expanding, so the complexity of the whole problem was growing. 

In four months, we built internal communications, merged departments, automated transactional and marketing communications, set up operational reporting for everyone, and had a single system.   

How would you assess the whole implementation? 

First of all, I have to say that the project went very well. When we talked about our expectations and needs at the beginning – to build a B2C business process from scratch, including sales and customer care, technical checks, purchasing, logistics, complete communication and client 360 – it seemed almost impossible. Plus, we wanted to get the whole implementation done in four months. At the end, we succeeded. In four months, we built the processes, integrated the individual streams and apps, automated transactional and marketing communications, set up operational reporting for everyone, and had a single system where everything was interconnected without any add-ons or support tools. We created a single source of truth. Of course, we had to allow time for testing and handling additional requests, but our iterative approach to development ensured we did it on schedule.

Few people can imagine the complex and interconnected process across the entire company behind the "Buy" button. What were your requirements for a new system to help you automate and digitize the process? 

The metrics we used to decide were complexity, integrability, scalability and timelessness. We didn't want to be looking for a new tool in a year. As a start-up we are growing very fast and a new system had to be suitable for that, while we wanted to avoid a lot of customization and use as many "out of the box" solutions as possible.   

Given that description, I can see why you chose Salesforce. Can you describe the requirements for an implementation partner? 

We were looking for an experienced partner who would not require a detailed theoretical specification to come up with a solution that no one had seen before in four months. We needed maximum insight into our company, processes, problems and growth opportunities. And then design the best solution with the least amount of customization. We found all this in Enehano.  

The project had a strict timeline and had to include business and marketing processes. The other parts were developed on the fly. How did you prioritize?  

We had to define a clear boundary right from the start as to what was in scope and what was out of scope due to time constraints. We specified what had to be in scope right away and what we would work on in later phases. This made me quite unpopular in the company at times, but it was important to be able to say "No". Of course, we were not immune to the demands of change, especially due to expansion into other countries. But it was a time for me that I call "absolute agile". We were taking requirements, implementing and deploying daily to a pre-production environment where the changes were immediately accepted by the stakeholders. This helped us a lot to meet the deadline. However, it is not possible to operate this way in the long term. 

Thanks to our low code approach to around 90% of automations, we were able to deploy daily requests the same day. It allowed us to respond simply and quickly. Filip, is there anything else you would highlight about the project? 

The two teams "clicked" and worked together from the start. It helped us a lot to deliver the project on time. In my experience, few projects are delivered on time and to the required quality. But we succeeded here.   

What are your future plans at Carvago? 

We are currently launching a brand new vertical at Carvago, which is online car sales from customers to dealers through auctions. I think it's a fantastic service for both sides of the market that solves the current pain points and most importantly the issue of time. It's also no secret that we're interested in other markets, we want to expand both west and east.

At the Digital Transformation Summit, where we did the interview, there were also questions from the audience:  
Do you have a centralized sales process across countries or are you going down the localization route?   

We had to move towards centralisation and standardisation. At this volume, our processes would vary too much and would cause difficulties in the future. But of course, centralization is only possible to a certain extent. Individual countries differ in terms of legal obligations, registration or differences in taxes. However, we want to provide the same quality and standardised product and service everywhere.   

Looking back on the project management, what would you have done differently? 

I can't really think of anything. Of course, there were some details that could have been improved, but from an overall perspective they're not worth mentioning. For me, as the person responsible for the overall result, the most important thing is that the project was delivered well and on time. I was worried about how the subsequent company-wide adoption of the new tool would go, it was all in English and the team had to learn to work in it immediately. But I was confident that we had the right tool to make people's jobs easier. The users understood this in the very first moments of use and it made the whole adoption much quicker.   

What tools do you use? 

We use Service Cloud as a basis for back-office processes and external communication runs in Pardot. However, we are looking at using other modules such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud.  

Filip, thank you very much for your openness and the opportunity to take a peek into the internal processes of the company.  

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