The way in which the South African motor manufacturers and dealers continue to improve the customer purchasing and servicing experiences every year continues to amaze. This is again the case with the latest Ipsos Comparative Customer Experience survey which is based on customer feedback in the 2016 calendar year.
Ipsos, and its predecessors, began surveying the local motor industry in 1991 as a syndicated process with most of the local manufacturers and importers participating. The 2016 study involved interviewing more than 22 000 customers in compiling the latest results. The sales volume of the participating brands represented more than three out of every four cars sold through retail channels during 2016. The participating manufacturers and distributors use their customer’s details for the express purpose of better understanding their customers and improving the service delivery to their customers.
Over the years, the measurement used in this benchmark survey has been changed and fine-tuned by Ipsos to remain relevant as the quality of vehicles and service levels have improved and as customers’ needs have evolved.
“Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the same companies which have performed well historically continue to shine when we make these changes to the methodology employed,” says Patrick Busschau, the Ipsos SA Automotive Business Director. “It always amazes me how the retail industry manages to lift the bar ever higher each year we conduct these surveys.” Busschau adds, “Credit must go to the brands and their dealer networks for continuing to strive for customer delight.”
The purchasing aspect of the customer experience is measured with a telephonic interview 10-35 days after delivery has been taken of a new vehicle, while the customer’s experience with dealer servicing is evaluated in an interview, 10-35 days after a service.
The biggest improvement over the past 10 years has occurred in terms of servicing, with the average industry rating moving upwards by 8.2% for cars and 7% for LCVs. This has taken the industry average from just over 80% 2006 to almost 90% in 2016.
The situation with the purchasing experience is that it came off a higher base of just over 91% in 2007 but has still risen by 3.4% to 95.1% for cars and by 3.5% to 94.2% for LCVs.
Car buyers report a slightly better purchasing experience than LCV buyers, with an index score of 95.1%. However, in servicing the scores are very similar at 88.8% for car buyers and 88.9% for LCV customers.
The latest survey shows an ongoing average improvement in the South African customer’s purchasing experience of both passenger cars and light commercial vehicles since 2015, while the servicing experience has remained static in the case of cars, but dropped slightly - by 1% - regarding the servicing of LCVs.
The positive changes in the purchasing experience of a car are headed up by “Contact after delivery”, where there has been a 2.1% improvement. Other positive changes include: “Appreciated as a customer”, “Ownership of queries and problems”, “Making you feel important” and “Exciting handover.”
Dealers have obviously been focusing on contacting customers after the purchase of a new vehicle, because it is also this aspect which shows the biggest improvement – 1.2% - in attributes for purchasers of LCVs. These buyers say they are also being appreciated more as customers and are more likely than car buyers to recommend their dealers to friends and family who want to buy a new vehicle.
As mentioned earlier, the index score for the servicing of cars has remained at 88.8% between 2015 and 2016, while in LCV servicing the customer experience has dropped slightly from 89.9% to 88.8%.
The main area of improvement in the realm of car servicing has been a willingness by the dealers to provide transport to take the customer to his or her next destination, with an improvement of 1.1%. Customers also feel they are being appreciated more by dealers (up 0.8%) and, in turn, the customers are showing increased trust in the dealership that it will take good care of the vehicle being serviced.
Offering transport to LCV customers is top of the list in terms of improved attributes between 2015 and 2016, rising by 2.1% to 88.7%. Unfortunately for LCV customers there has been a negative trend in all the other aspects of servicing surveyed, with the lowest being an apparent unwillingness of the dealership personnel to take ownership of queries or problems. This particular rating fell by 2%. LCV customers were also less like to recommend their dealership to friends and family for servicing a vehicle.
These negative aspects mean some of the dealers have work to do to lift the customer experience for LCV servicing. Possibly the high volume and growth over time of sales in this segment is a contributing factor.
Patrick Busschau added, “We do see small fluctuations but this presents the brands and dealers concerned with an opportunity to understand what it is they need to do to improve. We are very pleased that the brands do use these types of results and data to drive their service delivery performance to their customers.” Busschau concluded by adding, “We at Ipsos, which has been a partner to the local motor industry in surveying a number of important aspects of their business for over two-and-a-half decades, are very proud that our annual and ad hoc surveys continue.