Car manufacturers’ staff incompetence and poor attitude is damaging consumer trust.
According to the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) trust in automotive companies, while one of the highest in retailing, has taken been dented in the last 12 months – and poor staff is one of the key causes.
More than a third of customers cited quality of goods and services as the nature of the problem - but 29.5% cited staff competence and 21.7% mentioned staff attitude.
Jo Causon, ICS chief executive, said: ““The automotive sector is facing two challenges.
“The percentage of problems is increasing while a higher than average number of customers go on to report the problem.
“It is important to use the information supplied in this feedback to improve customer service delivery and ensure that not only the product is performing as expected, but employees have the right skills to deliver excellent service.”
“In this period of economic recovery it is tempting for organisations to focus on short term objectives.
“That being said a concerted effort must be made to deliver improving levels of service to provide clear differentiation in a very competitive sector.
“Leaders of automotive organisations must hold on to this initiative, maintain focus and champion customer service, which will in turn, help to ensure the UK remains a leader in the delivery of excellent customer service.”
“It is vital to do this because over the past 12 months the automotive sector has experienced a sharp decrease in satisfaction.
“This fall should act as a warning to focus even more on looking after customers. Our research shows that customer satisfaction is closely related measures of trust and loyalty and organisations with higher levels of customer satisfaction also receive on average higher levels of intent to remain a customer, repurchase and recommend.”
With a score of 78.6*, the automotive sector, by which the ICS means manufacturers and not dealers - as maintained its position as the fourth highest performing sector in the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), despite its score falling by 1.1 points between July 2014 and January 2015, above the average decline of 0.3 points across all sectors.
In line with all but two of the 13 sectors surveyed by the institute, the independent professional body for customer service, customer satisfaction has continued to drop in the automotive sector, reaching its lowest point since 2010.
Skoda topped the sector list with a score of 82.9, followed by BMW/Mini (81.4), Audi (81.1) and Hyundai (80.8).
The percentage of problems experienced by automotive customers, although still lower than the UKCSI average of 13.4%, has risen sharply over the past year from 5.7% in January 2014 to 9.4% in January 2015.
Simultaneously, it appears that the automotive industry is not dealing with these reported problems sufficiently.
Forty-nine percent of customers actually felt the need to escalate their complaint having registered it, making it clear that the increasing number of complaints needs to be matched by a greater focus on customer service.
* Figures from UK Customer Satisfaction Index, January 2015. UKCSI (UK Customer Satisfaction Index) is the national measure of customer satisfaction. It is based on a six-monthly online survey of consumers which is demographically representative of the UK population.
The January 2015 UKCSI includes 39,000 responses from over 10,000 individual customers.