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Customer service in car retailing 'is getting worse'

The automotive industry is getting worse at treating customers well and is has come bottom of a league table for the best service and customer experience.

Among the 14 sectors covered in the third annual Customer Experience Survey from service design consultancy, Engine, the proportion of customers saying automotive was among the best for service dropped from 12.2% to 9.5% – pushing it below insurance (9.9%) and utility (10.3%) companies. 

For the second consecutive year, automotive came out as the least reliant sector on customer service.

The proportion citing it as a sector where their choice of company is most influenced by the quality of customer service dropped from 11.8% to 10.1%.

Public transport/trains is the next least reliant on good customer service (12.1%).

Engine customer service survey 2016

“Why is automotive finding it so difficult to improve their customer service perception?” asks Oliver King, co-founder of Engine.

“The problem is that retail staff are working to traditional sales and aftersales processes, often created by siloed teams within manufacturers and groups, which no longer reflect the way people buy and service cars.

“Customer's service expectations have evolved dramatically in line with innovative concepts in the high street and online.

“They're used to multi-channel retail experiences but automotive is stuck in a linear model in a non-linear world. Consequently, they can’t meet customers' current expectations and preferences.”

King said auto retail needs a radical overhaul in becoming more customer-centric but in a modern way to reflect how “customers are becoming savvier so maintaining their loyalty involves moving beyond price and providing service offerings that are easy and enjoyable to use.

Pricing can be copied by competitors but what really wins the day is a beautifully designed service that weaves together great functionality, usability and looks to connect emotionally with customers.”

Openness/honesty is the most valued trait in the way a company deals with customers (cited as a top three trait by 50% of people), followed by efficiency (48%) and reliability (44%).

Efficiency (+4% points) and reliability (+3% points) saw the biggest jump in importance over the last year.

The report also reveals that customers are increasingly likely to recommend a company based on the quality of service (66% vs. 60% a year ago) than they are on price (30% vs. 35% a year ago).

> The total sample size was 1,012 adults. The survey was conducted online during July 4 - 5, 2016. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

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  • walker - 01/09/2016 13:14

    We have seen major changes in the buying process, with as many as 85% of showroom visitors having researched their purchase online prior to visiting a showroom. Whilst this undoubtedly increases their knowledge of products and offers, it also reduces the potential time for sales personnel to interact with them and build a relationship. The arrival online of the non-branded discounters has also led to distorted expectations, so perhaps no real surprise that the motor trade suffers, but not necessarily solely as a result of their own actions.

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  • DH - 02/09/2016 11:35

    I would suspect a large part of this is higher targets set every quarter by manufacturers who are forever chasing unts and then want the customer care. Good customer service means taking time with a customer which is increasingly difficult when chasing nubers and I am yet to see a manufacturer have a fair and accurate way of rewarding staff for good customer service on its own merit and it is normally reliant on acheiving target of sales, another reason is I feel is the fact that the media has given the indication that all dealers are crooks which is not helpful.

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  • Miccon - 02/09/2016 11:37

    The harsh reality is that the majority of customers buy new vehicles DESPITE the dealership experience not because of it. Unless dealerships move away from outmoded (and much unloved by customers) selling techniques potential customers will continue to endeavour to purchase vehicles by more customer-friendly means. Misogyny, racism and intimidation have no place in our society yet still proliferate in too many dealerships. Read the independent reports if in doubt. What is immediately required is a transformation in recruitment, training and the treatment and remuneration of staff employed via dealerships. Then we need to consider what experience the customer really desires in this rapidly changing world. Multi-million pound glass and chrome showrooms may please the manufacturer but at what long-term cost to the business owner? Bullying managers hell-bent on short-term targets are much too commonplace at all levels in the automotive supply chain. These are the halcyon days for new car sales in the UK for a variety of external reasons and are absolutely NOT related to the woefully inefficient and hostile car showrooms customers are forced to endure.

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  • Samir Roger Makarem - 04/09/2016 04:24

    Not surprised at all, at least here in the Middle East. To start with, Customer Service is one of the toughest fields in the world in my view. It is just unfortunate that a lot of companies undermine the importance of having exemplary customer service agents handling their business. It's even worse that a lot of those same companies barely see the value in devoting a good investment to training their agents, not only to meet and exceed customers' expectations, but to actually delight customers. I had just recently completed delivering a course on "Customer Service Excellence" for one of the major automotive brands in Dubai, where such issues were specifically covered during training. Although there is a process in place that needs to be followed by the agent, whether in Sales or After-Sales, the purpose of a process is simply to be used as a tool to facilitate the various steps that need to be followed. Unfortunately, a lot of Customer Service agents forget that there's another human being on the other side that they're dealing with, especially in After-Sales. There are steps within the process that specifically require the humanistic touch to be added, but again, unfortunately they're simply disregarded. They just want to move on to the next customer. Last but not least, if the agent doesn't have what it takes to deal with people, and wholeheartedly want to serve people, you can just forget about having that agent provide exemplary customer service. No matter how knowledgeable and skillful that agent becomes at their job, if that agent doesn't have the passion, love, and the right attitude for doing an outstanding job, it simply "ain't gonna happen".

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