Professor Jim Saker has questioned car retailers' 'customer centricity' after his son's car service quotes varied by over £186.
Read on to hear his views on customer care in this latest instalemt of his Viewpoint guest opinion articles for AM.
For years I have listened to organisations in our sector talking about being ‘customer-centric’ or using phrases like ‘we put the customer at the heart of what we do’.
Although these are commendable sentiments it is sometimes difficult to see how this works. Unlike many involved in the industry, I am on the receiving end of the supposed ‘customer-centric’ activity that is intended to improve customer engagement.
I have recounted in the past the trials and tribulations I have faced having bought a new SUV on behalf of my son.
The local dealer lost the franchise and there was no notification from the manufacturer that it had happened or when the new franchisee was opening.
We then had the car serviced after the first year and received a teddy bear from the manufacturer thanking me for having the work done within its network.
It was a nice gesture, but surely my customer profile would suggest I was not the target audience for cuddly toys.
Anyway, it was with some trepidation that I suggested to my son that the car needed its second annual service.
His partner rang a local franchised dealer in the Beds/Bucks area and was quoted £545.99. This triggered a certain amount of angst and text messaging stating this was a little more expensive than expected.
I suggested they rang other franchised dealerships to find some basis of comparison.
In Leicester, the price was £383.96, while in Leeds it was £359.31 and a dealer 25 miles away from the first quote came in at £438.35 before offering a low mileage service rate of £294.95.
When they rang back the original dealer who had quoted £500-plus to question the discrepancy, they were immediately offered a discount that brought the figure down to £436.50 and were told that the low mileage service offered by the neighbouring dealership would invalidate the manufacturer warranty.
I rang the manufacturer and was told the low mileage service did not invalidate its warranty.
I understand that different dealerships have different costs, wage rates etc. and that, with the advent of BEVs, aftersales margins are going to be less profitable.
I appreciate that the costs in Leicester and Leeds are likely to be less than in the Beds/Bucks area, but there must be some harmonisation of service pricing associated with a particular franchise otherwise the public will lose any faith it has in us as a sector.
This is not customer centricity; the customer is left confused and misled.
My final comment is that if more than £500 was going to be spent on a service I would have been expecting more than a cuddly teddy bear from the manufacturer!
Author: Prof Jim Saker is director of the Centre for Automotive Management at Loughborough University’s Business School and an AM Awards judge. He is also president or the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI)