Vehicle owners in South Africa continue to enjoy top class levels of customer service for both the buying and servicing experience they get from local franchised dealers together with relevant vehicle manufacturers or distributors. This is evident from the latest edition of an annual customer (experience?) survey conducted by global research company, Ipsos, the third-largest global research company.
Ipsos and its predecessors have been conducting automotive customer care surveys in South Africa since 1991 and tracked a massive improvement in the early years. However, the levels are now so high – over 94 on an index of 100 for new car and light commercial vehicle buyers and over 88 for servicing in both market segments – that changes in the scores nowadays are relatively small. This consistency in the results demonstrates the reliability and integrity of the research.
The latest research is based on telephonic interviews with more than 20 000 customers in 2017 who had either bought a new car or light commercial vehicle or had a vehicle serviced. Interviews are conducted within 10-35 days of the buying or servicing event. Strict quality control measures are used by Ipsos to ensure accuracy and credibility of the results. This includes four quality gates and random selection of respondents with the OEMs providing the contact details of their customers.
All vehicle brands are free to participate in this research process and 15 brands were researched in 2017, with their sales volume equating to more than three out of every four new cars and LCVs sold through the dealer retail network in South Africa last year.
Ipsos has kept the research relevant by changing the questions overtime., which has had some impact on the figures, but generally there have been ongoing improvements in the levels of customer satisfaction regarding the buying and servicing of vehicles in South Africa.
“The ongoing improvements in customer care from both dealers and the OEMs in South Africa are most impressive when one takes into consideration the growing complexity of vehicles and the increasing demand and diversity of vehicle owners, which results in them expecting higher and higher standards from their service providers, including franchised motor dealers.,” commented Patrick Busschau, Business Unit Director at Ipsos SA.
The latest Ipsos research shows a very slight downturn in the purchasing experience index for passenger cars – going down from 95.1 to 94.7, but it is still a very high score. The figure for buyers of light commercial vehicles is only slightly lower, at 94.4, but has been on a steady upward trend for the past five years.
There are some factors flagged in red in the passenger car purchasing experience report, which indicates a very slight drop over the 2016 car buyer research, but most of these changes are very small. The biggest reverse is in the failure of dealer personnel to contact the buyer after the purchase has been made. This amounts to a 1.5% drop; getting call from the dealer to thank you for your business as well as to assist with any outstanding issues or complaints is a very important factor for customers purchasing a new vehicle. On the other hand, an important area of improvement is that new vehicles are delivered with even fewer faults than previously.
The picture was even brighter for buyers of new light commercial vehicles in 2017 with a host of aspects showing an improvement over the previous year. These ranged from an exciting handover, an explanation on the cost of ownership, and the vehicles being free of faults, to dealers trying to understand the buyer’s need and giving advice they could trust. Once again, the main shortcoming by dealers was not contacting the buyers after delivery, although this was less of an issue than in the case of car buyers. “Lessons learned from the research are that when customers buy a vehicle, having an effective post-sale contact and complaint management process is absolutely essential,” mentioned Patrick Busschau.
There are few variances in the needs of buyers of cars and light commercials when buying a new vehicle. Along with the post-sale contact and complaint management process, having the vehicle delivered to the buyer’s specification and buying a vehicle that suits the buyer’s budget are two other important attributes in both market segments.
The servicing experience in 2017 was virtually identical for both cars and light commercials, showing a very slight downward trend with cars going from 88.8 to 88.4 and LCVs moving ever so marginally from 88.4 to 88.3.
Interestingly, dealer contact after servicing a passenger car improved between 2016 and 2017, in contrast to the situation with follow ups after buying a car. Other positive attributes for car owners included having the dealer providing transport to the next destination, having the car ready on time, and updating the owner on progress.
The biggest negatives in the latest after-sales survey of car owners related to cleanliness of vehicles after servicing, not making the customer feel important, not taking ownership of queries or complaints, and not trusting the dealership to take good care of the vehicle being serviced.
There was a similar picture with the owners’ impressions after having their light commercial vehicles serviced. Here the positive was having the vehicle ready on time, with the main areas of unhappiness being the cleanliness of the vehicle, not being contacted after a service, the customer not believing advice from the dealer is trustworthy and the dealer not trying to understand the customer’s needs.
There were a number of variations in the attributes a customer expected when having a light commercial vehicle serviced compared to a car owner. For example, transport to a next destination is very important for the car owner, but not so important for the LCV owner. The LCV owner, however, requires a fuller explanation of the work done and the contents of the invoice than the passenger car buyer.
“We, at Ipsos South Africa, are proud to have been able to continue our relationship with the local motor industry for more than a quarter of a century and we believe the companies that are successful in the field of customer service are those that make use of our detailed research of their brand to fix any shortcomings for the ultimate benefit of their customer,” concluded Patrick Busschau at a recent media briefing.