Automotive sector performs badly in customer experience survey

Only the insurance sector scores lower than the automotive industry in terms of providing the best service and customer experience, according to the second annual Customer Experience Survey from the service design consultancy, Engine.

Among the 14 sectors covered in the study, just 12.2 per cent of consumers cited automotive, narrowly ahead of insurance companies (11.4 per cent). Automotive came immediately behind utilities (12.4 per cent) and public transport & trains (13.5 per cent) – the two sectors most publicly harangued for poor customer service.

Interestingly, the study also revealed Automotive as the sector where people’s choice of provider is least influenced by customer experience – selected by only 11.8 per cent of respondents. Public transport/trains (13.9 per cent) comes second bottom.

“It’s certainly a cause for concern that automotive ranks behind even public transport/trains and utilities in terms of quality of customer service,” says Oliver King, co-founder of Engine. “Although figures suggest the experience isn’t a strong influence on customer choice, this is because in sales, by the time people reach a dealer, they’ve pretty much decided exactly what they want to buy, so the interaction is much more about ratifying and confirming the product meets their needs.

“However, it’s naïve for manufacturers and dealerships to be lazy about customer experience because of the impact it has on the more profitable and ongoing areas of servicing and repairs. For automotive, customer experience is all about ownership. Whilst the relationship may start at purchase, they way customers are treated and the service levels dealerships provide will be the deciding factor in loyalty.”

As people get older, the customer experience becomes a slightly bigger factor in their choice of dealership – and it’s nearly twice as big a factor for men (16 per cent) than women (9 per cent).

The retail sector ranks 1st (38.2 per cent) in terms of providing the best customer service/experience. Food services/ restaurants (cited by 35 per cent) is where consumers’ choice of provider is most strongly affected by the customer service/experience.

Consumers value honesty and efficiency most highly

Openness/honesty is the most valued trait in the way a company provides its customer service and experience (cited by 49 per cent), followed by efficiency (43 per cent) and reliability (41 per cent). All three of the most valued traits become a bigger factor with age – particularly openness/honesty.

“Dealerships and manufacturers can’t afford to think about what’s important to their ‘average customer’ – that person doesn’t exist,” notes King. “Instead, they need to think of the different customer profiles and tailor the experience accordingly for each one. For instance, older people put greater emphasis on the experience being honest, efficient and reliable, while the younger generation put more store on it being flexible and enjoyable.”

Quality much more of a factor in recommendations than price

The report also reveals that consumers are nearly twice as likely to recommend a brand or company based on the quality of service (62 per cent) than they are on price (35 per cent). This ‘skew’ towards service is even more pronounced for people over 55 (69 per cent vs. 29 per cent).

Why is customer experience important?

Better customer experience leads to increased revenues, greater likelihood of recommendations, process efficiencies and customer loyalty. King explains: “Businesses can more accurately measure the impact that an improved customer experience has on performance. Clients like Jaguar Land Rover, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz have all used service design techniques which essentially put greater customer focus into designing the experience a company provides.”

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