Audi again topped both the purchasing and sales experience results. Picture: QUICKPIC
Audi again topped both the purchasing and sales experience results. Picture: QUICKPIC

The traditional method of a customer responding to questions after having a vehicle serviced is changing.

According to Patrick Busschau, business unit director at Ipsos SA, the move towards digital platforms has disrupted the way the industry gets feedback from customers.

At the same time, digital has armed customers with more information and Busschau says the automotive industry is finding it challenging to keep up.

Customers previously aired their satisfaction or dissatisfaction over vehicle service when contacted by a call centre operation such as that run by Ipsos. However, these days many take to social media or to platforms like HelloPeter and typically to complain rather to praise.

How a customer interacts with a dealer is also changing. Busschau agrees that the concept of a motor dealer is going to change, with many vehicle makers implementing more virtual dealerships.

Servicing a vehicle is changing with some companies offering seven days a week servicing and mobile servicing.

In addition, some dealerships are providing drive-in servicing and even making it more of a focal point, allowing you to enjoy a coffee and get some work done while you watch your car being serviced. Critically, this takes away some of the concerns over what work was done on your car.

The results of the latest survey, which still only accounts for 76% of car brands in SA and covers January to December 2017, show customers are becoming more demanding, particularly says Busschau when it comes to the "soft elements" which he says are key differentiators between brands.

Generally, the industry appears to be lagging slightly, with declines in satisfaction across most of the key points.

The most important in the passenger car market remains that a vehicle is fixed right first time. Cleanliness of a vehicle on collection is a major concern in passenger and light commercial vehicle (LCV) segments.

This has fascinating implications in the Western Cape where drought conditions have meant dealerships are not able to clean the exterior of vehicles. However, it seems many are using this to ignore cleaning the interior while customers are expecting the interior to receive more attention.

So who did well and who failed to make the grade?

In the vehicle purchasing experience it was Audi, Nissan and Volkswagen that came out on top and received gold awards. Nissan, Toyota and VW were top in the LCV purchasing experience.

Audi continued to dominate the service experience taking gold along with Lexus, Nissan, Toyota and VW.

Typical of the Ipsos results, most brands included in the survey get an award of some kind. But one name was glaringly missing from the servicing results — Ford. It failed to even achieve a qualifying figure in the results, with the handling of the Kuga fires impacting negatively.

Interestingly, while the Kuga crisis hammered Ford’s service scores, VW Group brands still remain on top in spite of Dieselgate. Busschau says the global emissions-cheating scandal has had almost no effect on consumers in SA because "we’re preoccupied with rhinos. That’s our environmental concern," he says, not emissions.

Ford did achieve a bronze in LCV servicing, but it again lagged way behind its competitors with Isuzu, Nissan, Toyota and VW all taking gold.