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2016 Outlook: Gloom for many, bloom for some

2016 Outlook: Gloom for many, bloom for some

By DEVINDRAN RAMANATHAN

WITH the change in consumer behaviour through rising household and motoring expense, the retail aftermarket is poised for a year of increased competition for the share of the customer’s wallet.

For many, this is the time to invest in people and technology to serve customers better. If service dealers are not actively working to get better every day, they can be assured that they’re getting worse and going to be left behind.

What’s in store for consumers? Better service?

Aftersales reputation of your service provider will be the deciding factor if you return to your service dealer or not; or even consider buying your next car when the time arises.

Reputation is the most important factor for 57 per cent of people compared with 33 per cent who claimed price was the No. 1 priority in a recent poll.

For many service providers, customer service has been a nice marketing mantra but fewer actually see this as a rare opportunity to connect with customers at an emotional level.

My work provides me with the chance to mystery-shop a wide range of independent workshops throughout the country and one particularly fascinated me with their genuine level of care demonstrated and professionalism which exceeded my expectations and merits me sharing with readers.

“There’s no other way,” young Adrian Mak, general manager of the NSS Group of workshops in Glenmarie when asked what contributed to the exceptional way they handle customers throughout the customer service activity cycle.

“We treat customers like how we wish to be treated and put all our thoughts, learnings and best practices to train our entire staff in a customer oriented manner. I’ve developed a list of 100 guidelines which we inculcate into all our new recruits through the first month on the job.”

Workshops like NSS are slowly but surely “mopping up” much of the aftermarket service business that other workshops are falling short on.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are OEMs who treat customers with much disservice in their resolution of a warranty approval decision or long back-order of a spare part; with no urgency or concern of the vehicle downtime every so often.

Good service and maintenance plan/packages

Customers are certainly going to be looking for the best deals; not necessarily the lowest price for economical service and repair cost. The ever discerning customer will consider the cost-benefit of peace-of-mind ownership.

People love doing deals and are prepared to part with their cash up-front if the long term benefits out-weigh the short term cost. With the current currency fluctuations, perhaps paying for services in advance means the owner’s cost is budgeted in advance. A service differentiator presents itself here for workshops wishing to increase customer retention and loyalty to be on the leading edge as service differentiator.

Monthly pay options for a major repair job may be another interesting consideration for customers who want a major repair done but not in a position to afford it at present. Credit card facilities offering 0 per cent interest installments should certainly jump on this bandwagon.

Focus on people to focus on customers

Many companies seem to be “wanting that someone they don’t have while having that someone they don’t want”. Rather than focusing on training and developing their own existing team, organisations prefer quick fixes by poaching the new and terminating the old. As a result, customers are frequently served by a new “face”, being denied the opportunity for trust to grow and loyalty develop. Loyalty equals repeat business; a much easier path to bottom-line growth instead of sweating the chase of new business every day of the year.

Leaders and managers fail to face the fact that the single most important factor in whether or not an employee chooses to stay in a job is the relationship with their direct superiors, according to a Gallup study.

Other important factors are staff engagement and feeling valued. Consumers defecting to other brands or another workshop may lie more with the fault of the leaders than the employees.

Customer relationship management programmes

“I heard of the Land Rover Coterie Club and eventually purchased a RR Evoque a couple of years back, but we’ve never been invited to any customer care programme by the dealer nor offered privileges by the club,” according to Ms Sara as an example of a missed opportunity to keep the engagement “warm”.

With the cost of acquiring a new customer amounting to 10 times more than the cost of retaining an existing customer, organisations fail to take advantage of such programmes to interact and build trust with customers post purchase in alignment with their wishes and lifestyle.

There are lots of ideas service dealers can utilise to engage with customer and make their ownership experience a memorable one.

Leveraging on technology to communicate

The time has come for the aftersales to innovate and adapt to consumer behaviour, gaining some limelight in the process. Very often corporate expenditure is exhausted on the sales front in winning customers rather than on the back-end where it matters most.

Customers would be interested to know the status of their vehicle during the service time via their mobile phone or delivery time of a spare part in order to plan their vehicle downtime better. Workshops can increasingly send photos and text messages seeking approval to proceed with a particular repair or even promote interesting service promotions.

Local MSC status companies like Raydar Research and Visual Retale are some who are already ahead of the curve in providing workshops with customer experience solutions to improve retention and engagement, ultimately increasing the bottom line of the business.

Customers will be expecting more in 2016 and rightfully so. Through their collective power, they will be in a position to reward brands that go the extra mile or defect those who fall short on their promise. Let the show begin…

Happy New Year and no more monkeying around!

. Devindran Ramanthan spent the last 26 years serving in different capacities in the automotive industry. He is now the principal of his own company, ACS AsiaPac Sdn Bhd, focusing on aftersales training and consulting, and is passionate in raising the overall image of the aftersales stakeholders with his tagline, “Aftersales Before Sales”.

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