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The way in which the South African motor manufacturers and dealers continue to improve the customer purchasing and servicing experiences every year continues to amaze. This is again the case with the latest Ipsos Comparative Customer Experience survey which is based on customer feedback in the 2016 calendar year.

Ipsos, and its predecessors, began surveying the local motor industry in 1991 as a syndicated process with most of the local manufacturers and importers participating. The 2016 study involved interviewing more than 22 000 customers in compiling the latest results.

The sales volume of the participating brands represented more than three out of every four cars sold through retail channels during 2016. The participating manufacturers and distributors use their customer’s details for the express purpose of better understanding their customers and improving the service delivery to their customers.

Over the years, the measurement used in this benchmark survey has been changed and fine-tuned by Ipsos to remain relevant as the quality of vehicles and service levels have improved and as customers’ needs have evolved. “Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the same companies which have performed well historically continue to shine when we make these changes to the methodology employed,” says Patrick Busschau, the Ipsos SA Automotive business director.

“It always amazes me how the retail industry manages to lift the bar ever higher each year we conduct these surveys,” Busschau adds. “Credit must go to the brands and their dealer networks for continuing to strive for customer delight.”

The biggest improvement over the past 10 years has occurred in terms of servicing, with the average industry rating moving upwards by 8.2% for cars and 7% for LCVs. This has taken the industry average from just over 80% in 2006 to 90% in 2016.

The situation with the purchasing experience is that it came off a higher base of just over 91% in 2007 but has still risen by 3.4% to 95.1% for cars and by 3.5% to 94.2% for LCVs.

The latest survey shows an ongoing average improvement in the South African customer’s purchasing experience of both passenger cars and light commercial vehicles since 2015, while the servicing experience has remained static in the case of cars, but dropped slightly – by 1% – regarding the servicing of LCVs.

The positive changes in the purchasing experience of a car are headed up by “Contact after delivery”, where there has been a 2.1% improvement. Other positive changes include: “Appreciated as a customer”, “Ownership of queries and problems”, “Making you feel important” and “Exciting handover.”

Dealers have obviously been focusing on contacting customers after the purchase of a new vehicle, because it is also this aspect which shows the biggest improvement – 1.2% – in attributes for purchasers of LCVs. These buyers say they are also being appreciated more as customers and are more likely than car buyers to recommend their dealers to friends and family who want to buy a new vehicle.

Busschau added, “We do see small fluctuations but this presents the brands and dealers concerned with an opportunity to understand what it is they need to do to improve. We are very pleased that the brands do use these types of results and data to drive their service delivery performance to their customers. We at Ipsos, are very proud that our annual and ad hoc surveys continue to help the manufacturers, importers and dealers to improve their customer service levels”.