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Curtis Hutchinson: Service with a smile?

The annual servicing ritual should be a way to re-engage with user-choosers and build loyalty. However, a new survey shows some brands do it much better than others. Curtis Hutchinson, editor of Motor Trader reports.

Curtis Hutchinson

Curtis Hutchinson

For most company car drivers the annual service can be an irritating inconvenience. Diaries have to be co-ordinated around a visit to the local main dealer. Then it’s a matter of whether the dealer has a loan car to keep them mobile or a quiet and comfortable area of the showroom, equipped with secure WiFi and a decent coffee machine, to work from whilst the job is being done.

What Car? recently asked its readers exactly what they thought of the servicing experience they had in their dealerships to see how this important part of the ownership cycle is being managed.

The results of the first ever What Car? Servicing Satisfaction Survey are interesting and show the dominance of the Japanese and Korean brands in delivering high levels of customer satisfaction. Higher, it’s worth noting, than the prestige German marques you would expect to excel in this area.

The car magazine asked more than 8,300 UK motorists about their most recent car service, with each respondent scoring their dealer on politeness of staff, quality of work and value for money.

The result is a listing of 34 brands ranging from Alfa Romeo to Volvo with the results weighted to create an overall satisfaction league, which placed Honda at the top, followed by MG and Lexus. Hyundai was rated fourth and Dacia was in fifth place.

At the bottom of the table was Jeep, followed by Smart and Citroën.

This particular table covered cars aged from nought-20 years so is heavily weighted in favour of those bought and run by private customers.

However, the survey also drilled deeper to analyse the performance of brands in the more fleet and user-chooser centric nought to three year old vehicle parc. Again the Japanese and Korean brands mostly outperformed European brands.

Honda again excelled although this time shared the top position with Lexus, followed by Jaguar. Mini was rated fourth and Toyota fifth.

The highest rated German brands were the mid-table ranked BMW and Volkswagen in joint 14th place, with Mercedes-Benz languishing at 19th, Porsche at 23rd. While Audi was third from bottom in 28th position, just above Citroën, and the worst performer, once again, was Jeep.

When it came to the attitude of staff Lexus came top with a near perfect score of 97.5%, the brand also triumphed in the quality of work rankings at 94.2%. Meanwhile the value for money honours went to Mini which scored 88.6%.

At the other end of the scale Jeep drivers were particularly unhappy about the attitude of dealer staff, scoring 80%, and the quality of work carried out which earned the brand a score of 75.2%. When it came to value for money Porsche got the lowest rating of just 70.4% with drivers bemoaning the high cost of servicing with only around half saying they felt the brand offered value for money.

For Honda the results came as vindication after an extended spell in the wilderness after the brand struggled to get its new product replacement cycle back on track after the global economic downturn, an error which subsequently saw it drop off fleet and retail shopping lists for some years.

“At Honda, we pride ourselves on the quality of our products and our attention-to-detail, the value for money we offer and our ethos that the client relationship begins the moment consumers set foot in one of our showrooms. For us, every single customer is unique and that is why we create bespoke sales experiences from beginning to end,” said David Hodgetts, managing director of Honda UK.

For Lexus the results reflected significant levels of investment in premises and personnel training.

“Delivering an exceptional experience has always been central to our brand and we continue to invest in giving our customers – and their vehicles – the highest standards of care and attention,” said Ewan Shepherd, director of Lexus in the UK.

“Our success in this survey rewards the exceptional efforts everyone at Lexus makes to achieve our customer service goals, not least the skilled technicians in our workshops.”

The survey should act as a wake-up call for many brands and their dealers as servicing is often the first opportunity they have to re-engage with customers after they have taken delivery of a new car. How difficult can it be to impress them?

Franchised Dealers Servicing Cars 0-3 years

Franchised Dealers Servicing Cars 0-3 years

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