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Survey reveals improved customer satisfaction when dealers use digital services

By Li Fusheng | China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-06 11:07
Workers inspect cars at a maintenance center in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province.

Car dealers seeking happier customers should be using digital services, it was suggested in a JD Power survey released last week.

According to the 2018 China Customer Service Index study, vehicle owners were more satisfied when a tablet was used by a service adviser during a visit to the dealership than when not used.

The study, covering 61 passenger-vehicle brands, was carried out from November 2017 and May 2018 in 67 major Chinese cities, collecting data from 46,430 new-vehicle owners who purchased their vehicles in the past five years.

The findings also showed that satisfaction was higher among customers who were informed of the service progress via a mobile app than among those who were informed by a call from the dealer.

"There's no doubt that a digital experience today is playing an increasingly important role in improving the customer experience and satisfaction," said Jacob George, vice-president and general manager of JD Power Asia Pacific.

"It is no longer a 'nice to have' feature, but a 'must have'. Dealers need to engage their customers across multiple digital channels and digital touch points," he said.

Dealers, though trying, are struggling to provide customers with a user-friendly digital experience.

According to the study, 40 percent of vehicle owners said they have experienced problems when scheduling an appointment online.

The findings show that only 13 percent of owners scheduled their last service visit via digital channels, while 59 percent called for an appointment.

"There's still a gap between merely deploying digital technologies and actually using them to improve customers' experiences, address their needs and meet their expectations," George said.

"That explains why very few vehicle owners in China have tried digital channels to schedule dealer services so far, despite the high satisfaction level that using them brings," he added.

Franchised dealerships can consider leveraging a more satisfying digital experience to retain customers who are heading toward smaller, nonfranchised repair shops.

"In fact, those franchised dealerships are in a better position to satisfy customers. For example, they can introduce digital devices and services that are easier to use to meet their growing demands," said Edward Wang, director of research operations at JD Power China.

The survey found that 61 percent of those vehicles serviced at non-franchised stores are under warranty, 7 percent more than in 2017, mainly thanks to more convenient locations, speedy service and competitive prices.

Vehicle owners' annual expenses on maintenance and repair at authorized dealerships has fallen to 1,956 yuan ($291) this year from 2,450 yuan in 2017.

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