Satisfaction Level Decreases with Each Successive Free Service: Consumer Voice 

Sleek/sturdy looks that turn heads, intelligent machines that understand Indian roads, comfort, safety, fuel economy… in whatever order, these attributes are the biggest influencers on customer loyalty and affinity with a car brand. And a bad after-sales experience can erode this just as quickly. In the economy the carmakers face today, they need to rethink how to retain every customer they have and win new ones too.

While all car brands understand the significance of their after-sales service, each one of them provides a different experience – some are subtly building up a loyalty base, some are gradually losing their customers’ faith. In this scenario, Consumer Voice carried out a survey to assess the quality of after-sales service of 11 leading car brands in India. Company-owned/authorized service stations in eight cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Lucknow – were surveyed on the basis of feedback provided by 3,300 people who had availed free services at these stations.

The findings of this study aim at helping car owners in making essential decisions. For example, should he get his car serviced at an authorized station or through an independent servicer or a repair shop? While conventional wisdom says that trained professionals take care of your car at an authorized dealer, it also makes you question the rationale of paying more than double for the same service provided by the mechanic next door.

The topline findings of the report reveal that car owners who had availed the free services at a company-authorized/owned service station were highly satisfied with their first experience. However, their satisfaction levels went down considerably during the second service and fell drastically after the so-called third free service.

The analysis shows that the customer is highly satisfied with the first service primarily because he does not have to shell out a penny for any spares. In the second and the third services, he goes with the same hope – of being serviced for free – but is asked to pay for various spares and oils. Hence, his satisfaction as well as the trust level falls. 

Average Satisfaction Scores

Average satisfaction score attained by all the brands was as high as 8.96 for first free service; it reduced to 7.36 for second service and to 6.61 in third servicing.

If you look at brands’ scores individually, Honda, just a 16-year-old brand in India, leads the chart with a near perfect score of 9.50 for the first service. The oldest and yet the market leader Maruti leads the second service satisfaction level with 7.75 points. Volkswagen, which is comparatively a new entrant in the Indian market, is being able to keep customers happy even after the third service with 7.16 points.

Overall Satisfaction

The ‘overall satisfaction’ graph clearly depicts a fall in the satisfaction level of car owners post second free servicing, corroborating the fact that after the second servicing, extra payment for extra work carried out starts affecting the customer’s wallet, thereby reducing the satisfaction level.

Looking at the satisfaction level with various aspects of servicing of the car, Honda performed very well on ‘advice on improving the performance of car (fuel efficiency, etc.)’ after the third service. The brand scored in the range of 8–8.99, as against others who scored between 7–7.99 and 6–6.99.

There is an interesting corroboration to the study’s findings. When asked ‘whether they will recommend their service station to their family, friends or relatives,’ a majority of the car owners (98.3 per cent) said they would definitely/probably recommend the service station where they got their first service. This percentage reduced drastically for the service stations that did the second service (74.0 per cent) and further to 53.6 per cent for the ones that did the third service. Hence, the recommendations are also based on the users’ own experience – as discussed earlier, not many of them are satisfied with their service stations after the second and the third services.

Therefore, it can be concluded that consumer dissatisfaction begins after the second and third servicing of the car, when consumers start feeling the pinch of various charges and other deficiency in services. Brand-wise analysis of the survey data shows that Nissan maintained the top position after the first and second services, but its popularity dropped to fifth position after the third service. Mahindra, which was on fourth position after the second service, claimed top ranking after the third service.

Why Company-Authorized/Owned Service Station?

As discussed above, free services are actually not free and are rather costlier than the servicing done at the independent non-authorized service station. Even then, people prefer to get their car serviced from the company-authorized/owned service station.

As per the findings of the survey, people believe that ‘authorized service station is better equipped’ – this was the topmost reason (56.8 per cent) cited by respondents. ‘It has company trained staff’ was the second reason (52.9 per cent), followed by ‘reputation of the service station’ (45.3 per cent). These findings proved our hypothesis that consumers are willing to pay more for better quality of service.

How Often Do People Change Their Service Station?

Changing the service station during the free servicing period is a rare phenomenon. The survey results show that after the first free service only 2.7 per cent of the car owners had changed their service station for the second servicing, and 2.6 per cent had opted for a different service station during third servicing.

The reasons for changing the service station were obvious: ‘Car owners were not satisfied with the service’ provided by the previous service station.

The next most important reason for change was ‘high charges of the last service done’, followed by ‘inconvenient location’ as the third reason. A few respondents also changed service stations as they were ‘billed extra for a job not indicated beforehand’.

What’s Free in Free Service?

Nothing comes for free, and certainly not at all when the object in question is a car. As discussed earlier, car companies only promise free inspection – and customers are made to believe that it is free service. Mostly, new car owners get to know that all materials and consumables are to be paid by them only after reaching the service station. Also, service stations have a practice of providing more than required services like etching of car numbers on the car doors and then charging extra for that.

A glimpse at the survey results tabulated on pre-page shows that only in the first service the ‘free component’ exists, but with the increase in the number of free servicing, this free component starts vanishing. On the other hand, there is a steady increase in the percentage of car owners who believe that they are being charged higher than the estimate given to them. Also, the extra work performed during the free servicing increases with the increase in the number of free servicing – it increases from 79.6 per cent in the first free service to 87.1 per cent in the third free service.

Should They Ask Before Repairing?

Seeking the permission of the car owner before doing any repair or extra work is a must for the service centre. The survey results show that percentage of car owners who were not informed of the extra work prior to it being done has been increasing from 0.9 per cent in the first free service to 1.9 per cent in the third free service. On being asked whether the extra work done at the time of servicing was justified by the car owner or if they felt that they were in some way compelled to go for it, the results were really not in favour of the service station. While in the first service less than 1 per cent of the car owners feel that the extra work was thrust on them, the figure increases to 8.8 per cent in second free service and further to 21.8 per cent in third free service.

Should They Pick and Drop?

Amidst a busy schedule, when a person is not able to take out time for going to a service station to get his car serviced, the pick-up facility provided by many service stations comes in handy. The study shows that 80.5 per cent of the car owners had used the pick-up facility provided by the service station during the first free servicing of their car. This percentage increased to 88.9 per cent in second servicing, but reduced to 83.3 per cent in third servicing.

Do They Deliver on Time?

Customers expect prompt service and are not happy with delay in delivery of car beyond the committed time. Survey results show about 20.0 per cent of the respondents confirming that the committed timeline was not adhered to. When it came to informing the car owner of the possible delay, the response was quite poor as nearly 86.0 per cent of the respondents revealed that they were not informed of the delay. Nissan (27.3 per cent) followed by Honda (21.4 per cent) are the only brands that score well as far as informing the customer about delay is concerned.

What Is This Extended Warranty?

An extended auto warranty is a service contract between the owner of a vehicle and an auto warranty provider. All new cars come with a warranty that cover servicing of car for a certain period of time, mostly one year. When that time period runs out, consumers have the option to purchase an extended auto warranty. However, they cost extra and are sold separately. It should be noted that extended warranty comes with certain conditions. During the warranty period the car has to be serviced from the company-owned or authorized service station only.

An overview of the survey results shows that out of 3,300 car owners surveyed, only 749 (22.7 per cent) had taken the extended warranty. The main reason for taking the extended warranty was that ‘it covers free services of the car’ (43.3 per cent), followed by ‘24x7 car-care facility’ (14.8 per cent) and ‘it gives peace of mind’ (11.5 per cent). The stipulation that the car owners had to get their car serviced at the company-authorized service station during the entire tenure of extended warranty was justified by 98.0 per cent of the car owners. This again highlights the fact that car owners are more concerned with the quality work done by the trained manpower at the company-authorized service station than the price being charged.

What After the Free Services?

The study also tried to find out where a car owner prefers to go once his free service warranty expires. The results show that the majority of them continue to go to the authorized service station. However, around 18.0 per cent car owners revealed that they preferred unauthorized service stations citing reasons such as ‘better services than authorized service station’ (72.3 per cent), ‘reasonable charge’ (35.2 per cent) and ‘more transparent than authorized service station’ (17.1 per cent).

It can be said that when a choice between an authorized and a non-authorized service station is given to the car owner, he prefers going to the authorized service station. However, a substantial proportion of the owners believe that service provided by non-authorized stations is more transparent or better and is easy on their pockets as well.

Talking about the Problems

Car owners were asked to share all the problems they ever faced at their service station and this is what the Survey found:

•About 46.5 per cent consumers reported to have a problem with their service stations. Maximum problems were reported at the Ford service stations followed by Honda, which scored marginally better than Skoda.

•‘Unreasonable/fraudulent charges’ was the most frequently occurring problem as 51.2 per cent of the complaints were related to this.

•Nearly 42.2 per cent of the complaints were about ‘unnecessary delay in service’.

•‘Deficiency in the service provided’ came next in the row as about 17.7 per cent respondents had complained about this.

Methodology

The study ‘Assessment of Quality of Automobile Services’ was done by VOICE Society with support from Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Government of India.

A total of 8 cities and 11 car manufacturers were chosen. The selection of cities was based on the cars registered in that particular state. The brands were selected based on the number of cars sold in the financial year 2012. 

In 2011–12, 26.16 lakhs vehicles were sold to the Indian consumers. As per SIAM statistics, Maruti constitutes 38 per cent followed by Tata (15.5 per cent) and Hyundai (14.7 per cent).

The brands having a share of less than one per cent were dropped. Therefore, altogether 11 brands were included in the study based on their proportionate share in the market.

A total of 3,300 car owners were selected who had availed the free services on the purchase of a new car.

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