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THE Australian automotive industry has received a scathing report on customer experience with the sector rated among the lowest of all surveyed and in some cases, ranked last and considerably worse than its nearest rival.

The results of poor customer responses to the way the automotive industry handles customers remains worse even than the telecommunications industry which has been hit hard by recent severe problems.

This is the finding of the ‘SenseCX’ customer experience survey conducted nationally by CSBA and encompassing 192 companies in eight industry sectors.

SenseCX reports measure the quality of customer interactions with an organisation’s contact centre against three factors – Ease, Sentiment, and Success (see footnote) – with independent assessments by CSBA specialists conducted via telephone conversations.

The quarterly survey found that the automotive industry is placed amongst the lowest performing sectors overall, particularly for key behaviours relating to Ease. 

“While this Index score is consistently the lowest performing, the Automotive Benchmark sits at the bottom of all sectors, 12 points lower than the top performing sector,” the report said.

“At 61 per cent, Sentiment is the highest scoring Index for the Automotive sector, however it is still in the lower half of all sectors, scoring only two points higher than the lowest performer.

“Success scores for the Automotive sector are again amongst the lowest performers, a full 10 points below the top performer.

“The gap between the Automotive Top Performer and the Overall Top Performer is considerable, highlighting how much work needs to be done across the entire sector.”

It said that “the greatest opportunities for improvement relate to minimising the amount of effort (‘Ease’) customers must expend when making enquiries”.

“Putting more effort into effectively guiding the customer through the interaction, in addition to making efforts to answer unasked questions to go ‘above and beyond’, and providing a pathway for further assistance at the conclusion of the call are required.

“While Sentiment is the highest scoring Index, many basics are lacking such as asking for the customer’s name to develop rapport, confirming comprehension during a call and confirming the customer understands the information and resolution.

“To properly achieve Success in meeting the customer’s needs, a comprehensive understanding of their situation is required. 

“Agents in the automotive sector rarely ask effective questions and as a result, providing a thorough response to customer queries is a major gap.” 

CSBA managing director Paul van Veenendaal told GoAutoNews Premium that the downward trend in the metrics for the automotive industry could be attributed to a number of factors.

Paul van Veenendaal

He said that part of it is attributed to a change in the modelling used by automotive companies to gauge CX results, and also a change away from customer-direct contact to purely digital connections.

“Pre-COVID, companies used techniques including face-to-face and mystery shopping to inform the effectiveness of customer programs,” he said.

“Now, there’s much less person-to-person interaction and more emphasis on a call centre that asks specific questions and concentrates on issues of governance, which may have little relevance to finding out about the customers’ experiences.

“The automotive sector, and really the industry as a whole, has a big push to try and do everything digitally. So book an appointment online, get a sales query made online, and so on.

“Yet most people still want to ring up and talk to someone.”

Mr van Veenendaal said that the push to digital has meant a slowdown in the feedback they once got from the customer. 

“A lot of automotive businesses have lost sight of the customer experience and are now focusing more on the product,” he said.

“That would be the biggest issue around the falling customer experience ratings of the automotive industry.

“This can be seen in the acceleration of the EV sales market. Dealerships are thinking about ‘Oh, it’s all going electric so we’ve got to get into the EV market’.

He added that the automotive industry had also changed the focus from the customer to the product.

“I would say the dynamics in the industry has moved to have made everybody move to focus on product and forget about the customer,” he said.

“If you’re serious about the customer, you would be absolutely focused on the experience. And I think that is what is missing.

“A major car distributor found that the most important touch point for the customer – from when they first saw the car ad on TV, to when they drove out of their first service – was the phone call they made when they booked a test drive.

“So in the whole assessment of the buyer’s journey, the clincher was the reaction with the person at the dealership who answered the phone that determined predominantly where they went for the test drive.

“So that comes down to staff training. At the moment, there is a lack of training and support for frontline staff.”

CSBA’s trained CX Assessment Team conducted 10,513 assessments of telephone customer interactions with 192 Australian Contact Centres between October 1, 2022 and September 30, 2023, using the best practice SenseCX Quality Framework.

The CSBA ratings are:

  • SUCCESS: The degree to which the customer can accomplish their goals. Customers want to get what they came for. They need to be understood and provided with a no-fuss resolution.
  • EASE: The effort the customer has to expend to accomplish their goals. The interaction must be easy. Customers should be actively guided through a clear process towards resolution. 
  • SENTIMENT: How the experience and interaction makes the customer feel. Your customers want to be treated as an individual, not just another transaction in the agent’s day.

By Neil Dowling

AdTorque Edge