The number of people experiencing customer service issues in the automotive sector has risen to its highest level since 2009.
New research by the Institute of Customer Service, which polls 10,000 consumers every six months for its cross-sector customer satisfaction index (UKCSI), found that 12.8 per cent had experienced problems with an automotive brand’s customer service – the highest level for the sector and 0.7 percentage points more than a year ago.
The leading cause of problems was the quality or reliability of goods/services, with more than two-fifths (41.5 per cent) experiencing a problem – nearly six percentage points higher than the UK average of 35.7 per cent.
The institute said that with more organisations interacting with customers via digital channels, consumers wanted automotive firms to improve their websites.
They also want to see the sector improve staff knowledge and make it easier to reach the right representative for help.
Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service, said: ‘We are at a critical juncture for the UK economy.
‘As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, customers have become ever more discerning with where they spend their money and it is critical that automotive organisations in particular, pay close attention to their full service offering.
‘Whilst we have seen improvements in complaint handling, it is evident that too many brands are failing to get to grips with the root causes of their customer service issues.
‘Customer satisfaction is intrinsically linked to strong business performance. For the UK economy to move forward as a true service leader, we need a broader focus on all dimensions of the customer experience.’
The three leading issues that customers believe organisations in the sector should improve are website navigation, making it easier to contact the right person to help, and developing more knowledgeable staff.
Causon added: ‘The past year has transformed the customer experience landscape.
‘As attitudes, behaviours and preferences continue to evolve, it’s more important than ever for automotive brands to adopt a true omnichannel strategy, blending the best elements of digital and human experiences to engage with a diverse and fragmented customer base.
‘Those brands that have performed best in the UKCSI are those that have maintained a key focus on the whole customer experience journey, providing honest, genuine communication at all stages, and via all channels.’
The automotive sector was the fourth-highest ranked in the UKCSI in terms of customer satisfaction across 13 sectors, behind retail (non-food), retail (food) and leisure.
Suzuki, Dacia and Nissan topped the table in the automotive sector for customer satisfaction.
Suzuki was also third in the overall Top 50 for customer satisfaction, with Nissan and Dacia joint 29th, Skoda 35th, and Hyundai and Toyota joint 37th.
Overall customer satisfaction in the sector stood at 79.1 points – a marginal increase of 0.8 points against July 2020 and 1.7 points higher than the national average (77.4 points).
That was mainly driven by improvements in complaint handling, though, rather than addressing the root cause of customer service issues, said the institute.