Last week Maruti Suzuki topped the JD Power 2014 India Customer Service Index survey for the 15th consecutive year. This study, in its 18th year, measures satisfaction among vehicle owners who visit an authorised dealership service centre for maintenance or repair work between the first 12-24 months of vehicle ownership. According to the JD Power study, on a 1,000-point scale, Maruti scored 890, while the mass market average was 856. Pankaj Narula, executive director, Service, Maruti Suzuki, in an interaction with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, shares what it takes for a carmaker to retain the top slot in customer satisfaction for over a decade. Excerpts:
Maruti is perhaps the only automaker to win this accolade for 15 consecutive years…
Yes, it was tough and challenging, yet inspiring. Our network, on an average, services over 13 lakh cars per month (over 1.5 crore cars per annum). Some of the things that led to us winning this accolade year on year are concepts such as express service bays and Maruti Mobile Support to bring down servicing time. Express service bays are operational in 1,034 cities and offer quick service in just 90 minutes. And Maruti Mobile Support that offers doorstep services (free service and minor attention) is being appreciated by our customers. Right now 1,173 Maruti Mobile Support vans are operational in 1,556 cities, and we target to have 1,500 such vans by March 2015. Besides, we are conscious that if we take good care of the customer at the workshop, there is a high probability of getting recommendations of the brand/dealership. Service gives us an opportunity to promote brand loyalty.
What other initiatives have contributed to your success?
I must say that from reducing waiting time for service initiation by bringing tablets, to operating some of our workshops 24X7, we have been walking the extra mile. By empowering our service advisors with hand-held tablets, we have been able to reduce the service initiation time by half—from 15 minutes to 7.5 minutes.
Customers are quite demanding nowadays. How do you address their high expectations?
Customer expectations have been growing and we know it. Right from the first interface where the service advisor greets the customer with a tablet, everything is integrated backwards. We have noticed that small gestures such as clearly explaining the expenses, scheduling appointment, reducing waiting times, express maintenance are appreciated. Earlier this year a programme that stood out was Beat the Heat, under which over 1 lakh cars were spruced up for the harsh Indian summer conditions. We organise similar customer-connect initiatives around monsoon, winters, etc. In fact, in FY14, we were able to connect with over 7.5 lakh customers through these initiatives.
How do you keep service costs low?
Costs are a measure of efficiency at work. To improve workshop efficiency, we have introduced concepts such as two-technicians bay, where two technicians work on a car to optimise service load of the bay. This technique enhances turnaround time. We have employed various such initiatives to keep service costs low.
Have you faced talent crunch?
So as to meet the demand for technicians, we are building capacity right at the ITI level. We are working with over 85 ITIs to bridge this talent gap.