The COVID-19 pandemic affected the automobile industry immensely having shown automobile companies a period of zero sales. However, now as we learn to live with the situation, the sales numbers are climbing back to normalcy. But some behavioural changes are continuing, like preferring contactless methods to get vehicles serviced. The use of smartphone applications has increased, and so has pick & drop service for vehicles. We spoke with Dimple Mehta – Head Customer Care – Domestic & IB, Passenger Vehicle Business Unit, Tata Motors, to know more about how the service industry has evolved to improve customer service in times of a pandemic.
Has there been a change in customer behavior in terms of getting their vehicles serviced from pre-pandemic times to now?
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is an increased need for safety among consumers – not just vehicle safety but the need to have a vehicle of their own due to the reduced preference for public transport. This need has also given rise to certain behavioral shifts in after-sales service as well. Customers in the last few years have slowly moved towards preferring contactless service wherever possible and the automobile industry is no exception to the same. Before the pandemic, only 15-20% of customers preferred to avail the pick & drop facility as the remaining wanted to be at the workshop for direct interaction with the service providers. However, as of the present day, approximately 30% of customers prefer to opt for pick & drop for their vehicles, to maintain the norms of social distancing. This number is even higher in big cities, where 40-45% of customers are choosing to avail of this service. Moreover, there has been an increase in demand for sanitization of vehicles before delivery.
What percentage of customers use the Service Connect App for booking service appointments? Are the digital formats of conducting transactions being accepted well?
Although telephone bookings for service appointments are still dominant, nearly 5% of customers use the app to schedule the same, which is an increase from earlier. Bearing in mind that there is a rise in the usage of digital platforms for services across industries due to consumer preferences of new age media, it will become a key differentiator in the evaluation of aftersales services in the near future.
How adept are the service personnel at workshops in the use of digital platforms like Service Application and Service Buddy app? Have they been trained for it? How do the apps assist in the processes?
Employees at our workshops have been trained and familiarized with our digital applications and we see no challenges on this front. Our digital support services are available in non-auto areas as well and the younger users are adapting to it easily. We are receiving similar responses from our dealership manpower on both – the Service Application and the Buddy app. From the consumer’s point of view, what makes it more effective are the customized in-built features and user-friendliness of the apps.
How can customers be assured of price uniformity for spare parts from one dealership to another?
The CRM being used at Tata Motors is responsible for ensuring that only approved rates are being billed to customers. To avoid the negative perception the customers might have if the costs are not explained to them properly, our Service App gives an entire rundown of service costs, which are to be incurred by the customer throughout the process. Customers can view the repair estimates for all scheduled and frequently used jobs on the app along with the prices for all services to ensure transparency and visibility. To enhance the feeling of trust among our customers, labor rates are also displayed in office areas across our workshops.
Moreover, we have digitized the process of registering repair orders at workshops. Our workshops are designed to promptly respond to customer queries, provide cost estimations and work in sync with our Service Connect App available to customers, which relays real-time data to the concerned after-sales teams. The app provides services such as online vehicle pickup requests, online updates on repair status, online viewing of repair estimates for scheduled and frequent jobs, etc. We are also in the process of releasing digital feedback and a redressal tool, which the customers can use to evaluate the service experience post the delivery of their vehicle from the workshop.
How does Tata Motors ensure quality for doorstep vehicle service?
Tata Motors’ Door Step Service is an extended workshop facility that is mobile (in a 4-wheeler) and allows customers to not travel long distances for servicing appointments. Tata Motors has a countrywide presence on this front that caters to customers across 675 workshops while maintaining consistent quality and efficient service delivery. The company also has over 42 mobile service vans, bringing the brand closer than before to its customers by taking this facility to their homes. This feature is also available on the Tata Motors Service Connect App, through which customers can book a Door Step Service appointment.
Are all Tata Motors workshops now operating at full capacity? How have service protocols transformed now that social distancing is a key factor in operations across industries?
While many states still have certain restrictions on the functioning of workshops, approximately 80% of our workshops are fully operational. Keeping in mind that the safety of our customers and employees is of paramount importance, we have rolled out standard guidelines in adherence to social distancing norms backed by necessary lay-out changes at the customer reception area, which are being followed at every workshop. Additionally, usage of protective covers while delivering the cars post-repair is also instilling a feeling of confidence among customers.
How has the response been for the Women Assist service? How does it improve the service experience for women customers?
Our Women Assist Service programme caters to the urgent service requirements of a woman driver on the move. The services under this programme are offered free of cost without any conditions, similar to a warranty or a prepaid RSA program. Last year, we serviced around 500+ customers through this programme. All customers who availed these services have rated us very highly and have given very positive feedback to the team.
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