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JOHANNESBURG - The follow-up telephone call to new vehicle owners has emerged as a key element in whether consumers were satisfied with the vehicle sales experience, according to the results of a new survey.

And the way vehicle owners were greeted in the dealership when they dropped their vehicle off for a service was also important to their overall satisfaction levels about the service experience.

These were two of the major findings of the latest annual customer experience survey conducted last year by global research company Ipsos.

Patrick Busschau, the business unit director at Ipsos, said the latest research showed a very slight downturn in the purchasing experience index for passenger cars to 94.7percent from 95.1percent, but stressed that it was still a very high score.

Busschau said the figure for buyers of light commercial vehicles was only slightly lower at 94.4percent, but had been on a steady upward trend for the past five years.

The survey flagged some negative trends in the passenger car purchasing experience report.

Busschau said most of these changes were very small, but the biggest reverse by 1.5percent to 90.3percent from 91.8percent related to the failure of dealer personnel to contact the buyer after the purchase.

He said the post purchase contact call was one of the key elements in terms of driving customer happiness, but it was also a driver of unhappiness.

“Some might say that surely having the right car delivered on time with the correct specifications and accessories that were ordered is key. It is, but that happens 99.9percent of the time.

“However, we are finding that soft elements are becoming far more critical in differentiating the top brands from the lesser performing brands.

“If I am going to make a call to a customer to thank them for their business and to find out if everything is okay, it needs to be done really well.

“It probably needs to be done by the salesperson who sold the vehicle or the sales manager or dealer principal and not some random skivvy sitting in a back office at the dealership, because it shows the customer appreciation for spending half a million rand to buy a vehicle."

Busschau said it was also important that any issues raised by the customer were resolved. With the exception of vehicles being delivered free of faults, there were marginal declines in all the other elements survey as part of the purchasing experience, which included elements such as an exciting hand-over, advice customers could trust, ownership of queries and problems, contact about progress, making customers feel important, understanding the cost of ownership and effort to understand the customer’s needs.

The servicing experience last year was almost identical for both cars and light commercial vehicles.

Busschau said improvements were registered in a number of elements, including dealer contact after servicing, dealers providing transport to the next destination, having the car ready on time and updating the owner on progress.

Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen have received gold awards for the light commercial purchasing experience.

Audi, Lexus, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen earned gold awards in the passenger car servicing experience category, while Isuzu, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen earned gold in this category for light commercial vehicles.