Why is the customer experience of the Motor Industry so often so bad?

May 1, 20147min0

Every automotive brand is trying to create an army of loyal advocates but very few are succeeding to an extent that is really driving profitable growth. Why is this?

Let me start by saying that I am not a habitual Motor Industry knocker. I have seen the best of which the sector is capable and talked to customers who don’t have a bad word to say about their experience, but unfortunately this is not the norm. So, I remain on my mission to help the industry to begin to deliver consistently acceptable experiences and the carefully managed bursts of excellence that deliver real loyalty at a sensible cost.

Here are some of the things that I feel I am up against:

Too much in-breeding
There are far too many motor industry lifers in the Leadership Teams of major brands and among the Sales Consultants and Service Advisors in their dealers. There is often a prevailing attitude of “that’s the way the industry does it” which is rarely broken by bringing in people from the real ‘service’ industries. A great example of breaking this mould is a Service Manager who I met who recruits as many of his staff as possible by offering jobs to people who give him great service in hotels and restaurants.

Organisational barriers that will not go away
Almost every part of the industry has the same basic Sales, After-Sales, Parts, Financing structure as it did 50 years ago and some of the most rigid boundaries between these. Customers are too often left to navigate their own way between the functions both physically and in a relationship development sense. And don’t even dream of bringing Used Vehicle customers into the mix! That is apart from one brand who have just discovered that in the UK a very high percentage of their highest value customers bought used vehicles from them before buying new. I suspect that their experience may now improve.

Little understanding or recognition of loyalty
In the rush to drive up ‘loyalty’ many brands have forgotten to define what they mean by the term. Is it only about replacement purchase or any next purchase? Does it include other vehicles within the household and what about service loyalty. As a customer I would find it hard to know what I would need to do to have my brand recognise me as loyal. Even if I could work this out they will almost certainly not recognise my loyalty when I enquire about my next vehicle let alone reward me in a relevant way.

Over-reliance on CSI to understand experience
The Motor Sector is clearly recognised as the cash cow of the customer satisfaction research industry whether it is basic percentages or the slightly more insightful NPS-type approach. After 5 attempts with 4 different brands we have never found any correlation between the infamous “Would you recommend?” question, or the high score over low score percentages, and any indicator of demonstrated loyalty (i.e. buying another vehicle). From the customer point of view I am frequently asked whether my vehicle was returned clean and if the service advisor was polite but rarely am I asked if these are even important to me.

Not keeping promises
I am sure that there must be one but I have never found a motor brand or even an individual dealer with the type of focussed KYP (Keep Your Promises) culture that we do see in other industries. This manifests itself early in the experience with less than 50% of sales leads actually receiving a contact after the ‘we will be in touch soon’ email from the website. It then typically continues at the stage of finding out the vehicle needs a part when it goes in for service and they will “call you when it arrives”.

I have probably been a bit unfair in picking on the negatives and not focussing on some of the positive experiences I have seen delivered in the Motor Industry. The sad fact is that I have a much longer list of the challenges faced than that shared above.

But I do believe in the industry’s ability to change if it really puts its mind to doing the right things.

Paul WestonPaul Weston
Director and co-founder – The Customer Framework

Customer frameworkPaul is a widely respected Customer Management consultant in the Motor Industry where he has worked for brands as diverse as Bugatti and Hyundai. He has been consulting for many years after a client-side marketing career in Unipart, Xerox and BT. He is the architect and development owner of the SCHEMA® Customer Centricity Strategy Development Approach which has exposed him to a large number of clients and a huge depth of insight into their Customer Management capabilities and direction. His personal sector specialisms are the Motor Industry, Telecoms and Insurance with subject matter specialisms in Customer Data, Experience Design and Insight Development.

Paul is a firm believer in the concept of “Data-driven Experience”. He is one of the few individuals who can drive meaningful conversations about the functional & emotional drivers of customers’ perceived experiences in the morning and then translate this into the logic that sits behinds an organisation’s logical data models and decision engines in the afternoon.


CXM Editorial Team

CXM Editorial Team

Published for all CX professionals, the digital Customer Experience Magazine is packed full of industry news, blogs, features, video bites and international stories all focusing on customer experience. CXM will help you learn what makes an outstanding customer experience that wins both awards and the hearts of customers. And sometimes we share some cool music as well.


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