Lin Lei - Chairman, TNS Sinotrust

Guaranteeing channel stability and boosting brand power have never been more important now that auto manufacturers are faced with the rat race in market segments and declining dealer profitability. Driven by the emerging era of industry 4.0*, automakers are focused on speed and efficiency, from production automation and process management digitalization to enterprise information networking and cloud-based intelligent manufacturing.

A recent survey of ours found that although the automotive sector has been on a path of steady growth since 2012, dealer satisfaction has been an issue that demands the attention of automaker’s top management.

On the dealers’ side, many complaints are centred around logistics, for example, mismatched booking orders and customer requests, the inability to confirm vehicles’ arrival time, inadequate financial support and uncertainty about in-shipment part status. Others highlight more general issues such as the discrepancy between the premium products on the stocks and the customer demands and an incompatibility between marketing campaigns and local customs. These challenges directly compromise dealers’ service capability and profitability.

At the same time, the survey allows automakers to identify issues with dealers’ customer service, management and profitability to detect areas for improvement and increased support and cooperation.

Using the Dealer Satisfaction Survey, we work with automakers to truly understand the individual business, its relationship with dealers and finally, to identify areas for improvement. The survey has four key components, all informed by the needs of the automaker:

  1. Objective identification

    This involves understanding how the insights will be used within the business. Are they needed to evaluate the current status, or will they serve as a pre-warning to enable future decision making? Does the survey require quantitative investigation to give a broad overview of the situation or a more in-depth qualitative causal analysis?

  2. Content confirmation

    What is the remit of the survey and what areas need to be assessed to give an accurate picture of the business landscape? The core of the Dealer Satisfaction Survey focuses on product quality, logistics management, incentive policy, financial support, marketing, dealer network development and management, and finally regional personnel communication. However the survey can delve into areas of specific importance depending on the needs of the business.

  3. Survey execution

    The survey is executed through quantitative and qualitative methods with dealers’ major management personnel as the subjects. Dealers’ satisfaction scores along with automakers’ management indices are obtained through CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interview) or online surveys. Low-scoring satisfaction scores and the reasons behind them are then interrogated through qualitative surveys in the form of telephone interviews and in-depth face-to-face meetings. Automakers are free to make their own choices based on the depth of the survey based on their needs, costs and other considerations.

  4. Analysis and summary

    The resulting insight from the survey is presented in three forms. Firstly, the quantitative satisfaction scores which provide an overview, secondly, in-depth analysis of the low-scoring areas that uncovers the concrete reasons behind the results, and finally, an improvement plan based on our own expertise that focuses on how to optimise automakers’ internal and dealer management.

In collaborating with automakers on the Dealer Satisfaction Survey, we have seen many encouraging actions put in place as a result of the insights we have exposed. Many have focused on improving the management of the relationship with dealers. For example, dealers can book their desired models at a certain amount of pre-payment, which is crucial for dealers’ profitability. Meanwhile, many automakers have also concentrated on logistics efficiency and communication at a regional level.

In today’s new era of fast-moving automotive industry development, traditional business models are set to be overturned by emerging ones within a matter of months. In working together closely with dealers and understanding the relationship and challenges better, automakers have the opportunity to steer their businesses in the right direction through these unprecedented changes.

*The term "Industry 4.0" originates from a project in the high-tech strategy of the German government, which promotes the computerization of the manufacturing industry. It refers to the fourth industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution was the mechanization of production using water and steam power, it was followed by the second industrial revolution which introduced mass production with the help of electric power, followed by the digital revolution, the use of electronics and IT to further automate production.

Source of information: Wikipedia