Tata Motors India, a few years ago, faced hardships, not only in the manufacturing quality of products but also in the aftersales and customer relationship department. Dinesh Bhasin, Head of Aftersales and Service, Tata Motors has been in the customer service segment for the past 35 years, which is when the Indian automotive industry was revolutionised. Currently, Bhasin looks after the customer service department for both domestic and exports customer service at Tata Motors, after having worked at numerous OEMs such as Maruti, Bajaj Auto, Hyundai Motors and Toyota Motors. In conversation with APF, he talks about the progress made by Tata Motors in taking care of the customer’s vehicles and the strategies employed by them that has gotten Tata Motors to the second place in JD Power’s Customer Service Index.
You have had plenty of experience in the aftersales and service segment. How has it changed over the years?
Between now and 20 years ago there is a big difference in both the product and the customers’ expectations of its maintenance. Earlier cars were considered to be just a mode of transport. While that is still true, a car is so much more. A customer wants better mileage with lower chances of a breakdown, along with an adherence to current trends such as fuel efficiency, lower emissions and the much talked about connectivity. Basically, the customer wants comfort and performance at a cost effective rate.
When it comes to aftercare and servicing, customers expect the vehicle to be given back to them almost immediately. In the past, servicing would take more than a day. However today’s customers require to be attended as quickly as possible. In this respect I have witnessed changes in both the product and customer attitudes towards aftercare.
How would you chart Tata Motors’ aftersales success compared to its slump several years ago?
Seven to eight years ago the company was seeing some tough times. Since then we have been employing certain initiatives that have bettered the quality of our products and service.
We have implemented various initiatives which have resulted in the recovery of dissatisfied customers through personalised attention by our customer relationship managers. Our progress has been recognised by JD Power India, which has ranked us at first place in all of South India by their 2017 Customer Service Index (CSI). We have ranked second in the CSI on a national scale have scored 893 points marking the second highest score amongst our competitors. Consistently growing since the last six years has proved us to be one of the most improved brands in JD Power India’s study.
What are the notable strategies that you have implemented across your workshops?
We have used the Navratna strategy that was deployed two years ago. It consists of nine steps that focus on service advisors. Here they are trained well to give the best advice to the customer. The strategy also involves developing the concept of a relationship manager that engages in customer relationship building activities. The workshops are also expected to pick-up the vehicle and deliver it after body repairs as part of the guidelines. Along with repairs the workshops also give the vehicle a compulsory foam wash. All of these steps have been implemented to improve performance in five factors of the CSI study.
What are your future expansion plans and how will you achieve them?
We have a roadmap that is clearly defined. A city cannot be build first and then the roads built later. With the help of that we will be able to double our growth in the next three years. The sales volume of Tata vehicles will obviously grow, so if customers need their car to be serviced our workshops shouldn’t be lacking in any manner. For that we need to plan whom to partner with for the best quality workshops to be set up as well. All of this will be planned by a committee of which I am a member along with the sales head.
At the same time if we keep up the same growth as we have of last fifteen years, we expect the sales volume to double in the next five to six years and we expect the aftersales network to double to 1,500 workshops by 2020 to 2021.
How do you plan to expand in the rural areas where certain amenities are difficult to come by?
We can broadly divide the domestic market into the urban and rural sectors. Bigger cities definitely see a larger demand for passenger vehicles. However, in recent years, cars have no longer remained a luxury. Rural and semi-urban areas have also witnessed a demand that is driving up the sales. For the maintenance and sale of cars sold in these regions we have started workshops and showrooms. However, owing to lack of certain amenities, it is not possible to build workshops that are accessible to everyone. For this purpose we have started a mobile service van that has been in the testing phase for the past one year. Right now, we have 30 of them that are operational all over the country. In a day, one van can service three to four vehicles and this includes washing.
What other customer centric policies were implemented in Tata Motors’ workshops?
In our new policy, all customer related concerns have to be resolve withing 24 hours of the complaint being filed. A five per cent reduction in customer complaints in FY ‘17 as compared to FY ‘16 are resultants of new service programmes like ‘Speed-O-Service’, pick up and drop, and increased usage of technology like Service App, V-Tabs and body-repair estimation tool- Audatex. In 2017, over 86 per cent of the complaints were resolved in less 48 hours through crack team identification. ‘Speed-O-Service’ ensures that 60 per cent of free service cars are delivered within 90 minutes. Pick-up and drop has increased from 20 per cent in September 2016 to 25 per cent in January 2018. In cases of spare parts order from customers, 96 per cent of the spare parts are made available to them in the first week of their order. We are also digitising the workshop experience to the extent possible and reducing the customer’s visit to our touch points through various digital interventions. V-Tabs and auto car wash services were installed at 160 set ups in key cities. The workshop facility also has free Wi-Fi and wireless payment system for the convenience of waiting customers.
One of the most effective service intervention is our mega service camp (MSC), which we started in 2015. This is an extensive 40-point detailed diagnosis of the car, for free held across 630 dealerships and across 281 locations in India. We have so far attended to over 8.5 lakh cars in the last seven editions. Tata Motors hosted 1,44,765 customers in the MSC conducted in July 2017 where we were associated with over 16 suppliers to offer discounts on spare parts, accessories, lubricants, and other services. A total of 21,556 lost customers were recovered during MSC July 2017.
We are moving from ICE to BEV. How would this transition impact the aftersales segment?
Tata Motors is not lacking in any way when it comes to new technology. We are a homegrown company and we have the support system that we need from the main plant and the Delhi office. When the sales volume for battery electric vehicle (BEV) grows our responsibility will be to scale up the workshops and services for the same. The Delhi workshop is already well-equipped for our privileged BEV customers. One good thing that arises from the shift to BEVs is that it takes away the stress of servicing. Without all the many components and moving parts that come with an internal combustion engine (ICE), a BEV would be very beneficial to customers maintenance-wise. The workload on the aftersales and service unit would also be lessened. This move is a win-win situation for everyone.