Maruti Suzuki clocks 4,000 service outlets, intensifies focus on rural markets

by Mayank Dhingra 03 Mar 2021

Passenger vehicle market leader Maruti Suzuki India, which has a near-50 percent share in the April 2020 to January 2021 period, is making strides in aftersales as well. The company has accomplished the milestone of setting up 4,000 service touch-points across India, with its workshops split under four categories.

Maruti-authorised dealer workshops comprise the maximum chunk of this number at 2,355 outlets, followed by Maruti-authorised service stations (MASS) and Maruti service zones that are together pegged in the range of 1,417 outlets. There are 225 dedicated Nexa service centres and its latest Service on Wheels fully-equipped mobile vans, both part of the authorised dealer network, are also driving this flourishing ecosystem.

Moreover, a handful of three fully-company-owned outlets, christened Maruti Service Masters (MSM), are also located in Delhi and Chennai to solve a bigger purpose for the company, which we shall see how.

Reaching out to car buyers
The company claims its Service on Wheels concept has struck the right chord with car owners by offering contactless, doorstep service to customers, especially during the testing times of 2020, when people hesitated to visit a service centre amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our strategy has been to move closer to the customer. And to do that especially in the urban cities, we are prioritising Service on Wheels, which is being very much appreciated by our customers,” said Partho Banerjee, executive director, Service, MSIL, in an interview with Autocar Professional.

Service on Wheels was introduced as a new initiative by MSIL in August 2019, wherein a fully-equipped Maruti Suzuki Eeco van or a Maruti Suzuki Super Carry pick-up would reach a customer’s home or office premises, and carry out the vehicle’s periodic maintenance or basic running repairs in front of the customer.

The facility encompasses both paid and free services as offered by a standard Maruti Suzuki service centre, along with repairs, under body inspection, oil changing, filter cleaning and car washing. The doorstep service is accessible for all engine variants including petrol, diesel and CNG in the Maruti Suzuki portfolio.

Intensifying focus on rural India and the hinterlands
Thus far, MSIL has added 208 touch-points in FY2020-21, and as per Banerjee, “We gauge the needs of the customer and based on that, expand the number of workshops. We are trying to cover more of the hinterlands.”

“Our aim is to tap into the huge opportunity in the rural market where we need to move further closer to our customers. So there, we are coming up with both brick-and-mortar outlets, as well as Service on Wheels vans. We have adopted this twin strategy in these areas,” he added.

The strategy looks to be in line with Suzuki Motor Corporation’s latest mid-term five-year management plan, which relies a greater emphasis on rural market penetration in India by 2026 for the Japanese carmaker to continue maintaining a strong 50 percent market hold in the country.

The focus also lies on augmenting digitisation.

Digitisation drives
According to Banerjee, “The way we have been able to bounce back after Covid-19 has strengthened the bond with our customers and their trust in us has grown multi-fold. For the last five months, we have achieved a consistent 10 percent growth rate in paid service, which is an industry benchmark in itself.”

Its quick response team (QRT) with over 780 emergency service vehicles – motorcycles and four-wheelers – is claimed to have served over 114,000 customers, including doctors and health workers in the pandemic year. These integrated service motorcycles with an expert technician have been rolled out in 249 cities in India.

Furthermore, MSIL says it has put diligent efforts in driving several digitisation initiatives in aftersales, which are now paying good dividends. “We put a lot of planning during the lockdown, and Covid-19 was more of an opportunity for us to introduce these systems, which otherwise would have taken us even longer,” Banerjee said.

A few of the new digital systems introduced by MSIL include:

  • Voice-enabled job cards – supplementing the paperless job cards, the service advisor now speaks into his tablet to fill in the vehicle details and jobs required.
  • Online customer approval system – during servicing process, the company sends a video of any particular part that needs replacement to seek customer approval.
  • Bodyshop despatch approval – when the vehicle is ready with all bodyshop-related repairs, detailed photographs are shared with the customer to ensure satisfaction.
  • Pick-up-and-drop driver tracking – a pilot project as of now, customers can track the whereabouts of the vehicle being driven by a designated workshop driver.

The company has rolled out most of these new digital systems at its workshops across India.

“During the lockdown, we understood that if we have to do business, we have to change our strategy and think in a different way. Our teams, including the in-house IT team did a lot of brainstorming to implement these digital initiatives in place,” Banerjee explained.

“The most important thing was to give confidence to our customers in the entire process, and from that perspective it has been the biggest investment for us,” he added.

While the company claims it is more or less back to attending pre-Covid-19 levels of service volumes, some authoritative restrictions are still keeping it at bay from organising some service camps and melas that usually drive more numbers.

The feedback loop and skilling
As clearly seen, the predominant number in Maruti Suzuki’s service network comprises of dealer-owned workshops, and according to Banerjee, “We first always give the opportunity to set up a new workshop to our existing channel partners simply because if they have sold the car, they’ve already established a connect with the customer.”

“The feedback from our dealer partners in terms of business growth is very encouraging,” Banerjee said.

Then, why operate three company-owned Maruti Service Masters service centres, one would ask?

“The basic purpose of the MSM concept is to try and get product feedback from the market. We generally get market feedback directly from the customers through these service centres located in Delhi and Chennai, which also end up being remarkably helpful to our engineering teams as well,” Banerjee explained.

Going forward, with the massive transformations in the automotive industry, particularly the shift to greener mobility, MSIL believes manpower reskilling will play a crucial role if one wants to be at the top.

“The key thing that is going to make a difference is going to be the human touch. At Maruti Suzuki, we believe that we have to go for multi skilling. We need to focus on future technologies and nurture and develop our service teams so that they are able to make a seamless transition to future technologies,” Banerjee concluded.

ALSO READ: Maruti Suzuki bets on network scale to fend off growing competition

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