Skoda is all set to show its new face to India in the form of new products, new design language, highly improved dealer service and new brand values too. September 1, 2016 is when the new initiatives will be rolled out.
This modernisation across the brand is something Skoda customers in the country have been waiting for long. The Czech carmaker today announced that it plans to launch four new models in India in 2017 including the seven-seater Kodiaq SUV, the Octavia RS (pictured below) and the Rapid facelift; details of one model have yet to be revealed.
There will also be two new Action models – the Octavia Black Edition and Rapid Monte Carlo – which will be launched in the first quarter of 2017. And, in another move, Skoda Auto India will also make ABS standard on all its cars by December 2016.
Gunning for customer satisfaction
While the brand has been doing well in India and its cars are well known for their build quality, the company’s poor aftersales and service has been an area of concern.
The big news now is about Skoda Auto India seriously targeting a high level of customer satisfaction. This, for a company, which has been beleaguered with customer complaints about its dealer service and high maintenance costs, is a dynamic change.
Skoda is investing Rs 100 crore in the entire sales and service upgrade programme, which is an indication of how seriously it is looking to strenghten the brand in India.
The change – all of it targeted at satisfying the Indian car buyer – begins with a redesigned dealership network which comprises 64 sales and service outlets across the country. According to Skoda Auto India, the marked difference will be both inside and outside, be it the signage, colours, or the highly functional interiors.
All showrooms will get a modern look and feel, an engaging customer environment and, importantly, deliver a high sense of transparency across all parameters. Speedy, easy and direct communication with the end consumer is the company’s avowed mantra.
That’s what Sudhir Rao, chairman and managing director, Skoda Auto India, and Ashutosh Dixit, director (Sales and Marketing), promise the energised Skoda brand will deliver and are optimistic that the slew of sales and service initiatives would dramatically change the consumer’s perception of the brand for the better.
New processes, transparency, and info at a glance
In line with modern trends and consumer convenience, the company has developed the ‘MySkoda’ app which provides customers with comprehensive information, data and facts about their cars. Access the app and what you can get instantly is previous service records, predict the next service, call for roadside assistance and locate the nearest Skoda dealer, among a host of features. One can also store important vehicle documentation in the app itself.
Commenting on the MySkoda app, Dixit states confidently, "This is probably the most comprehensive app of all car manufacturers (in India)."
The bugbear of Skoda customers in the past has been the not-so-transparent dealer billing and sometimes unwarranted additional workshop jobs done, which hit customers’ wallets. All that will now be history. No dealer can add labour pricing or charge for any optional service without the customer's consent.
Here are some service initiatives which the company is offering in its new avatar:
Menu pricing: Uniform repair prices across the entire dealership network in India. Customers can now choose the service they require from a menu basket with prices attached.
Itemised service invoices: These will reflect a summary of agreed standard and optional repair charges in an itemised format.
4-year/100,000km warranty: This extension of warranty will benefit Skoda car buyers from unwarranted repairs.
Same day delivery: Skoda Auto India, in a major customer-friendly move, is assuring delivery of the car on the same day to customers visiting a workshop for ‘Periodic Maintenance Service’. However, a Skoda owner has to book a prior appointment for the same.
Roadside assistance: Skoda Assist, the 24x7 emergency support programme, is offered in the event of any mechanical or electrical breakdown and/or traffic accident. The carmaker is extending 4 years of this service at no additional cost.
Dixit confidently states, "If you do not get an itemised bill or the car is not ready for delivery on the same day, then your service is free. The idea is to sensitise our network towards customer care." Clearly the onus is on the dealership to deliver satisfaction in spades.
To improve customer satisfaction in an increasingly digitised country and its target audience, Skoda Auto India is integrating a number of digital elements both on the sales and service side.
It has introduced an iConsultant – an iPad-based sales tool with which customers can check out the entire model range and choose their preferences across various parameters. This, says Dixit, “is a next-generation digital tool for a standardised sales process.
Commenting on workshop visits, he says: “We are looking to do a thorough job first time around. Customers will not have to return. The aim is to reduce repeat visits.”
Skoda Auto India, which currently has a small presence in the Indian automotive segment, will aim to expand its sales volume with the addition of fresh models in its portfolio. It registered sales of 15,368 units in FY2015-16, marginally higher than the previous year with a market share of around 0.55 percent. In Q1 FY2016-17 (April-June 2016), 2,820 Skodas have been sold in the country. Now, with an enhanced sales and service plan in place, the company believes it will win back consumers and is targeting higher sales of around 20,000 cars this fiscal.
The company currently sells four models in India – the Superb, Octavia, Rapid and Yeti – and has a manufacturing facility near Aurangabad, Maharashtra. The Rapid is its best-seller with sales of 10,935 units in the year ended June 2016 followed by the Octavia (2,552 units).
This is a new and bold Skoda that we are seeing in India, one which is now aggressively looking to transform the overall brand and ownership experience with a flurry of customer-friendly initiatives. If things go as planned and the company's dealers rise to meet the challenge, faster growth could be coming its way, sooner rather than later.
Happy customers, as they say, are the best form of advertising.
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