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Autocar Professional: Mahindra Taps Tech to satisfy customers better

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In the Indian utility vehicle market, Mahindra & Mahindra enjoys the numero uno position. With SUVs ruling the roost, and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future, competitors and the intensity of competition are on the rise. In such a scenario, M&M realises rolling out new and better products and having a large sales network is not good enough. The customer’s satisfaction is increasingly becoming a key differentiator. Therefore, there’s a ‘crusade’ at M&M to do what will help it to not only have more customers, but also more satisfied ones. Veejay Nakra, sales chief of M&M’s automotive division, has the responsibility of making this crusade a success. He bets on two key factors – convenience and transparency, and all activities of Crusade 2.0 at M&M are designed around it, with good amount of technology support. “In this whole journey of customer experience, we have leveraged technology in a big way,” says Veejay. 

The results are showing. From the bottom of the pack in 2004, M&M reached the top (joint first position with Toyota) last year in the annual sales satisfaction survey by JD Power. This year though the position is number three which, perhaps, will result in the crusaders at M&M becoming serious in building an even stronger customer-focused culture in the company’s operations. Recently M&M introduced a tech-enabled service which allows its customers to access a dealership’s workshop schedule and choose a time of his/her choice to get a vehicle serviced. “All that a customer is looking for is convenience and transparency in the deal. And if you have promised a time, deliver on that time,” says Veejay. Sounds simple but not so when it comes to living it. M&M’s dealerships, for example, receive 200,000 enquiries and have to open and close 300,000 job cards a month!

Leveraging technology is helping meet this challenge. According to Veejay, M&M’s dealership network has over 350 interactive kiosks and over 5,000 tablets in the hands of the sales consultants. “We have tried to make even the enquiry system foolproof because providing customer delight is not just after the customer buys the vehicle. It is from the time you start interacting with the brand,” he says, while claiming that M&M is the first OEM to use tablets and kiosks in a dealership. One of the first new interventions that M&M made in its customer satisfaction journey was in the “biggest moment of truth” for the customer – delivery of the vehicle.

Today’s common practice of a delivery ceremony for a vehicle was started by M&M. Many dealerships today have a priest on their rolls to conduct the ceremonies. Transparency is a key factor. More so when it comes to a deal, which Veejay feels, customers are today looking for while shopping even a car. Veejay admits that there are times when customers feel “cheated” as sometimes “there’s a difference between the intention of the manufacturer and what is provided by the dealer”. 

To address this problem, dealerships were required to set up digital screens displaying schemes of the month at areas of interaction. Promise statements, signed by Dr Pawan Goenka, currently executive director, M&M, were put up in showrooms and workshops and the dealerships “had to ensure by signing that all enablers were in place”. “We had an independent audit agency that will go and audit the dealership. We made sure that there was a certain standard of experience and scores that we were getting,” says Veejay.

Of the 238 dealerships that M&M has currently, 231 have these promise statements. The rest do not have due to inconsistency in meeting the parameters by dealerships in a remote location or the inappropriate approach of the dealership principal or non-availability of resources. In terms of resources, M&M asked its dealerships to appoint relationship managers and ‘sales satisfaction champions’ with self-explanatory roles.

Industries like banking, hospitality and airlines were benchmarked to enhance the level of customer satisfaction. Why? “The number of interactions and experiences are highest in those industries. All said and done today, the customer experience across brands, across industries are becoming seamless,” explains Veejay. 

According to him, a customer today is going to compare a vehicle OEM/ dealership’s service to an e-commerce player’s. “The paradigms of comparisions are changing overnight,” says Veejay. To keep pace with this fast-changing world, M&M plans to next offer a technology-enabled service which will allow customers to customise a Mahindra SUV (only accessories in the first phase) before buying it.

A report by Sumantra B Barooah.