Thursday, February 9, 2012

Something to Think About – Trivia from the 2012 Consumer Sentiment Survey

We recently completed the 2012 Consumer Sentiment Survey. We can now look at the evolution of service customer sentiment/behavior/satisfaction over a bunch of years. One of the interesting things we see in 2012 is the degradation of top-box satisfaction (shown as “Very Satisfied”) with treatment when coming in for an appointment … across all channels. Total top-box satisfaction dropped 16% [calculated as (70% - 59%) / 70%] - chains fared the best with an 11% drop, versus dealers dropping 19%. These drops are all material and statistically significant.

What’s going on? A bunch of things.
  • The aftermarket rebounded in 2011, pretty much across all segments. Capacity was tightened in 2009 and 2010, and we met 2011 with much leaner service capacity.
  • My guess is that car dealers reacted faster to the recession by cutting capacity (we saw this in the 2010 Recessionary Dealer Survey) and were less willing than the other channels to add back once the market rebounded.
  • We will be showing more data from the 2012 Customer Sentiment Survey in future blogs and the upcoming Service Benchmark session, as well as the Digital Summit that focuses on hand-held device strategies. By looking further into the data we see that the number of consumers who use the internet (including owner centers) for service research skyrocketed – in 2010 our survey found that 32% of consumers were Digital Service Customers “DSCs” vs. 55% in 2012 (and this is with 2012 survey responders who were somewhat older than in 2010; in 2010 we identified that DSCs tend to be younger). This increase surpassed our forecast. Switching behaviors went down proportionally (predictable as internet offerings mature), but for the population at large netted out to an overall 29% increase in switching (as a result of internet research). So, people are using the internet more for research and are, as a group, switching providers a lot more than they did last year.
Bottom Line: The parts and service market was in recovery in 2011and this strained service capacity across all channels. Service customers were less satisfied, partly, because of this. Internet use grew at the same time and our service customers grew smarter and better informed of their choices. This education, in and of itself, bred dissatisfaction and, overall, this group increased channel-switching behavior. Real-time information coupled with old-time processes creates disconnects and satisfaction erosion. The service fleet composition from 2012 to 2015 will reflect the devastating whole-goods sales setbacks we saw from 2009 to 2011. This will shrink demand. Service capacity will better align with demand, and whatever influence this had on depressing satisfaction will disappear. What won’t disappear is the steadily increasing use of the internet to educate our service customers, the increased amount of channel switching, and the disconnects customers experience from mismatched expectations.

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