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VW acts on customer complaints

Tarnished image: Volkswagen's fast growth in Australia left it struggling to keep up with customer complaints.

Volkswagen Australia boss puts foot down on customer care, service pricing

30 Jan 2013

VOLKSWAGEN Group Australia has stepped up efforts to halt its customer satisfaction slide, establishing a new in-house customer care centre overseen personally by company managing director Anke Koeckler.

Stung by a poor showing in the 2012 JD Power customer service survey and unhappy with its previous outsourced customer service performance, Ms Koeckler has declared that the main focus will be on improving customer satisfaction across the board.

She sits in on customer complaint meetings, and has arranged for the new customer care operators to be sited close to the executive offices in the company's 12-month-old headquarters in Chullora, in Sydney's west, to improve lines of communication.

Of 80 new workers added to the company staff last year, half were assigned to VGA aftersales, in customer service, parts and service operations, in an effort to overcome shortcomings, not just in Volkswagen care but also its related Skoda subsidiary.

Ms Koeckler also confirmed that VGA is also considering capped-price servicing across its range to further improve its image.

 center imageLeft: Volkswagen Group Australia managing director Anke Koeckler.

She said it was too early to say if or when such a program could be implemented and whether it would include all models, including light commercial vehicles.

VW is trialling capped price servicing on its new Up city car at the affordable end of the car market where most rivals already offer such a service.

“We have to get customers from other brands in this market, and some of those customers might have the perception that our service is expensive,” he said. “This (capped price service) is one way we can do that.”

Volkswagen is Australia's fastest-growing full-line vehicle brand with sales growth of 22 per cent last year. This growth has stretched its resources, both in dealerships and at company headquarters.

VW could manage only 12th place in last year's JD Power customer service index rankings – down seven points year-on-year and 34 points behind the industry average.

Ms Koecker said she had been concerned at the survey results, which were topped by rivals Honda and Toyota.

“That is why we are employing these extra people and why we have established our own customer care cente,” she said.

Ms Koeckler said she had been unhappy with the performance of the previous outsourced customer care centre, and so had decided to integrate its into the company for better control.

She said VW also had made some personnel changes in the aftersales area.

“We have to make sure we have focus – as do the dealers,” she said.

She said the growth of VW sales in Australia meant VW's customer care service had to grown too, but said that while the level of inquiry had grown, the level of complaints had not grown significantly.

The centre was brought in-house in October, with all direct customer calls now being handled out of Sydney.

“This is just one piece of the puzzle, but it is a touch point for the customers to us, so we have to make sure we do it well,” she said.

Anecdotal reports suggest Volkswagen has been plagued for several years by niggling problems with its cars, shortages of parts and high service costs at dealerships.

The frustration of customers has been reflected in the survey results.

A year ago, VW unveiled its giant new parts warehouse next to its new headquarters, announcing it would not only handle VW and Skoda parts but also Audi component supply.

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