How can Volkswagen rebuild trust with the fleet community?


In recent times, it hasn’t been uncommon for industry sectors to face scandal or massively increased regulatory constraints; just think of the banking sector and national supermarkets, over the past few years.  But news from Volkswagen (VW) – one of the most trusted and reliable brands in the fleet business – has taken us all by surprise.

There are 29.6 million cars on the road in the UK, but with reports saying that as many as 1.5 million VW cars may have to be recalled, registering it as one of the biggest automotive scandals in history, the operational, behind the scenes reaction from VW is going to have to be an immensely strong and unified one.

For fleet managers making critical business purchasing decisions on manufacturer claims, trust is crucial in cementing these relationships and choices. However, with car sales for the VW brand falling 5.3% in October to 490,000 vehicles, strengthening the fleet community’s confidence in the VW brand will be challenging.

With those currently operating VW Group models looking for reassurance that their vehicles on their fleet are not affected, all eyes are on the customer service teams that are working round the clock to ease the pain, if only slightly, for concerned fleet operators.  

The VW customer service team should have all the tools in place to handle customer queries and complaints on a variety of platforms, but also in an efficient manner. On a product recall of this scale, erecting more call centres or increasing customer service staff numbers may not be enough to handle hundreds of thousands of customer interactions.

Rebuilding reputation

Considering that fleets are one of the most powerful and important buyers in the UK car market, with 81 per cent of company cars running on diesel, the VW diesel emissions affair has a huge impact on the fleet sector. To add fuel to the fire, the recent announcement that 800,000 of VW’s petrol cars have also cheated the CO2 emission test, sending the carmaker’s share price plummeting by 10%, the carmaker’s global reputation is under scrutiny.

If VW is determined to continue along the path of clarification and transparency, now more than ever, building trust and offering a convenient service solution to deal with a high influx of queries should be front of mind. The carmaker has a duty and responsibility to ensure that, regarding all queries, fleet mangers face neither extra costs nor effort. While call centres should be an important part within its crisis strategy, due to the shocking size of the scandal, there is the danger of pushing the customer service machine to the point of collapse.

Addressing high customer demand

In today’s digital society, customers now demand a high level of speed, convenience and transparency when it comes to service. It’s all about real-time. Considering that 70% of customers expect a response to email enquiries within three hours, VW’s unified customer service approach is imperative in keeping fleet decision makers well-informed and keeping customer complaints to a minimum, particularly when the fault lies with the company.

By deploying an advanced self-service solution, VW could support as much as 40% of customer enquires in real-time, reducing long contact centre queues and easing pressure on an already overburdened customer service team. By delivering informative content in real-time and guiding the fleet manager through each step of the journey will not only reduce anxieties, but also considerably strengthen confidence in the brand.

With the carmaker already suffering a 40% loss in its value since September, and with every recalled car costing the carmaker just under £1800, nurturing those relations with fleet managers will be crucial in retaining their customer base and securing the company’s financial future. Whilst sending out product recall letters is all part of a logical customer management process, more needs to be done to keep fleets firmly in the loop or risk damaging its brand’s loyalty in the long-term.

If customers are not kept up-to-date and informed, the carmaker could run the risk of having a trust crisis on its hands.

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