LOOK at virtually any leasing broker website and you will notice your attention drawn to the Trustpilot or Feefo scores for customer service.
Leasing brokers make a big thing of customer service. And so they should.
But can you always trust what you read?
A recent report from Which? found that many product reviews on Amazon were fake.
The consumer publication looked at hundreds of tech products in 14 popular categories on the Amazon website. These included headphones, dash cams, fitness trackers and smart watches to check for tell-tale signs of suspicious reviews.
It found top-rated items were dominated by unknown brands often with unverified reviews – suggesting, according to Which?. that there was no evidence the reviewer had even bought or used the product.
Many also had a suspiciously high number of five-star ratings that had been dumped onto Amazon’s review pages in a short space of time – something Which? considered another red flag alert to fake reviews.
Natalie Hitchins, Which? Head of Home Products and Services, said:
“Our research suggests that Amazon is losing the battle against fake reviews – with shoppers bombarded by dubious comments aimed at artificially boosting products from unknown brands.
“Amazon must do more to purge its websites of unreliable and fake reviews if it is to maintain the trust of its millions of customers.
“To avoid being misled and possibly buying a dud product, customers should always take reviews with a pinch of salt and look to independent and trustworthy sources when researching a purchase.”
So, should consumers and businesses turning to leasing brokers be concerned about the authenticity of customer reviews?
Feefo customer ratings
Synergy Car Leasing, a Harrogate, Yorkshire-based broker, recently retained its Feefo 5 Star Gold Trusted Service award for the fifth successive year. That’s quite some feat – but perhaps what you might expect from a broker awarded Leasing Broker of the Year by the Leasing Broker Federation.
Managing director Paul Parkinson, said:
“Receiving this honour five years in a row is a true reflection of our team’s commitment to outstanding service. It recognises our relentless hard work to give great experiences to all our customers, who are the most important judges of what we do.
“We’re committed to consistently delivering the highest quality of service, so it’s important for us to listen, understand and respond to all our customers. Feefo enables us to keep further improving and enhancing our delivery.”
Paul says that the customer service ethic is ingrained in everything the company does, touches, and says. “We make the customer review response part of our process,” he adds. “It’s critical to our offering and will continue to be so as we drive growth in the business.”
Feefo is independent of the supplying broker and contacts the lessee directly requesting information on the sales process. The lessee can then choose to respond: all responses are made public.
But perhaps what is significant about Synergy’s is the level of five star reviews on a consistent basis. Clearly the business is doing something right.
And there’s little sign that Feefo can be gamed – simply because reviews can only come from purchasers of goods.
That’s something that Keith Hawes, a director of Manchester-based Nationwide Vehicle Contracts, concurs.
“The benefit of using Feefo is that the reviews relate only to those customers who have dealt with us. With other systems people who have not dealt with us could leave false and damaging reviews.”
Nationwide has gone one step further and linked up with APD to understand better the customers they are dealing with on an online basis.
Using APD’s Global 360, the bespoke system supplies a customer survey that covers everything from the car order process and delivery experience to a 12-month follow-up survey on how happy the customer has been with the vehicle supplied. It also asks relevant questions around its Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) compliance obligations to ensure it ‘treats customers fairly’ at all times.
“We believe we are leading the way in the vehicle broker sector by measuring our customer’s experience and supplier’s service in more detail,” adds Keith. “This investment with APD enables us to connect with our online buyers whilst adhering to our FCA obligations which sit at the heart of our business.”
Trustpilot and the Trustscore
Another popular service recognition programme is Trustpilot. Companies build up a Trustscore over time depending on the level of reviews left.
If your business buys into Trustpilot, the reviews can be left on your website to encourage confidence in potential new customers.
Reading-based broker Select Car Leasing uses Trustpilot and has a five star rating on Trustpilot’s website.
Trustpilot allows companies to flag inappropriate or potentially misleading reviews. In the case of Select Car Leasing, thee one star reviews have been flagged by Select. Two were removed by Trustpilot and one remained – see Reviews flagged by Select Car Leasing.
However, Trustpilot is open to potential fraud with fake reviews being left – recently Trustpilot issued a warning to energy supplier Toto Energy after a manager there had appeared to ask other staff to leave five-star reviews to encourage potential customers (Trustpilot gives a warning on “fabricated” reviews).
Beware the trolls
Fake reviews can have a devastating effect on a company. One leasing business that discovered it was being trolled by a disgruntled customer was Kew Vehicle Leasing, a Richmond, Surrey-based broker.
MD Lee Jones watched in horror as he saw Google reviews pile in from alleged customers testifying to the level of poor service.
“We had worked really hard with a client over a Ford truck,” explains Lee. “Without giving a blow by blow account, the leasing company agreed to take the vehicle back after three weeks and 400 miles with no charge to the customer after we couldn’t come to agreement over the truck’s spec.
“So we thought we had done the right thing. But then the reviews kept coming in on our Google Business Page. It was a nightmare and decimated our five star rating. They were clearly fake. I then had to work hard with Google to get them removed. After a week, they did so – but I can’t categorise what damage it did to my business in the meantime.”
Google says it has no tolerance for fake reviews and promises to take down any review that it thinks is fake or that doesn’t follow Google’s review policies.
Nevertheless, fake reviews do have the potential for serious damage. And can be used to abuse the system.
In the end, what counts is good service
There’s little evidence to suggest that having a review system in place for your brokerage is nothing less than essential today. It provides comfort and reassurance for potential customers.
As we’ve highlighted, however, reviews are open to being faked – it’s a real issue, and one that Which? exposed on the Amazon portal.
But in the end what really counts are good products and good service. Anyone can make a mistake. But if that happens, a willingness to put it right that exceeds expectations is critical. And usually key to a deeper customer relationship in the long run.
The importance of understanding your customer satisfaction
Customer satisfaction is dynamic – it is not fixed, writes APD Global Research.
What constitutes excellent service expands over time. Once it might have been OK just to deliver a car. Now it has to be at the prescribed time and place, with a handover, with relevant information, the car must be full of fuel, showroom clean, with even the provision of flowers, bottle of fizz, or photo!
These become the norm.
We need to know how our customers feel about the products and services we provide throughout his or her journey – if you don’t, you won’t know what works and what is changing so that we can maximise that customer lifetime value and maintain repeat business.
In the automotive industry, and particularly the leasing and broker sector, this can seem complicated. Often there is more than one supplier involved in the process and responsible for delivering on the promises you make as a business.
What many people do not realise is just how good the leasing and broker sector is compared with other industries that have much simpler sale to delivery models.
Many tend to focus on the things that go wrong and overlook the vast majority of things when we get it right. These should be treated with equal importance and rightly applauded for doing a great job.
Engaging with the ‘high scores’ of customer satisfaction provides insight into suggestions and customer preferences – for change before they are needed.
As a research specialist, when APD compares customer satisfaction and likelihood to recommend (NPS – Net Promoter Score) of brokers with other industry sectors – and specifically the big leasing companies and franchise dealer networks – brokers tend to score higher overall, but lower in the speed of response and resolution of complaints.
By all means, recognise good news. But also recognise the resolution of a genuine complaint as an opportunity not a threat to your business. With the proviso that there is a robust process which identifies accurately what is the root cause and who is involved.
Things do wrong – but employees very often get a real buzz from resolving a customer problem and the customer appreciates those that go that extra mile. It reflects positively on the business, too.
However, if the root cause is not known – and an issue continually happens – then staff will eventually give up: customer service and satisfaction will suffer.
Now if this sounds very time consuming, expensive, and an unwanted distraction to business, then this is a misconception.
Modern day customer experience platforms, such as APD’s 360 Talkback, are designed specifically to minimise the effort required to operate a customer engagement feedback programme and many are self-funding by the savings made in generating higher levels of customer retention and attracting new customers.
The best customer experience programmes seamlessly handle customer communications and provide analytics which deliver clear impactful live reporting of actionable intelligence.
It is about business improvement.
It is essential to know what factors affect satisfaction rather than focusing on overall scores.
Specialist customer experience suppliers – such as us at APD Global Research – provide customisable solutions to a business’s specific requirements, while full control is retained over the data and the outcomes of the feedback gathered.
There are also new measures coming in such as sophisticated text and sentiment analytics.
One such is the Customer Effort Score (CES).
It is measuring how easy or difficult you are to do business with. The higher the score the easier you are to do business with.
60% of customers are more likely to leave if they provided difficult scores and 74% of customers will do repeat business if the experience is easy.
In APD’s Talkback 360, the main items that trigger ‘Red Alerts’ for delivery events are: delivery at agreed time, delivery time information/misleading delivery times, cleanliness and presentation, communication and the handover driver.
For SMR events these are: work not completed/mechanical problems; dealer/garage staff; car not ready at agreed time; poor collection and delivery service; vehicle not clean; and the leasing company or broker being unhelpful.
Detailed insight into these events provide the platform for business improvement whether that means training, change of process, or change of staff, giving detailed insight into the events of a customer journey so vital in today’s environment.
For more, visit APD Global Research.