Harneet Luther, Executive director of Tata Automobile Corporation SA, is on a mission to guide the company to a renewed, prosperous, market-leading future – and customer satisfaction is at the centre of it all
Since arriving in South Africa in 2004, with Tata Motors, Luther has seen the Tata brand grow its product portfolio, expand to include assembly operations and support its customers with increasing vigour. Now, he and his team are laying the foundation for the years to come…
“Since I joined, this company has had its ups and downs in line with the economy and the rest of the market. In the last three years we’ve seen the economy stagnate and recede, but our journey has been good. During this time, we’ve been able to add lots of positive business aspects and new initiatives for the long run,” he says.
The company began a programme of restructuring and growth in 2016, with every initiative underscored by its five-pillar strategy for customer centricity and growth of the business.
“The most important aspects to any commercial vehicle customer are low total cost of ownership and uptime. Hence, the core of our five-pillar strategy is all about uptime and low total cost of ownership,” Luther explains.
He notes that within each pillar – parts, service, network, finance and product – specific requirements were identified and that the company has worked towards meeting these. So far, the results are speaking for themselves…
“We have reduced parts pricing of 1 150 line items by between seven and 60 percent, while achieving a 92-percent first-pick rate. In terms of service, we mapped the skills of our technicians and, through our state-of-the-art training centre, further enhanced their skills to plug the gaps throughout the Tata network. Close to 10 000 hours of training have been completed so far.
“We also offer 24-hour roadside assistance and are in the process of establishing additional, fully equipped breakdown-assist bakkies,” says Luther.
“With regard to network expansion, since July we have added 40 touchpoints through the combination of breakdown-assist and service and spares centres. These now total 91 touch points across the country, which can provide efficient service to our customers through either 3S (sales, service and spares), 2S (service and spares) or breakdown assist,” Luther explains.
A standard warranty covers customers in South Africa and 13 other African countries.
In terms of finance, Luther says that the company has entered into strategic tie ups with various banks through which it can offer customers various financial products that best suit their rental, purchasing or maintenance needs.
“Speaking of products, we now offer two brands, Tata and Daewoo. The product pillar has grown with the new Tata Ultra and Daewoo Maximus vehicles being added. There are plans for further vehicle introductions in the years to come.
“We have tested the Daewoo Maximus in the market and the response has been encouraging. One customer has already bought 50 vehicles,” Luther says proudly, adding that the efficiencies of every new product are mapped to be in line with customer expectations before introduction, ensuring their immediate value.
Further supporting its sales endeavours is the company’s used-vehicle business, Trucks Assured, launched in 2016 to cater to the increasingly demanding needs of customers and banks. As a result, the resale values of Tata vehicles have grown by ten to 12 percent, Luther exclaims.
“We have defined a very clear strategy and aim to be a top-five player in the local truck market within the next four years, with a 95-percent customer-satisfaction rating and a 95-percent first-pick rate of spare parts,” Luther says.
“I must thank our loyal customers for their confidence in Tata over the 21 years that the company has been in South Africa, and would like to assure them of our commitment in the years to come,” he concludes.