The history of customer care: from ELKA to <span>e</span>Mobility

The history of customer care: from ELKA to eMobility


Caring for customers and their cars is extremely important for carmakers. And ŠKODA AUTO has more than 100 years’ experience in this field.

11. 6. 2020

Buying a new car is a major and joyful event. But owning a car is a source of worries as well - that was already known to Laurin & Klement, the founders of ŠKODA AUTO, which is celebrating 125 years of history this year. Needless to say, these gentlemen looked after their customers right from the start. From 1920 on they even had a special company that provided aftersales services to customers.

It was called ELKA, and the name and logo were a phonetic representation of the initials of the carmaker’s founders, Laurin & Klement. When cars were still trailblazing novelties, ELKA was offering customers outstanding services.

ELKA repair shop in Prague, directly in the Lesser Town in the Wallenstein Riding School.

In addition to the option of having cars serviced “at home” in Mladá Boleslav, in June 1920 the company opened a car repair shop in a very unusual location: in the Wallenstein Riding School in Prague’s Lesser Quarter, which is today used for short-term exhibitions by the National Gallery. Besides servicing cars, ELKA sold tyres, spares or almost-new cars.

Today, this history extending over a hundred years is continued by ŠKODA Original Parts and several departments in charge of aftersales. Both then and now, customers usually come across aftersales in car dealerships or authorised ŠKODA service centres. Customers can also buy some accessories for their car from an e-shop.

Just like before, aftersales services are offered mainly by car dealerships or authorized ŠKODA repair shops.

Service support

“The aftersales departments in dealerships and independent services in the ŠKODA network handle maintenance, warranty and post-warranty repairs of vehicles or accident repairs. They also sell spare parts, accessories and – for newer vehicles – provide connectivity and eMobility support,” explains Karel Starý, Head of Aftersales Czech Republic.

HOP3520a-1Karel Starý
Head of Aftersales Czech Republic

The carmaker in turn provides support for this full range of services. For example, it prescribes standards for the equipment service centres use, draws up service guides and arranges training for service technicians covering all ŠKODA models. It also provides spare parts warehousing support and carries out service marketing and numerous other activities. Finally, it monitors customer satisfaction through the customer care department. Service centres are, of course, motivated to provide first-class services that customers will be satisfied with.

The standards for repair shop equipment are prescribed directly by the carmaker.

Although little has changed in the principle of car repair work, the services offered have undergone dynamic development in recent years. Digitisation has played a major role in this. Owners of ŠKODA cars with connectivity, for example, can make use of the ŠKODA CONNECT service packages – the very act of selling these is an aftersales service. Customers can then use ŠKODA CONNECT to control certain functions of their car and to manage their contact with a service centre.

In the event of a fault or an approaching servicing interval the cars can send information to their “parent” service centre, which then offers the customer a date for bringing in the car. So it’s no longer necessary to call up a service to order a slot that many owners then forget about, and then rush around trying to find a free slot at the last minute.

A challenge called eMobility

Another recent trend is the shift towards electric cars, which servicing and other automotive services are naturally responding to. “Services had to invest substantial amounts in new equipment and, of course, train all their employees for electric cars. And the mechanics who work on electric cars attend special training,” says Karel Starý.

Another new feature at authorised ŠKODA centres is public charging stations for electric cars and plug-in hybrids. These can be used even outside the service centres’ and dealerships’ opening hours. The carmaker’s partner will provide customers with support for choosing the right kind of charging device at home or on a company’s premises, such as Wallbox installations, or buying the right kind of cable for the car.

Digitization and electrification — even these need maintenance

“The regular service intervals do not change for plug-in hybrids or fully electric cars,” Karel Starý adds. It’s just the details of the inspection that are different. So close ties with customers will remain a key priority, just as they were in ELKA’s days.