Luxury has its privileges, and according to the J.D. Power 2019 Customer Service Index (CSI) Study, one of them is a better dealership experience.
Porsche ranked highest in the study, which understandably saw luxury brands rise to the top of the customer-satisfaction study, followed by Lexus, Cadillac, Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz, respectively. Even when you dig down to the mass-market brands, you find premium brand Buick at the top, followed by Mini, with (respectively) Mitsubishi, Chevrolet, and GMC and Toyota rounding out the best five scores.
The CSI Study measures how satisfied owners or lessees of 1- to 3-year old vehicles (model years 2016 through 2018) are satisfied with maintenance or repair work at the dealer or independent service facility. Scores are assigned out of 1,000 based on five weighted measures — service quality (27%), service initiation (20%), service advisor (20%), service facility (17%), and vehicle pick-up (16%).
However, the study delves deeper than just ranking the brands in relation to what their customers like and don’t like, analyzing the reasons for certain customers being more satisfied. Primarily, the study found that customers rank their brands better when they can communicate with them using their preferred method of communication.
Particularly, it found that satisfaction ranked higher when customers get an all-digital experience — service scheduling online, communicating with the dealer through text messaging and even when the dealership advisor uses a tablet during the service visit.
“Service customers want the convenience that technology offers them,” said Chris Sutton, Vice President, U.S. Automotive Retail Practice at J.D. Power. “For example, 34% of customers indicate they prefer to communicate via text message—but this only occurs 9% of the time. There’s no reason why this isn’t a more widely adopted practice across the industry.
“Customers now expect technology to enable more efficient interaction with businesses—and that includes dealers,” he continued. “Technology not only improves efficiency, but also the more satisfied a customer is with their overall service experience, the more likely they are to return to the dealership for service and to recommend the dealership to friends and family members.”
Almost all generations (except for pre-Boomers) are increasingly opting to do their scheduling via the internet, rather than over the phone.
At the dealership, customers want the service advisor to engage with them, ranking their brands higher when the advisor provides helpful advice, informing them of work performed on the vehicle, when it will be ready for pick-up, knowing the vehicle’s service history, performing a walk-around and updating them on the status of the work being performed.
And that level of engagement becomes important after the customer leaves the dealership, with customer loyalty being higher when the engagement is positive. Still, customer loyalty does apparently drop over the course of ownership, with nearly 4% more respondents saying they would recommend a facility to friends and family in their first year of ownership versus those in their third year of ownership.
When they don’t receive the level of attentiveness at the facility, though, customer loyalty drops by almost 50% for all years of ownership.
Finally, the CSI Study found that satisfaction at independent facilities has improved 23 points in the past two years, while dealership satisfaction has improved by only 17 points.
“Seemingly simple things like completing service right the first time, returning (driver) settings to how they were when the customer brought the vehicle in and washing the customer’s vehicle can affect the perception of service quality,” said Sutton. “While completing repairs right the first time is done 94% of the time, the other two KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are only being completed 81% and 45% of the time, respectively. These basics are really building blocks to cementing the customer’s relationship with their dealer.”
The J.D. Power 2019 Customer Service Index Study was conducted from October through December 2018, surveying 57,286 owners and lessees.