With Buick and Lexus leading the way, quality of automotive service continues to show significant improvement and is driving an increase in overall customer satisfaction, according to the J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Study released on Thursday.
Furthermore, service departments should brace to use text messages more often to reach their customers more effectively.
J.D. Power’s study indicated service quality scores account for the greatest improvement, rising to 805 (on a 1,000-point scale) from 779 in 2015, when the project was redesigned. The other four measures — service advisor, service initiation, service facility and vehicle pick-up — all showed improvement from 2015 levels.
Overall customer service came in at 813, up from 800 over the same period, according to the study.
The study measured customer satisfaction with service at a franchised dealer or independent service facility for maintenance or repair work among owners and lessees of 1- to 5-year-old vehicles.
“The quality of work — doing the job right the first time — can noticeably affect customer satisfaction and loyalty, but it shouldn’t be viewed in a vacuum,” said Chris Sutton, vice president of the U.S. automotive retail practice at J.D. Power. “Proactive communication with the customer, especially while the car is being serviced, is one element that has a direct influence on loyalty.”
The study indicated that among customers who are contacted by phone, 55 percent say they “definitely will” return for paid service. When receiving text message updates, that loyalty factor jumped to 67 percent.
Additionally, customers’ preference for communicating via text has increased 3 percent to 6 percent across all generational categories since 2015. More than four in 10 Gen Y1 and Gen X customers — 41 percent to be exact — now cite this preference, as do 25 percent of Boomers and 10 percent of Pre-Boomers.
“It’s not surprising to see the preference for receiving updates through text messages continue to rise, but only 3 percent of customers indicate they receive text message updates,” Sutton said. “Correcting that disconnect by adding more text message capability should be a priority with a service operation.”
Additional key findings of the 2017 study included:
—Service advisor scores big: The highest level of satisfaction is in service advisor with a score of 834. This is followed by service initiation (830), service quality (805), vehicle pick-up (803) and service facility (790).
—Technology affects satisfaction: Increases in the use of tablets by service advisors and online scheduling tended to increase customer satisfaction. Tablet usage increased to 24 percent from 17 percent in 2015, and online scheduling rose to 13 percent from 9 percent during the same period.
—Almost a clean sweep: Customers rated dealers higher than non-dealers in 15 of 16 attributes. The most noticeable advantages are amenities offered; comfort of waiting area and cleanliness of dealership. Non-dealers rate higher in time required to complete vehicle service — but only by 0.06 points on a 10-point scale.
—The value of getting it right the first time: The vast majority (94 percent) of customers who take their vehicle in for service indicate that the dealer fixed it right the first time. However, among the 6 percent of customers indicating the service work was not completed right on the first visit, satisfaction dropped to 639, which is 184 points lower than among those whose work was completed right the first time.
—Too much static: Dealers seem to have trouble servicing problems with radios. It’s unclear if the issue is vehicle- or service-related, but only 80 percent of customers who sought service for a radio reception problem indicate the dealer was able to fix it right the first time.
Lexus ranked highest in satisfaction with dealer service among luxury brands with a score of 874. Following in the luxury ranking were Audi (869), Lincoln (868), Porsche (867) and Cadillac (865).
Buick ranked highest in satisfaction with dealer service among mass market brands with a score of 860. Following in mass market brands were Mini (850), GMC (837), Chevrolet (829) and Nissan (822).
The 2017 U.S. CSI Study is based on responses from more than 70,000 owners and lessees of 2012 to 2016 model-year vehicles. The study was fielded between October and December 2016.
For more information about the 2017 U.S. Customer Service Index Study, visit this website.