The study provides a numerical index ranking of the highest-performing U.S. automotive brands, which are based on service quality (27 percent); service initiation (20 percent); service advisor (20 percent); service facility (17 percent); and vehicle pick-up (16 percent).

Communication drives service scores

J.D. Power reports dealer service departments need to adopt increased use of digital communication; overall service satisfaction builds with independents

Costa Mesa, Calif.—Satisfaction scores tend to increase when car dealership service departments use customers’ preferred methods of communication; however, dealerships are not regularly doing so, according to the J.D. Power 2019 Customer Service Index (CSI) Study.

Satisfaction is 75 points higher (on a 1,000-point scale) among customers who have an all-digital experience compared with one that is all analog, preferring to schedule service via the internet and communicate with the dealer through text messages, rather than doing those tasks via phone. Satisfaction increases further when a service 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 percent of customers indicate they prefer to communicate via text message — but this only occurs 9 percent of the time. There’s no reason why this isn’t a more widely adopted practice across the industry.”

The study measures satisfaction with service at a franchised dealer or independent service facility for maintenance or repair work among owners and lessees of 1- to 3-year-old vehicles.


Key study findings:

•    All generations show a preference for internet scheduling: Customers are slowly shifting their preferred method of scheduling service toward internet scheduling and away from scheduling via phone. In 2015, the industry average preference for those two methods was 20 percent and 64 percent, respectively. This year, preferences are 28 percent and 59 percent, respectively. While Gen Y customers have shifted their preference toward internet scheduling at a faster rate than Boomers, every generation (with the exception of Pre-Boomers) has increased its preference for internet scheduling and decreased its preference for phone scheduling during the past five years of the study.

•    In-store engagement remains important: The percentage of customers who feel their service advisor provides helpful advice is 70 points higher when the advisor was focused on them and their needs during the visit. This, along with informing customers about work performed on the vehicle (+44); knowing the vehicle’s service history (+37); keeping them informed of the vehicle’s status (+33); letting them know when the vehicle will be ready before service begins (+30); and performing a vehicle walk-around (+30), boosts a customer’s view of the service advisor’s perceived helpfulness.

•    Satisfaction gap closing: Overall satisfaction with services performed by independent facilities has improved 22 points since 2017, compared with a 17-point improvement by franchised dealers. Similarly, satisfaction with service quality at independent facilities has improved 23 points since 2017, compared with a 17-point improvement by franchised dealers.

“This is an important area of opportunity for dealers,” Sutton said. “Seemingly simple things like completing service right the first time; returning settings to how they were when the customer brought the vehicle in for service; and washing the customer’s vehicle — all three of which are Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) — can affect their perception of service quality. While completing repairs right the first time is done 85 percent of the time, the other two KPIs are only being completed 81 percent and 45 percent of the time, respectively. Those basics are really building blocks to cementing the customer’s relationship with their dealer.”


Highest-ranked brands

•    Porsche (893) ranks highest in satisfaction with dealer service among luxury brands for the first time in the study’s 38-year history. Lexus (881) ranks second, followed by Cadillac (880), Infiniti (878) and Mercedes-Benz (870).

•    Buick ranks highest in satisfaction with dealer service among mass market brands for a third consecutive year, with a score of 857. MINI ranks second (853), followed by Mitsubishi (846), Chevrolet (845), GMC (840) and Toyota (840).

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.