The quality of dealership service is important for any automaker, but right now, it's most important for General Motors. With its news-making recalls, dealers will play a significant role in making the process as smooth as possible for owners. If GM dealers play it right, their performance could even make owners more loyal to the brand.
Good news for GM is that in the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Cadillac ranks highest in satisfaction with dealer service among luxury brands, and Buick leads among mass market brands. Out of a 1,000 on the CSI scale, Cadillac scored 872, a 14-point increase versus 2013. Following Cadillac were Audi, Lexus, Infiniti and Lincoln (in a tie.)
Buick has an overall CSI score of 835—a 26-point improvement from 2013. Following Buick are Volkswagen (830); GMC (828) and MINI (828) in a tie; and Chevrolet (812).
"Things like [a major recall] can definitely put a lot of challenges on leadership, but GM's dealers are well positioned to address this," says Chris Sutton, senior director of the U.S. Automotive Retail Practice at J.D. Power. "And dealer service performance is good across all four of their brands."
Sutton tells Marketing Daily that when a consumer buys a car the purchase experience is brief, but the service experience is longer-term, whether it's a two-year lease or six or seven years. "And that provides a lasting impression, and real interaction."
J.D. Power finds that across the industry, customer satisfaction with dealer service continues to improve. Among luxury brands, overall customer satisfaction with service at a dealer facility averages 855, up from 846 in 2013. The CSI average among mass market brands is 797, up from 789 in 2013.
"Cadillac and Buick winning was big news," says Sutton. "So is the fact that both Volkswagen brands [including Audi] finished second in their categories, both having increased quite a bit in their scores. Kia did well and Toyota did especially well this year, improving by 21 points."
And he says good service boosts brand loyalty. "We have matched sales data [from J.D. Power's Power Information Network] with service, we find that the better the service experience the more likely customers are of staying in the brand," says Sutton. And, he explains, that correlation is particularly stark on both ends of the service experience spectrum: if the service is great, it significantly boosts loyalty. If it's lousy, it puts a big dent in loyalty. "In the middle area there's not as much of an impact."
Another finding: when service advisors use tablets, customers are happier. The industry-wide CSI score when a tablet is used is 838, compared with 802 when a tablet is not used. Tablets are used by service advisors in the luxury vehicle segment 19% of the time, versus 15% of the time in the mass market arena.
Sutton says tablets improve the experience because advisors have content at their fingertips, meaning they can give more valuable information, and their use encourages standardization. "If I'm a service advisor, using a tablet encourages me to check off potential trouble spots like tires that might otherwise be missed. And if I have content on a tablet I can review it with customers right there. For example, we found that if a tablet is used, advisors will check a customer's tires 80% of the time versus 58% of the time, when they don't use tablets."