The "2011 Customer Service Champions," J.D. Power & Associates annual ranking of brands based on customer feedback, includes five automotive brands: Jaguar, Lexus, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, and Cadillac.
That puts them in the company of firms like Zappos, JetBlue, Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and Southwest Airlines -- the 5% of more than 800 evaluated brands that excel in five "P's": people, presentation, price, product and process.
J.D. Power says average satisfaction scores for service-oriented industries have remained flat while product-based industries have seen steady improvement. Also, across all service industries, gaps in satisfaction between the highest- and lowest-performing brands have increased "considerably" between 2003 and 2010.
Chance Parker, VP and general manager at J.D. Power & Associates, tells Marketing Daily that the study is the first in which the firm has put together a cross-industry comparison on customer service. He says he isn't surprised there are so many automakers on the list. "One of the things we discovered is the importance of customer service beyond the product. And for the automotive sector, product quality has gotten a lot better and a lot less varied, so product alone isn't enough. And automakers realize it."
He says service companies, meanwhile, have not improved nearly as much because "you can't widgetize people. When you have tangible product it benefits from programs like Six Sigma that have really helped drive improvement in product quality. When you are a service company you can't do that."
Parker says one thing the leaders in the study do well, regardless of market category, is creating a customer-service culture. "They really do empower their people and have the right kind of culture that lets their people be problem solvers."
J.D. Power says that brands that excel in customer service also get higher rates of customer retention, meaning pricing advantages and reduced costs to acquire new customers.
Among customers of leading customer-service brands based on J.D. Power's surveys, 62% said they "definitely would" recommend the brand to family and friends, while 23% of customers of other companies the firm gauged said the same. Fifty-eight percent of customers of J.D. Power Customer Service Champions said they "definitely would" repurchase products or services from those brands. Only 36% of customers of other brands said they would do the same.