J.D. Power Survey: Jaguar No. 1 In Customer Service

If dealerships are the ground forces in automakers' efforts to build customer loyalty, service departments are the front lines. A new survey by J.D. Power & Associates suggests that--even with repair work less necessary for new vehicles--those departments can build customer satisfaction by tweaking customer-service practices, especially in decidedly low-tech areas like communication.

The survey is based on responses between January and April this year of about 85,000 owners and lessees of 2004-06 model-year vehicles. It measures how satisfied they have been with visits to dealer service department for maintenance or repair during the first three years of ownership (most of the vehicle warranty period). The study measures satisfaction on service initiation, service advisor, in-dealership experience, service delivery, service quality and user-friendliness.

In the survey, Jaguar ranks highest with an overall Customer Service Index (CSI) score of 925 points on a 1,000-point scale--13 points above the top CSI performer in 2006--improving considerably among repair customers in the areas of service quality and service initiation. Following Jaguar in the rankings are Buick (918) and Cadillac and Lexus (913, in a tie).



Jane Crane, director of automotive retail research, who is also director of the Sales Satisfaction study at J.D. Power, notes that Jaguar also posted the highest scores on the 2006 iteration of that latter study. In fact, it set a new record for sales satisfaction. "They were just a huge number of points ahead." She says it suggests Jaguar is "taking time to hone their relationship-building skills because it is also personal involvement skills that drive high scores on the sales side of the house."

Crane says Jaguar and Buick--representing premium and non-premium, respectively--have done better than their competitors in interacting with customers. "It's the human side of things: advising customers, courtesy and respect, and--of critical importance--being perceived as honest," she says.

"This honesty thing has to do with things like [whether] they feel that the service advisor is recommending services that really aren't necessary; when a service advisor is perceived as honest, they are perceived as having consumers' best interests in mind."

She says Jaguar and Buick dealership service advisors were also perceived by survey respondents as being more knowledgeable, having done a better job of listening to what clients have to say and being able to clarify their needs.

The CSI study found, in fact, that--whether or not maintenance work at dealerships was done right the first time--service personnel's willingness to talk to customers made a big difference.

Of customers having to return for a redo, those who report they were "delighted" by how well their repair or maintenance work was explained to them averaged a satisfaction index score of 890--14 points higher than the industry average--compared with 733 from those who said that they were "satisfied" or "indifferent" with how the job was explained.

Crane says that the difference is in how well service staff answers questions, explains the reasons for the work that was done and what the customer is being charged.

"We're not saying that if you don't fix the car the first time that's a terrific thing," says Crane. "Obviously it's frustrating for a consumer to have to bring his or her car back, but while there are reasons for that that might be outside the dealerships' control, personal communications is not one of them.

"If you do an excellent job on explaining the work, and the charges, and touching base after the work has been completed, the numbers seem to show that that customers forgive you and continue to give you high CSI scores and loyalty scores remain very high."

Next story loading loading..