Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2013   by Tom Venetis, Editor

J.D. Power Report 2013

Canadians give top marks to dealerships and independent service operations

This year’s J.D. Power report on customer satisfaction with service providers in Canada shows a growing trend to bundling of services as visits to independents and dealer-based operations become less frequent. This year’s study focused on measuring service behaviour, satisfaction and loyalty amongst Canadians with vehicles four to 12 years old.

J.D. Ney, supervisor of the Canadian automotive practise with J.D. Power in Toronto says this bundling of services has been on-going for the last six years, with “the number of average visits dropping from 2.7 to 2.6. It was not that long ago that it was 3.1 or 3.2 visits per year.” One reason for this is many of today’s vehicles are better built than in the past. Vehicles roll off the line with greatly extended times between service intervals, even for such things as oil changes. For service providers, these extended service intervals mean vehicle owners often come in expecting to have several services done at once, rather than a single service only to return later for other service work.

“People know that they will have to go to a dealership operation or an independent aftermarket facility to get such services as tire rotation, for example. So if they have to take their vehicle in for that service, they are likely to decide to have other work done as well; so vehicle owners bundle their general maintenance work together with other work that needs to be done on their vehicle,” Ney adds. “This represents a unique opportunity for a smart shop owner. If that is the way the customer is approaching vehicle maintenance, it is an opportunity to bundle service work and to make recommendations for work.”

“The automotive industry as a whole over the last decade has certainly seen its challenges,” adds Chris Thorne, national director, banners, with UAP Inc. “Reduced consumer spending, high gas prices, fewer kilometres driven, better manufacturing leading to increased vehicle expectancy, extended drains, longer warranties, attractive leasing/
financing options are but a few of the hurdles we’ve been forced to straddle. In terms of our biggest opportunity gain as a market, I’d have to say that the efforts to understand and identify and now educate about ‘underperformed maintenance’ is a real game changer. 

“Consumers are better educated, have ample resources available to them and simply expect more from anyone they do business with. When it comes to automotive maintenance and repair, the relationship goes well beyond a traditional retail purchasing experience, it involves a deep trust. We’re working hard on strengthening that trust. ‘Good’ just isn’t good enough.” 

This new reality has independents and dealership operations fighting for market share amongst those with older vehicles. One result is operations offering a much wider range of service options and improving front-line customer service and the appearance of the physical operation.

The 2013 J.D. Power study finds Canadian vehicle owners are quite satisfied with independent and dealership service operations. This year’s study finds the average to be 830, up a bit from 827 in 2012 and 822 in 2011.

This year also produced a tie for the coveted top stop, with Lexus and NAPA AUTOPRO nabbing the podium with a score of 863. 

Ney says NAPA and Lexus reached the top of the podium through different means.

“It is very much a tale of two cities, with both of them having the same score but getting there in different ways,” Ney continues. “Where Lexus tops the list amongst those surveyed was in the quality of the facilities and service.NAPA tops the list in terms of the drop-off process, the ­service advisor and pick-up process. Lexus dominates the ‘hard,’ skills, the brick and mortar, and NAPA wins the day in terms of the ‘soft’ skills, customer treatment, getting them into the operation in a convenient way and the pick-up process.”

“The dealers are really upping their game with the quality of their (operations) and they are competing very strongly in the tire business,” says James Bliss, director of marketing (light vehicles) with Fountain Tire. “To compete, we really focus on relationships with customers . . . customers are pressed for time and totally reliant on their vehicles to run their lives. All this creates stress when a customer comes into one of our stores. The key points we focus on are: building trust through education of customers, continuity of service by having a local owner working in the store and continuous education and training with the staff.”

“When people are put at ease, their stress is removed by dealing with them in a straight forward, expected and informed manner,” adds Thorne. “Consumers react very positive to that kind of experience. People want you to take their stress away, be fair, upfront, honest and really educate them on the true needs of their vehicles and why. We measure customer satisfaction daily through our network and our NAPA AUTOPRO’s have instant real-time access to customer feedback. The systems we use also provide education and tips on areas of identified opportunity and we match that against best practice guides and regular training. There is little in the process from the first moment a consumer enters a parking lot that we don’t measure, bench-mark and try to improve upon.”

One of the more interesting findings this year is customer satisfaction is not, as some might expect, price-driven. While J.D. Power finds vehicle owners spend an average $232 per visit at aftermarket service operations and $264 per visit at dealership operations, “when we asked people why they chose the service provider they did, price was fifth on their list (of reasons),” Ney says. “It is only about 10 per cent of customers who make (price) their primary reason. The more important reasons for deciding on which service provider they go with come down to past good experience, convenient location, the quality of the service advisor and the technician working on the vehicle.”

“You can never underestimate value delivery. With many consumers doing repair and parts price research on-line, it’s easy for a shop to try and compete or market on price alone,” Thorne adds. “I know of a lot of shops out there, many for sale, that have simply ‘priced’ themselves out of the business. I remember hearing long ago that ‘if it seems too good to be true, it probably is;’ and nowhere do I see that more prevalent than in our industry. As a parts supplier, we have a business necessity to be ‘competitive’ as do most suppliers in any industry, including service and repair. However, our real focus for our NAPA AUTOPRO customers is on performing recommended services and repairs”

One of the reasons why quick lube operations such as Mr. Lube and Great Canadian Oil Change score highly on many of the J.D. Power surveys is the focus these operations place on doing their range of services very well.

“My expectation as a customer going into their facilities for an oil change is that you can’t possibly mess this up or take more time than I think you should as it is an easy job,” Ney says.

“The level of expectation going in could not be higher, and for them to consistently beat that expectation – Great Canadian Oil Change was only two index points from the top spot – speak very highly of their ability to meet or exceed those expectations.”

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