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News   September 19, 2015   by Allan Janssen

Lexus tops J.D. Power customer service survey

Independent repair shops beat most dealerships in Canadian customer satisfaction survey, but still fail to live up to expectations.


LexusA survey of Canadian consumers by J.D. Power & Associates suggests auto repairers still have some way to go to meet service expectations.

J.D. Power’s 2015 Canadian Customer Service Index Long-Term (CSI-LT) Study measures the service experience, satisfaction and intended loyalty among owners of four- to 12-year-old vehicles.

Results show that only 15% of service occasions in the past year resulted in a perfect 10/10 rating, while two out of three (67%) were rated at 8/10 or below.

According to J.D. Ney, manager of J.D. Power’s Canadian automotive practice, the key to unlocking significant revenue potential lies in “delighting customers.”

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“In a world where a shop can’t differentiate its service by fixing the car right, because everyone’s doing that, the soft skills become the real differentiator. The ability to communicate, educate, convey value, and build relationships,” he said.

Lexus Dealerships ranked highest in customer satisfaction, setting the bar for excellence among dealerships and aftermarket shops

“Lexus has been at or near the top before,” Ney pointed out. “In fact, they seem to trade off the top spot with NAPA Autopro. Obviously they do a great job of fixing cars – that goes without saying – but they’ve always referred to their customers as guests, and that has set the tone for how they treat everyone who walks in the door.”

Overall, aftermarket shops topped auto dealerships for overall customer satisfaction (749 vs 731 on a scale of 1,000).

“Independent shops tend to do better at building that critical close-knit relationship with their customers,” said Ney. “The dealership community has to keep in mind that aftermarket shops don’t have the benefit of warranty work to drive their business. Every dollar that an independent shop earns is retail business, and so, as a result, they’re really good at selling what they do.”

He said the 2008 recession fundamentally changed how dealerships view their business, as margins on new vehicle sales were compressed.

“A lot realized that service is where they have to make their business viable,” he said. “Many have done that, but some are still not focused on that because of the constant flow of work that warranty brings. You maybe don’t have to work so hard on the relationship when you know the customer is going to come back anyway.”

Among vehicle owners who ranked their most recent service experience at 10/10, 93% said they “definitely will” return to the service facility for work. Among those who ranked their most recent service at 8/10 or less, only 40% said they planned to return.

“This underscores the importance for Canadian vehicle service facilities to focus on providing a consistently outstanding customer experience,” said Ney.

He noted that to maximize satisfaction, service facilities should focus on the key performance indicators (KPIs) that generate the most positive impact on the customer experience. The top three performance measures and their impact on satisfaction scores include:

* being completely focused on the customer’s needs (+63 points);

* providing an appointment on the day desired (+56); and

* providing helpful advice (+53).

Dealers are more likely than aftermarket providers to perform a multi-point inspection on vehicles (77 per cent compared to 70 per cent).

“A lot of dealerships are increasingly process-driven,” said Ney. “It’s probably what they see as the best way to make sure they hit all their marks.”

Dealerships also have an advantage in knowing a customer’s service history (85 per cent vs 76 per cent).

Included in the study but not ranked due to small sample size were Active Green & Ross, Audi dealerships, Goodyear Auto Centre, Kal Tire, Meineke Car Care Centre, Mercedes-Benz dealerships, OK Tire, Speedy, Suzuki dealerships and Volvo dealerships.

The survey used to be called the Customer Commitment Index (CCI) but the name was recently changed to align with other J.D. Power global studies.

The survey analyzed customer experience from both warranty and non-warranty service occasions. Overall satisfaction is based on the combined index scores of five factors that comprise the overall service experience (in order of importance): service initiation (24 per cent); service quality (23 per cent); service advisor (20 per cent); service facility (17 per cent); and vehicle pick-up (16 per cent).