Auto Service World
Feature   January 1, 2001   by Auto Service World

AIA FORUM: Only Customer Satisfaction Leaders Build Loyalty

Richard Cooper, J.D. Power and Associates, says that only the truly outstanding service experience builds customer loyalty.

“Our study shows that true commitment to service establishments is low. Satisfaction is just one part of the pie; there has to be some sense of commitment.

We haven’t really made much progress in customer satisfaction over the past three years, and “Truly Outstanding” is the only outcome that provides assurance of customer retention.

“One of the things that we’ve been somewhat guilty of, is not recognizing that the customer is driving what’s happening. Technology is putting the power in the hands of the consumer. There’s a huge shift in power taking place. Their horizon is broadening; they are getting to areas of information they wouldn’t have seen before. This is going to be driving our industry from here on in.

Overall, across a number of categories of satisfaction measurement, it is clear that the top performers are scoring higher than they did a few years ago, and the worst performers are scoring lower.

“This is generally the way it’s shaking out, whether one looks at the overall satisfaction, appointment procedure, or performance after service. We’re seeing a widening of this range. It’s not a particularly impressive performance. If you look at the difference between who has had a ‘Truly Outstanding’ experience and those who had an ‘Excellent Experience’ and the chance they will return, you see a very sharp drop off.”

Many of the facts revealed in the consumer satisfaction research conducted by J.D. Power and Associates are part of the general wisdom of the industry, but it still helps to see the numbers, says Cooper.

“Who are the winners? The OEs are improving, particularly at the front end (service counter). I think they’re getting too slick at the front end. The bottom end (of the scale) tends to be the high volume operations, those which have high numbers of customers coming in, particularly those with a diverse set of customers.”

“At the top of our customer satisfaction survey tend to be the independents such as Autopro and Firestone, which have very strong customer satisfaction ratings. The thing that binds those together is that it is a very personal relationship.”

The independents are the best at recommending work to the customer, says Cooper, but he says there is a fine line between a customer feeling helped and pressured.

“Some establishments do that quite well, where they have a process. The customer appreciates that, but you have to be careful about crossing that line.”

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