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2013 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Study Results

3/14/2013
Overall customer satisfaction with vehicle service at dealer facilities has increased slightly this year, compared with 2012, according to the recently released J.D. Power and Associates 2013 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Study.SM The study finds that overall customer satisfaction with service at a dealer facility has increased to 797 (on a 1,000-point scale), compared with 787 in 2012 and 768 in 2011. Comparatively, overall customer satisfaction with independent service facilities stands at 753, compared with 749 in 2012. While both types of service providers have gained in satisfaction during the past year, the gap in scores between them is widening.

"Manufacturers have made large investments in their retail programs, and dealers have made significant investments in key customer touch points--people, improved processes and customer waiting areas--which are having a profoundly positive impact on their customers," said Chris Sutton, senior director at J.D. Power and Associates. "Dealerships are placing more emphasis on the service advisor's role, which is essential to effectively handling service customers. Having a skilled, trained advisor is vital for a positive customer experience."

The annual CSI Study examines satisfaction among vehicle owners who visit a service department for maintenance or repair work. Brand rankings are based on dealer service performance during the first 3 years of new-vehicle ownership, which in most cases represents the majority of the vehicle warranty period. The study measures five factors to determine overall satisfaction with dealer service (in order of importance): service quality, service initiation, service advisor, service facility, and vehicle pick-up.

The incidence of owners visiting a dealer service department for vehicle maintenance, rather than repair, has increased in frequency, with 77% of vehicle owners indicating that their most recent dealer service visit was for maintenance, such as an oil change or tire rotation, compared with 72% in 2012 and 63% in 2011.

"The service mix continues to shift to maintenance and away from repairs, which is a testament to the improvement in vehicle quality and dependability," said Sutton. "Owner satisfaction is generally higher for maintenance than for repairs for several reasons, primarily because maintenance tends to be less expensive and time-consuming and can be scheduled and completed at the owner's convenience."
 
The study finds a direct correlation between service satisfaction and loyalty. Overall, 79% of vehicle owners indicate they "definitely will" return to their dealership for maintenance and repairs covered under their vehicle's warranty, and 64% indicate they "definitely will" return to the dealership for service work after their vehicle's warranty expires. However, loyalty increases dramatically among vehicle owners who are "delighted" (satisfaction scores of 901 and higher) with their service experience, as 96% say they "definitely will" return to the dealer service department while their vehicle is under warranty, and 89% say they "definitely will" return post-warranty. Further, 38% of vehicle owners overall indicate they "definitely will" purchase or lease their next vehicle from the same brand, and increases to 59% among owners who are "delighted."

"The service experience has a profound impact on vehicle owners, not just where they take their vehicle the next time they need maintenance or repairs, but also on their next vehicle purchase," said Sutton. "Dealers know this, and most are taking the appropriate steps to ensure their customers have the best experience possible on both the sales and service sides of the store."

The study ranks 30 vehicle brands, of which 28 show improvement in service satisfaction from 2011, with eight brands improving by at least 20 points. Overall satisfaction improves across all five study measures, with the largest year-over-year gains in service facility and vehicle pick-up, which includes vehicle owner perception of the fairness of the charges.

"While there are a lot of things dealers can't control, such as the product and the incentive levels on the sales side, one thing they can control is the service they provide," said Sutton. "When new-vehicle sales dropped in 2008, dealers increased their focus on service, and that attention on the service customer continues today."

Of the 11 luxury brands included in the study, Lexus ranks highest in satisfaction with dealer service for a fifth consecutive year. Lexus achieves an overall CSI score of 862 and performs particularly well in service initiation, service facility, and service quality. Other highest-performing nameplates in the luxury segment include Cadillac (858), Jaguar (856), Acura (852), and Infiniti (848).

In the 2013 study, three of the 11 luxury brands improve their index score by 20 or more points, compared with 2012, with Land Rover achieving the greatest year-over-year improvement (+29 points). Infiniti improves by 24 points and Lincoln by 23.

Among the 19 mass market brands included in the study, GMC ranks highest in satisfaction with dealer service with a score of 819. GMC performs particularly well in service initiation, service advisor, service facility, and service quality. Rounding out the five highest-performing brands in the mass market segment are Mini (810), Buick (809), Chevrolet (806), and Volkswagen (804).

Five of the 19 mass market brands improve their index score by at least 20 points, compared with 2012, with Scion improving by 24 points, Nissan and Dodge by 23 points, Mitsubishi by 22, and Chrysler by 20.

J.D. Power and Associates offers the following tips for consumers regarding vehicle service at their dealership:

  • When possible, schedule your dealer service appointment in advance. Customers who have an appointment tend to be more satisfied with their overall service experience than do those without an appointment due to dealer ability to appropriately prepare for the visit.
  • If your vehicle has to remain at the dealership for maintenance or repairs, ask the service advisor for a loaner vehicle. Many dealerships have a fleet of vehicles service customers may borrow while their vehicle is in for service.
  • Following maintenance or repair work, ask for a vehicle inspection report, and review it with your service advisor.

The 2013 U.S. CSI Study is based on responses from more than 91,000 owners and lessees of 2008 to 2012 model-year vehicles. The study was fielded between October and December 2012.

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