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Car owners driving less, but dealership service seen as improving

Friday, April 16, 2021 5:48 PM | Anonymous
Many vehicle owners drove fewer miles last year because of COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders. Nevertheless, overall customer satisfaction with auto dealer service departments still increased for a sixth consecutive year.
That is according to the J.D. Power 2021 Customer Service Index Study, which showed dealer service visits declining only by 6% from 2019. Overall satisfaction increased to 847 (on a 1,000-point scale) from 837 in the 2020 study.
Chris Sutton, J.D. Power’s vice president of automotive retail, said completing work right the first time and focusing on customers’ needs play an important role in satisfaction. "And dealers are nailing these key performance indicators nearly 100% of the time," Sutton said in a news release.
"By continuing to provide an exceptional service experience," Sutton added, "dealers have an opportunity to seize an even greater share of the market. It’s notable, too, that while service was less frequent in 2020, customers responded very well to convenience services such as vehicle pick-up and drop-off at their home."
The study also measured customer satisfaction with dealer service among mass market and premium vehicle brands. One key finding is how remote or online payment options boost satisfaction. Only 6% of premium owners and 1% of mass market owners used those methods. But pick-up satisfaction is highest among those who used that option.
Among premium customers who pay remotely or online compared with handling payment via a cashier, satisfaction scores improved 44 points. Satisfaction improved 69 points among mass market customers.
"This is an example of a process some dealers may have put into place as a safety measure during the pandemic, but which they may want to keep in place, as customers find they like it more," Sutton said.
Another top finding is that using express service increases satisfaction. Satisfaction among customers who did not use express service for maintenance is flat compared with a year ago. But among those who used express service, satisfaction increased 10 points during the pandemic.
The 2021 Customer Service Index Study also shows that battery-electric vehicle owners are less satisfied with maintenance than repairs. During dealer service visits, nearly twice as much maintenance work takes place on average than repair work.
The maintenance-to-repair ratio for EV owners is nearly an even split, however.
More complex service repair work usually results in lower customer satisfaction than maintenance work. But the opposite is true for battery-electric vehicle owners. J.D. Power said a main reason for that is that battery-electric vehicle owners are 2.5 times more likely to not experience their service completed right the first time.
"EVs are in their early stages and dealers seem to be experiencing growing pains with servicing these vehicles," Sutton said. "Automakers may want to invest in more dealer service training. Otherwise, they run the risk of losing return customers."

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