Report: How Auto Dealer Service Satisfaction Increased During Pandemic

Despite the fact that people drove less in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, dealer service visits increased 6 percent from the previous year, and overall satisfaction increased to 847 on a 1,000-point scale from 837 the previous year, according to Troy’s J.D. Power.
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People drove less in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but dealer service visits increased 6 percent from 2019. While remote or online payment options were not used by many customers, those who used them reported higher satisfaction. // Stock photo

Despite the fact that people drove less in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, dealer service visits increased 6 percent from the previous year, and overall satisfaction increased to 847 on a 1,000-point scale from 837 the previous year, according to Troy’s J.D. Power.

The 2021 Customer Service Index Study was released today and shows that overall satisfaction increased for a sixth consecutive year.

“When one- to three-year-old vehicles required service in 2020, dealers captured an even greater share of service visits, which is the highest level in at least five years,” says Chris Sutton, vice president of automotive retail at J.D. Power. “Dealerships made the most out of a disruptively bad situation.

“Completing work right the first time, as well as focusing on customers’ needs, play significant roles in satisfaction, and dealers are nailing these key performance indicators nearly 100 percent of the time. By continuing to provide an exceptional service experience, 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 measures satisfaction with service at franchised dealers or independent service facilities for maintenance or repair work among owners and lessees of one- to three-year-old vehicles.

It also provides a numerical index ranking of the highest-performing automotive brands sold in the U.S., which is based on the combined scores of five different measures that comprise the vehicle owner services experience. The measures are, in order of importance, service quality (29 percent), service facility (19 percent), service initiation (18 percent), service advisor (18 percent), and vehicle pick-up (16 percent).

The study showed that remote or online payment options boosted satisfaction. While service customers didn’t frequently use contactless payment options – only 6 percent of premium and 1 percent of mass market owners say they used the methods – pick-up satisfaction is highest among those who used them.

Satisfaction scores improved 44 points among premium customers who pay remotely or online compared to handling payment via a cashier. Among mass market customers, satisfaction improves 69 points. The service was put in place due to COVID-19, but Sutton says dealerships should keep the option.

Satisfaction among customers who did not use express service for maintenance is flat compared with a year ago. However, satisfaction among those who did use express service increased 10 points during the pandemic.

According to the J.D. Power 2021 Electric Vehicle Experience Ownership Study, only 54 percent of battery electric vehicle owners indicate they had taken their vehicle in for service in the past 12 months. However, the 2021 CSI Study finds that when they do visit a dealer for service, their overall service satisfaction is 69 points lower than the average customer and 76 points lower for service quality.

“BEV owners present a unique challenge for dealers,” Sutton says. “Not only are their vehicles more difficult to service than traditional internal combustion engine vehicles, but also the lower frequency of visits means dealers have fewer chances to make a positive impression on these customers.”

On average, there’s nearly twice as much maintenance work being done during dealer service visits than repair work. For battery electric vehicle owners, however, the split is nearly event. While more complex service repair work usually results in lower customer satisfaction than does maintenance work, the opposite is true for owners of battery electric vehicles. A large driver of this is that these owners are 2.5 times more likely to not have their service completed right the first time.

“BEVs are in their early stages, and dealers seem to be experiencing growing pains with servicing these vehicles,” Sutton says. “Automakers may want to invest in more dealer service training. Otherwise, they run the risk of losing return customers.”

Porsche ranks highest in satisfaction with dealer service among premium brands with a score of 899. Lexus (895) ranks second, followed by Infiniti (887), Cadillac (883), and Lincoln (872).

MINI ranks highest in satisfaction with dealer service among mass market brands with a score of 864. Buick (859) ranks second, followed by Mitsubishi (857), GMC (856), and Kia (855).

The study is based on responses from 62,519 verified registered owners and lessees of 2018-2020 model-year vehicles.

DBusiness’ 2020 Auto Dealership Consumer Guide is available here.

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