First impressions count for customers

The efficiency of the service department of dealers has more impact on customer loyalty than anything else, according to new research.

According to the J.D. Power 2016 UK Customer Service Index Study, 92% of highly satisfied customers say they ‘definitely will’ return to the same service facility for work they don’t have to pay for, with 83% saying they ‘definitely will’ return for work they have to pay for.

When satisfaction levels drop even slightly (to 800-899 on a 1,000-point scale compared to over 900 points), those numbers plummet to 74% and 58%.

Dr Axel Sprenger, senior director of European automotive operations at J.D. Power, said, ‘When auto dealerships manage to get the service department’s customer service equation right, they earn incredibly loyal customers. The service event is also instrumental in driving sales, as it is likely the most recent experience the customer has had at the dealer prior to shopping for a new vehicle.’

The study also found that 78% of customers who are highly satisfied with their service experience ‘definitely will’ purchase or lease their next new vehicle from the servicing dealership. When service satisfaction drops to 800-899, intended purchase loyalty dips to 44%, and it tumbles to 23% when satisfaction is between 600 and 799.

According to J.D. Power’s research, key to customer satisfaction is being immediately greeted on arrival by a service advisor greets customers immediately upon their arrival, although 61% of customers said they had to wait. Customers also highly valued a pick-up process of under five minutes, while transparency on work provided and cost also had a big impact on customer-satisfaction scores.

Among premium brands, Mercedes-Benz ranks highest with a score of 774, followed by Land Rover (773) and Audi (761), while Toyota topped volume brands with a score of 776. Honda (775), Kia (765), MINI (757) and Suzuki (753) completed the top five.

The 2016 UK Customer Service Index Study is based 8,478 respondents who registered their new vehicle between February 2013 and April 2015.