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Lexus still tops for customer satisfaction

Not perfect: Lexus remains the industry benchmark for aftersales customer service, according to JD Power, but could do better in the ‘service facility’ category.

Latest JD Power study shows top luxury brands are improving in aftersales service

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General News logo12 Dec 2017

By TERRY MARTIN

LEXUS has retained its position at the top of the industry as the leading prestige marque for aftersales service, according to the JD Power 2017 Australia Customer Service Index (CSI) Study – Luxury Brands released this week.

As was the case among the mass-market brands in the same study – the results of which were issued last month and placed Mazda out in front – the industry average has increased substantially over the past 12 months, reflecting the work among many of the car companies to improve their performance in customer relations at the service department.

While customer satisfaction for the mass-market brands increased 13 points to 822 on JD Power’s 1000-point scale, the average for the luxury brands this year climbed 18 points to 842 – which in turn saw only Lexus (869) and Mercedes-Benz (852) above this mark, and Audi (840) and BMW (835) below it.

Land Rover and Volvo were included in the study but not ranked due to small or insufficient sample size, leaving JD Power to base their results on the top-selling German and Japanese prestige brands.

The results are significant considering most of the leading luxury car marques are experiencing a sales downturn this year – company executives have cited a range of factors including market competitiveness, vehicle supply and consumer confidence – which in turn places ever-more emphasis on customer loyalty and advocacy that stems in large part from their experience at the dealership.

All four luxury brands in this year’s CSI study have lifted their customer service scores – Lexus has climbed 17 points, Mercedes 24 points, Audi is 14 points ahead of where it was last year, and BMW has likewise posted a commendable 24-point improvement.

However, the rankings have not changed, Audi has slipped below average and BMW remains at the bottom of the table – facts that will be heavily scrutinised at corporate headquarters and dealerships of each brand.

As ever, JD Power measures new-vehicle buyer satisfaction with the vehicle servicing process by examining five key areas (in order of weighting): service quality, vehicle pick-up, service adviser, service initiation and service facility.

A closer look at the so-called power circle ratings for each brand show that Lexus excelled in most categories (the one exception being service facility, where it scored four out of five points) and Mercedes was deemed ‘better than most’ with four points for all areas except service adviser and vehicle pick-up (where it scored three).

Audi was ‘about average’ with three points for each section except facility (where it scored two), and BMW was lumped among ‘the rest’ with three points for pick-up but only two for all other areas of assessment.

According to JD Power, this year’s study found an overall increase in customers booking their vehicles in for service via a website, however the satisfaction rating with this channel was lowest (825) compared to calling (844) and booking in-person (865).

Another notable take-out from the study included a drop in the percentage of customers saying that work was done right the first time (93.5 per cent compared to 95.0 per cent last year), which in turn has a major impact on their satisfaction level – at 693 points for those who did not have the work done properly the first time, compared to 852 for those who did.

Only 32 per cent of luxury car owners surveyed were offered a free loan car – a cohort that had a high satisfaction rating of 855 points – while for those who were provided with a free ride and those who rented a car for an additional charge, the rating was the same at 828.

Overall satisfaction among the 47 per cent of customers who did not require transportation from the dealership came in at 845 points.

JD Power representatives also pointed to the need for dealerships to better communicate servicing costs – especially as the research firm says that these costs are on the rise – based on the finding that overall satisfaction among customers who receive explanations and pay what they expected is at 866 points.

By comparison, those who receive no explanation (while also paying what they expected) came in much lower at 793.

Now in its fourth year as a specific category, the CSI Luxury study was this year based on responses from 547 owners who purchased their new vehicle from August 2012 through September 2017, and who took their vehicle in for service to an authorised dealership between August 2016 and September this year.

The latest VFACTS figures show that Lexus’ 8266 sales to the end of November this year marks a 3.4 per cent downturn, while BMW and Audi have recorded 22,317 and 19,938 sales respectively – a drop of 15.7 per cent for the Munich marque and 9.5 per cent for its Ingolstadt rival.

Mercedes-Benz sales are currently up 3.3 per cent this year to 34,069 units.

This does not include commercial vehicles, which are also not part of JD Power’s Australian CSI study.

Mercedes was at the top of the table in the first two local CSI Luxury studies in 2014 and 2015, however Lexus was not ranked due to sample size issues.

As previously reported, it would be easy to assume that Lexus has always been the brand to beat, but JD Power analysts have advised GoAuto that it would have ranked below Mercedes in both years had there been a statistically sound sample.

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