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Mercedes leads way for luxury brand service

Star-studded: Mercedes was rated highly by vehicle owners across all key areas of servicing at an authorised dealership, but there is room for improvement in the ‘service initiation’ category.

Audi almost level pegging with Mercedes in 2018 JD Power CSI study for luxury brands


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19 Oct 2018

MERCEDES-BENZ has reaffirmed its status as a benchmark among the leading luxury car brands in Australia for aftersales service, holding off a fast-closing Audi and keeping ahead of BMW in the fifth annual JD Power Customer Service Index (CSI) Study – Luxury released this week.


The standout brand for the previous two years, Lexus, was not ranked this time around due to the sample size being insufficient – Land Rover and Volvo are in the same boat – and JD Power director and country manager for Australia Bruce Chellingworth told GoAuto that the research firm was unable to “estimate” where the Japanese brand would have finished in the overall rankings.


However, Mr Chellingworth said that “based on past years, I feel Lexus would have performed strongly if they had sufficient responses from their customers”.


This year’s result sees Mercedes return to the top of the table for the first time since 2015, when it backed up its number-one ranking in the inaugural study conducted in 2014.


Since then, Mercedes, which is the clear prestige market leader in terms of sales volume in Australia, had played second fiddle to Lexus, while across all five surveys Audi has been steadfast in holding its position behind Mercedes – whether Lexus made the cut or not – and BMW has not managed to climb above the luxury-brand industry average.


This year, Audi has finished just one point behind Mercedes on JD Power’s 1000-point scale – 830 compared to 831 – and in the study’s ‘power circle ratings’, the two brands were equal on five points out of five overall.


BMW was third on 806 points, 24 points behind Audi and 15 points below the industry average (821), while the Bavarian brand achieved just two points in the overall power circle rating.


As with the mass-market survey released earlier this year – won by Mazda for the third time in a row – the luxury market study measures new-vehicle buyer satisfaction with the servicing process by examining five key areas (in order of weighting): service quality, vehicle pick-up, service adviser, service initiation and service facility.


Drilling into the detail of the results, Mercedes performed at a high level (with the maximum five points) in every category except initiation, which was revised this year to have a slightly higher weighting.


Benz scored three points in this area, which covers the ease of scheduling a service visit, timeliness of the drop-off process and flexibility to accommodate the respondents’ particular schedule.


Audi scored five points in most categories, slipping a point in vehicle pick-up – which looks at timeliness, fairness of charges and helpfulness of staff – and service quality, which was another factor to be given a higher weighting this year.


This category relates to the time required to service the vehicle, the thoroughness of the maintenance or repair work performed, and condition of the vehicle upon return.


BMW, meanwhile, managed only two points in each section, including the other two key areas studied: service adviser, which covers courteousness, responsiveness and thoroughness of explanations; and facility, which assesses ease of access, cleanliness, waiting area comfort and parking convenience.


The results are particularly important as the top-selling luxury marques work to build brand loyalty and advocacy after significant sales growth has brought in first-time buyers in recent years, and as they strive to meet – if not exceed – the high expectations of new and established customers amid the higher numbers of vehicles being serviced through the dealer network.


The three leading German prestige brands are also experiencing a downturn in sales this year in the softer automotive industry – brought about by various factors including a cooling property market and tightening finance sector – with Mercedes-Benz Cars down 9.8 per cent to the end of September (on 25,982 units), and Audi and BMW slipping 8.8 and 3.7 per cent respectively (14,626/18,211).


JD Power points to better communication outreach from dealers and convenience of servicing as key drivers of customer satisfaction.


In terms of communication, this year’s study shows that 52 per cent of customers would have liked to have been contacted by the dealer during the service process directly via phone, while convenience measures such as “express servicing” brought higher levels of overall satisfaction (+30pt), compared to those who were not offered the same service.


Among other results, the majority of respondents (76%) found servicing costs from the luxury brands to be reasonable, and a high percentage (87%) were pleased or delighted with the quality of the service performed.


Interaction with the service adviser is also crucial, with a ‘meet and greet’ at drop-off eliciting much higher levels of satisfaction (+37pt), while the adviser’s level of knowledge is also considered a key factor.


Satisfaction is a whopping 90 points higher among customers who say their service adviser had a positive level of technical knowledge, compared to those who believed their adviser’s technical knowledge was lacking.


This year’s CSI Luxury study is based on responses from 511 luxury-vehicle owners who purchased their new vehicle from March 2013 through August 2018, and who took their vehicle in for service to an authorised dealership service centre between March 2017 and August this year.


The study was fielded between March and August this year.


Mercedes-Benz Vans owners are not part of JD Power’s Australian CSI study, although the integration of light-commercial vehicles into many passenger-car dealerships across the network – brought on by the launch of the X-Class utility – is sure have an influence on survey results.

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