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Mazda tops for customer service – again

Simply the best: Mazda’s number-one ranking in the JD Power Australia CSI study for mass-market brands marks its fifth outright win in the space of nine years – and its third in a row.

Third straight top ranking in CSI study for Mazda as other brands rise and fall


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31 Aug 2018

MAZDA has again emerged as the leading mass-market automotive brand in Australia for aftersales service, achieving its third successive top ranking in the annual JD Power Customer Service Index (CSI) study released this week.
Below Mazda, however, a significant rearrangement of deckchairs has taken place, with some brands making notable improvements in their ranking while others have fallen sharply. 
Hyundai is the only other brand from the top five in last year’s CSI study to remain above the industry average, although its fall from second position to fifth is a setback for the Korean brand that had steadily improved its standing in recent years to the point where it was challenging for market leadership in this crucial area, which looks at how well customers are being treated at the service department.
The fast-rising Kia has suffered a similar setback, falling from third position to ninth, while Mitsubishi has tumbled from fourth last year to last place on the table of 12 mass-market brands included in this year’s study.
Subaru, which is a consistently high performer and ranked number one in 2011, also registered a shock turndown, dropping from fifth to seventh to sit below the industry average for the first time.  
This is the ninth year JD Power has conducted a CSI study for the Australian market, measuring new-vehicle buyer satisfaction with the vehicle service process by examining dealer performance across five areas (in order of weighting): service quality, vehicle pick-up, service adviser, service initiation and service facility. 
The latest results, which are based on the usual 1000-point scale, show a sharp decline in the industry average – down from 822 to 764 points in the space of a year – as every mass-market brand included in the study, including Mazda, recorded a significant decline. 
A JD Power spokesperson has told GoAuto that “some minor changes to the questionnaire, as a result of a change in the ‘verbal anchors’ of the scale” means that this year’s scores “may not be” comparable with previous studies.
However, the ranking of each brand and individual results remain important indicators of customer service performance, particularly in comparison to their major rivals.
The research firm’s ‘power circle ratings’ reveal that Mazda was the only brand to achieve the maximum five points across all five categories, while Toyota, in a return to form, also scored five points overall and five in three individual categories, dropping just the one mark for service adviser and service quality. 
Nissan has made a remarkable improvement in the space of a year, rising from 10th position to third, scoring either four or five points in every category, while Suzuki has emerged as the other standout brand, climbing from 12th to fourth this year – the first time it has ever climbed above the industry average or placed better than 10th. 
Holden, in sixth position behind Hyundai, has slipped back below the industry average – the same rung on the ladder it occupied last year – while Honda, which has twice finished in first place (2012/2015) only to slide down the rankings in recent years, comes in at eighth, a point behind Subaru. 
Ford has found itself in a lowly 10th position (behind Kia) after making strong inroads in recent years, thanks to a heavy concentration on customer service initiatives since its exit from local manufacturing in 2016, while Volkswagen, which has always struggled in the CSI study, was ranked 11th.
Notably, the bottom six of the 12 mass-market brands in this year’s study – from Subaru in sixth to Mitsubishi in 12th – managed only two points overall in power circle ratings.
Subaru and Honda at least managed a trio of three-point results in individual categories, and Ford turned in two three-point markers, while Kia and VW were each only rewarded with three stars in a single category. Mitsubishi scored two points out of five across the board.
This year’s CSI study is based on responses from 4586 owners who purchased their new vehicle between March 2013 and July 2018, and who took their vehicle in for servicing at an authorised dealership between March 2017 and July this year. 
The study was fielded from March through to July this year.
Jeep, which stood at the bottom of the table last year, in 13th place, was not ranked this time due to small or insufficient sample size. Isuzu Ute, Renault and Skoda were in the same boat.
In releasing the results, JD Power highlighted the fact that satisfaction was found to be considerably higher among customers who schedule their service using the manufacturer’s website, compared to those who make a phone call or book in person. 
However, only 10 per cent of customers reported using this online channel, prompting the researchers to note that “there is a clear opportunity for brands to improve their online capabilities and engagement to drive online booking rates and, thus, further boost satisfaction”.
Other take-outs from this year’s study include higher satisfaction among those customers who have the opportunity to observe their vehicle being serviced – not a common practice in the industry – and, as found in previous years, significant spikes also occur when the vehicle is returned washed and vacuumed. 
The ‘personal touch’ at the pick-up point is also a major contributor to owner satisfaction, with those who are escorted to their vehicle reporting much higher satisfaction compared to those who were simply told where to go and get it. 

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