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News - Market Insight - Market Insight 2012

Lexus customers most satisfied – again

On a roll: Lexus has again topped JD Power’s customer service charts in the US after recently winning a similar survey in Australia and taking the gong for most dependable vehicle brand in America.

Fourth consecutive win for Lexus in annual JD Power US customer service survey

15 Mar 2012

LEXUS has again topped the charts in JD Power and Associates’ annual Customer Service Index (CSI) Study, its fourth consecutive year in pole position and 15th time at the top, this time scoring 861 out of 1000.

The score means Toyota's luxury brand maintains a 26-point gap over the luxury segment average, putting it ahead of other above-average brands Cadillac (852 points), Jaguar (849), Honda-owned Acura (838) and Porsche (836).

As GoAuto has reported, Lexus customers in Australia were also shown to be the most satisfied, the brand winning a gong in the recent Roy Morgan Customer Satisfaction Awards.

JD Power also recently ranked Lexus as the most dependable vehicle brand in the US, although its customer retention rating slipped six percentage points between 2011 and 2012, meaning it dropped from joint-third position to ninth.

The organisation uses five measures to calculate customer service satisfaction, comprising (in order of importance) service quality, service initiation, the service advisor, the servicing facility and vehicle pick-up.

Lexus performed well the areas of service quality, service initiation and servicing facility.

British off-road brand Land Rover occupied the bottom of the table with 796 points, a significant fall from grace compared with 2010 when it missed a place in the above-average rankings by just seven points.

128 center imageFrom top: Lexus LS, Lexus RX, Lexus LX.

Porsche’s result of 836 points placed it just inside the above-average camp this year, representing a turnaround for the German brand, which occupied the bottom three in 2010 and missed the segment average score by five points in 2011, placing it level with BMW.

In fact, Porsche was the only Teutonic brand to achieve an above-average score this year, with Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz occupying the hall of shame alongside regular low rankers Infiniti, Lincoln and Volvo.

However, Audi was the most improved luxury brand, its score rising 34 points to 826.

Among mainstream brands, Mini ranked highest for the second year running with 809 points against a segment average of 778, performing well in terms of service quality, service advisor, servicing facility and vehicle pick-up.

Suzuki, which came last in 2010 and 2011, shared joint second-last place with Smart this year on 740 points, due to a fall in satisfaction for Dodge customers, who gave it a score of 739.

JD Power’s data shows customers who use dealer service facilities to be on average 38 points more satisfied with their experience with those who use an independent service centre and that the number of surveyed customers using their dealer increased from 74 per cent in 2011 to 79 per cent this year.

Levels of satisfaction are shown to be generally higher with maintenance visits than for repair work – the former being less expensive and time-consuming – and 72 per cent of customers said their last dealer visit was for maintenance rather than repair, up from 63 per cent in 2011, suggesting an increase in reliability.

The survey of 84,000 US customers with 2007-2011 model year vehicles – the majority of which are still within the factory warranty period – shows they are more satisfied overall than in the last two years, with the segment average score of 835 points representing a 16-point leap over last year and a 22-point increase compared with 2010.

Of the 33 luxury and mainstream brands in the survey, 28 showed an improvement in customer satisfaction, of which eight jumped 20 points or more.

JD Power suggests one reason for increased overall customer satisfaction could be the drop in vehicle sales during the GFC and resultant economic downturn causing a slowdown in dealer service volumes, meaning customers are less likely to be fighting for attention at the service desk and experiencing quicker turnaround times.

The organisation says the challenge for vehicle manufacturers will be to maintain the current high levels of satisfaction if and when the market picks up again.

JD Power and Associates senior director Chris Sutton said improvements in vehicle quality, longer service intervals between recommended service visits were among the reasons for an increase in satisfaction.

“Moreover, manufacturers and their dealers have instituted broad based customer service improvement initiatives to increase satisfaction with both the purchase experience and after-sales service, with the understanding that a substandard service occasion can and will impact their ability to make a future vehicle sale or gain repeat service business,” he said.

Methods suggested by JD Power for sustaining satisfaction levels include the promotion of online service scheduling, a review of the technician’s inspection report between service staff and customers and the implementation of factory-funded complimentary maintenance programmes.

JD Power says the recommended measures also have benefits for dealers in terms of revenue, customer loyalty and customer retention.

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