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Market Insight: Dealers lift their game in customer service

Talk it up: Customer satisfaction is higher among those who receive a cost estimate of servicing work and repairs, and receive an explanation of the charges post-service.

Communication from dealer staff, reliable servicing vital for happy customers: study

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Market Insight logo25 Nov 2014

AUSTRALIAN motor vehicle companies and their dealerships have lifted their game in terms of aftersales service, according to the 2014 JD Power Customer Service Index (CSI) study released today.

Overall customer satisfaction as measured in the comprehensive study has increased to 790 points on the global marketing information firm’s 1000-point scale, which marks a turnaround after a notable drop last year took the industry average down to 783.

As reported (see separate story), Mazda was again rated the best in the Australian marketplace for aftersales service among the individual mass-market brands, with significant gains made by Holden and Hyundai, which moved passed the industry average to now be among the top-five performers.

Looking at the industry across the board, JD Power Asia Pacific senior country manager – Australia, Loi Truong, told GoAuto that this year’s study found improvements in a variety of areas in the service department, particularly in communicating charges to the customer.

Among the key findings nominated by Mr Truong, 67 per cent of customers in this year’s study said they received a cost estimate – up five per cent on 2013 – while 77 per cent received an explanation of the charges after the service, up one per cent on last year.

Seven per cent of customers reported that their actual service and repair bills were higher than first estimated, which marks a two per cent decrease on 2013.

Most mass-market brands in Australia now offer fixed-pricing servicing schemes, which make the costs involved with servicing more transparent to customers.

However, communication at the dealer level remains vital and could make the difference between a positive or negative experience from the vehicle owner’s perspective, which in turn impacts on areas such as brand image, repeat business, future new-car sales and the dealership’s bottom line.

Mr Truong said customers clearly do not expect to have vehicle servicing work repeated, and that satisfaction levels hinged on whether the work was done right the first time.

Among the 94 per cent of customers who indicated that the work was satisfactorily completed, the satisfaction level was at 799 points, up from 793 last year.

The proportion of customers whose vehicles were ready when promised also increased slightly this year, up one per cent to 83 per cent compared to 2013.

The CSI study identifies 16 service standards that enhance the overall customer service experience. This year, nearly one-fifth (19 per cent) of customers indicated that their dealer implemented 15 or more service standards, which marks a two per cent increase.

When 15 or more service standards are met, overall satisfaction improves by 74 points above the industry average, to 864 points.

With more service standards being met throughout the market, Mr Truong said customers expect their vehicles to be washed and vacuumed regularly.

However, only 28 per cent of customers receive their vehicles washed and vacuumed post-service. Last year the figure was 25 per cent.

JD Power says customers who are highly satisfied – registering satisfaction scores of 896 or higher – are more than twice as likely to recommend their service dealer to family and friends as those who are highly dissatisfied (scores of 703 or lower).

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