J.D. Power: Independents Outshining Dealerships in Customer Service

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Sept. 6, 2017—Results from the J.D. Power U.S. Dealer Financing Satisfaction Study suggest that, while new car dealership auto repair shops are catching up, consumers are still feeling the love for their independents, reported Driving. The study was performed on owners of 4- to 12-year-old vehicles, the critical point for dealership service centers.

The largest gap in the results reported was in the shiny and pretty: On a scale of 1,000, dealers scored 746 points for “facility experience” to the non-dealers 681. Big screen televisions, fancy coffee makers, leather chairs and potted plants provide a nice atmosphere, especially compared with the more humble wait areas of most independents. The study found 13 percent of customers would prefer to book appointments online, with just 5 percent having the ability to do so. 

As vehicles get more complicated and technology advances, indepedents have done a better job about communicating with customers about those advancements and what their cars need: “…in ratings for service advisor performance in people skills and knowledge, non-dealer service advisors outperform their dealership counterparts in every category, including: courtesy of the service representative (8.12 vs. 7.99 on a 10-point scale); responsiveness (7.96 vs. 7.77); thoroughness of explanation (7.80 vs. 7.63); and knowledge of service advisor (8.03 vs. 7.81).”

Increasingly, both dealer and non-dealer shops are implementing tablets (20 percent and 16 percent respectively) to assist in their communications with customers.

Where the gaps remain in consumer loyalty are in nuts and bolts of the repair equation: “service initiation (797 for independents vs. 778 for dealers on a 1,000-point scale); service advisor (798 vs. 781); vehicle pick-up (773 vs. 751); and service quality (765 vs. 745).” Consumers are still trusting their non-dealer shops more on some very important notes.

The J.D. Power study delves into interesting territory. It looks at where the service industry is headed and what it’s going to take to conquer a rapidly growing tech-savvy consumer base. During the repair process, “customers are rarely contacted by text message with updates (3 percent for dealers, 1 percent for non-dealers), although 17 percent of dealer customers and 12 percent of non-dealer customers would prefer to be contacted this way. Text messaging in particular is an area where both dealers and non-dealers should improve to better serve younger customers, who indicate by a significant margin that they prefer this method.”


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