Service quality continues to be the main driver of customer satisfaction among individuals who get their vehicles serviced which, in turn, leads to greater brand advocacy, according to the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Study. This article is copyright 2018 The Best Customer Guide.

The study measures customer satisfaction with service at a franchised dealer or independent service facility for maintenance or repair work among owners and lessees of 1- to 3-year-old vehicles. Overall satisfaction in 2018 improved by 12 index points from 2017.

Service quality affects whether a customer will recommend using a dealer for service or sales, as well as their loyalty intentions toward a particular brand or model. Scores in the service quality measure improve 39 points to 821 (on a 1,000-point scale) since the study was redesigned in 2015. Other measures in the study showing year-over-year improvement include service advisor (+12 points); service facility (+11); service initiation (+10); and vehicle pick-up (+10).

The Net Promoter Score metrics, which measures customer loyalty and predicts business growth, was included in the 2018 study to further show service satisfaction's role in whether a customer will recommend a brand or tell others to avoid it.

Following are some of the study's key findings:

  • Customers prefer online service scheduling capability: Using the internet to schedule service has increased among all generations, but Gen Y2 customers have adopted internet scheduling at a much faster rate than older customers. Nearly one-fourth (24%) of Gen Y customers schedule their service via the internet, compared with 10% of Pre-Boomers. As Gen Y customers contribute to a larger portion of the vehicle-buying marketplace, it is imperative for dealers to offer effective online scheduling tools to serve this group and let them know these tools are available.
  • White glove valet service improves loyalty among premium brand customers: Catering to luxury customers with home or office vehicle pick-up and delivery services has a notable effect on intended loyalty to return for future services, with 68% of these customers saying they "definitely will" return to their dealership. Overall scores among those who have their vehicle picked up is 27 points higher than among those who drop their vehicle off at the dealership (889 vs. 862, respectively).
  • Promotions, coupons and word of mouth attract young customers: The most common reasons customers choose their dealer for service include prior experience and convenience of location, but younger customers are more likely to rely on recommendations from friends or relatives (9% of Gen Y select a dealer based on recommendations, compared with 5% of Boomers).
  • Infiniti ranks highest in satisfaction with dealer service among luxury brands for the first time since 2003, with a score of 876. Ranking second in the luxury segment is Porsche (874). Audi, Cadillac and Lexus rank third in a tie (871).
  • Buick ranks highest in satisfaction for dealer service among mass market brands for a second consecutive year, with a score of 850. Chevrolet and MINI rank second in a tie (849), followed by GMC (843) and Volkswagen (828).

The 2018 U.S. CSI Study was based on responses from 74,021 owners and lessees of 2015 to 2017 model-year vehicles.