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2016 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Study: Automotive Recalls Drive Decline in Service Satisfaction

2016 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Study: Automotive Recalls Drive Decline in Service Satisfaction

By Joseph Dobrian, March 16, 2016

The number of auto recalls has exploded in recent months—many related to defective Takata air bags—straining dealer service operations across the nation. In fact, automakers recalled more than 51 million vehicles in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). How are dealers handling the increased service recall volume? Not particularly well, according to a new J.D. Power study.

The J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) StudySM exposes a decline in customer satisfaction with dealer service when it’s related to an automotive recall: the first decline in 6 years. Coming on the heels of a record number of recalls, this drop in customer satisfaction appears to stem from a perception that dealers do not give the same level of attention to recall work as they do to non-recall maintenance and repairs.

The CSI Study measures customer satisfaction with service at a franchised dealer facility for maintenance or repair work among owners and lessees of vehicles between 1 and 5 years old. Customer satisfaction with recall service stands at 781 on a 1,000-point scale in the latest study, down from 789 in 2015. In comparison, satisfaction among customers with non-recall servicing averages 809 in 2016.

According to the study, customers having recall work performed are less likely to have their vehicle returned to them cleaner, and with the same settings, as when they brought it in, and less likely to be contacted by the dealer after the service is complete, compared with customers with non-recall servicing.

“While it may be tempting for dealers to focus more on repair or maintenance work, recall customers represent both an opportunity and a risk to the brand and dealer,” said Chris Sutton, vice president, U.S. automotive retail practice at J.D. Power. “There is a need for consistency in the service experience, regardless of the reason for the visit. A lack of consistency, particularly for recall work, can damage customers’ perceptions of the brand and negatively impact their likelihood to recommend and repurchase the brand.”

Overall customer satisfaction with dealer service, which is based solely on the first 3 years of ownership, averages 854 in the Luxury segment in 2016, up from 852 in 2015, and 797 in the Mass Market segment, up from 792.

Wait Time Is Key Factor
One of the study’s key findings is that 70% of all service customers are willing to wait between 1 and 2 hours to have their vehicle serviced, while 17% of service customers will wait less than an hour or not at all for service. Customer satisfaction averages 835 when the wait time is less than 1 hour and 40 minutes, and dips to 756 when the wait is longer. Service satisfaction improves by 44 points when a service advisor greets customers within 2 minutes of their arrival, but 27% of customers indicate they had to wait longer for a greeting.

Dealer service communication overwhelmingly takes place either in person at the dealership or over the phone. Only 2% of all customers currently receive service updates via text message or email, despite the fact that 37% of Gen X customers (those born 1965-1976) and 38% of Gen Y customers (1977-1994) prefer to receive service updates via text message or email. Even 22% of Boomers (1946-1964) prefer text or email, according to the study.

The study also shows that 94% of customers who take their vehicle in for service indicate that the dealer fixed it right the first time. The most frequently cited reasons for the vehicle not being fixed right the first time are “work performed didn’t correct the problem” (28%) and “dealership could not find the problem” (22%).

Audi, Mini Top the List
Audi ranks highest in satisfaction with dealer service among Luxury brands, with a score of 874. Following Audi in the luxury rankings are Lexus (869); Cadillac (863); Mercedes-Benz (857); and Jaguar and Lincoln (in a tie with 856 points). Mini ranks highest in satisfaction with dealer service among Mass Market brands, with a score of 858. Rounding out the top five Mass Market brands in the rankings are Buick (849), GMC (830), Chevrolet (818), and Hyundai (814).

Consumer Tips
Based on the study, J.D. Power offers the following consumer tips:

  • If you’re bringing your vehicle to the dealer for recall-related servicing, take the opportunity to address any other needs for repair or servicing.
  • Ask the dealer to run your vehicle through the wash after the recall issue is addressed: you’ll seldom be refused.
  • Arrange to bring in your vehicle at a slow time in order to reduce your wait time.


About the Study
The 2016 U.S. CSI Study is based on responses from more than 72,000 owners and lessees of 2011 to 2015 model-year vehicles. The study was fielded between October and December 2015.

Additional Research:

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