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2018 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Study: Service Satisfaction Key to Increasing Brand Advocacy

2018 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Study: Service Satisfaction Key to Increasing Brand Advocacy

By Joseph Dobrian, March 12, 2018

Automotive dealers who provide satisfactory vehicle servicing can turn their customers into advocates for the brands they sell, according to the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Study.SM

The CSI Study measures customer satisfaction with service at a franchised dealer or independent service facility for maintenance or repair work among owners and lessees of one- to three-year-old vehicles. In this latest survey, satisfaction with service quality continues to improve: overall satisfaction has improved by 39 points (on a 1,000-point scale) since the study was redesigned in 2015. Overall satisfaction in 2018 improves by 12 points, to 821, compared with 2017. The study shows similar improvements in customer satisfaction with service advisor (+12 points); service facility (+11); service initiation (+10); and vehicle pick-up (+10). The 2018 study also includes a new metric, Net Promoter Score® (NPS), which measures customer loyalty and predicts business growth.

“There’s a strong link between a brand’s CSI score and its Net Promoter Score,” said Chris Sutton, Vice President, U.S. Automotive Retail Practice at J.D. Power. “When a customer is happy with the service a dealer provides them, they’re more likely to tell their friends and family members about it. This experience creates promoters for the vehicle brand who are more likely to return to a dealer for repairs and common services like oil changes and replacement of batteries, brakes and tires.

“It’s also good news for manufacturers because satisfied customers tend to stay with a brand and bring others with them,” Sutton added. “Anything less opens the door for customers to shop elsewhere.”

Customers Go Online, Like Valet Servicing
The study finds that customers prefer online service scheduling capability. Using the internet to schedule service has increased among all generations, but Gen Y customers (those born between 1997 and 1994) adopt online scheduling at a much faster rate than do older customers: 24% of Gen Y customers use the internet to schedule their service, compared with 10 percent of Pre-Boomers (those born before 1946). Thus, apparently, dealers need to offer effective online scheduling tools to serve this group, and let them know that these tools are available.

Valet service, which involves vehicle pickup and delivery, apparently improves customer loyalty, especially among premium brand customers. In that demographic, 68% of customers say 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.

Deals, Referrals Help Dealers Attract Business
Gen Y customers also seem influenced by promotions, coupons, and word of mouth, when choosing a dealer. The study shows that 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. According to the study, 9% of Gen Y respondents select a dealer based on recommendations, compared with 5% of Boomers (respondents born between 1946 and 1964).

Infiniti, Buick Rank Highest
Among luxury brands, Infiniti ranks highest in customer satisfaction with dealer service, with a score of 876—the first time the brand has topped the CSI Study rankings since 2003. Porsche ranks second at 874; Audi, Cadillac, and Lexus tie for third with 871. Buick, for the second consecutive year, ranks highest in satisfaction for dealer service among mass-market brands, with a score of 850. Chevrolet and Mini tie for second at 849, followed by GMC (843) and Volkswagen (828).

Consumer Tips
Based on the study, J.D. Power offers the following consumer tips:
  • Take full advantage of the internet to see what automotive dealers offer in terms of personal services (valet service, loaner cars, etc.) as well as vehicle servicing.
  • When pre-shopping for a new vehicle, ask not only about the quality of the vehicles your friends and neighbors have purchased but also about their level of satisfaction with post-sale service.
  • Customer satisfaction scores are only a guideline: they do not indicate that a particular dealership in your market will provide better service than another. All the more reason to do your homework before buying a new car.

About the Study
The 2018 U.S. CSI Study is based on responses from 74,021 owners and lessees of 2015 to 2017 model-year vehicles. The study was fielded in October-December 2017.

Additional Research:

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