Independent Repair Shops Are Closing The Satisfaction Gap

Overall satisfaction with services performed by independent vehicle repair facilities has improved 22 points since 2017, according to the latest J.D. Power Customer Service Index (CSI) Study. This compares with a 17-point improvement for franchised dealers. Similarly, satisfaction with service quality at independent repair shops has improved 23 points since 2017, compared with a 17-point improvement by franchised dealers.

The study is based on responses from 57,286 owners and lessees of 2016- to 2018-model-year vehicles. It was fielded from October through December 2018. The study provides a numerical index ranking based on the combined scores of five measures of the vehicle owner service experience: service quality, service initiation, service advisor, service facility and vehicle pick-up.

According to J.D. Power, satisfaction scores tend to increase when service departments use customers’ preferred methods of communication, yet many dealerships are not regularly doing so.

Satisfaction was 75 points higher on a 1,000-point scale among customers who had an all-digital experience, compared with one that is all analog. According to the firm, customers prefer to schedule service over the internet and communicate with the shop via text messages, rather than doing these tasks over the phone. And, satisfaction increased further when a service advisor used a tablet during the service visit.

“Thirty-four percent of customers indicate they prefer to communicate via text message, but this only occurs 9 percent of the time,” said Chris Sutton, vice president – U.S. automotive retail practice at J.D. Power. “There’s no reason why this isn’t a more widely adopted practice across the industry.

“Dealers have easy access to these tools, so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Technology not only improves efficiency but also — the more satisfied a customer is with their overall service experience — the more likely they are to return to the dealership for service and to recommend the dealership to friends and family members.”

The study also indicated that nearly all generations prefer internet scheduling. While Generation Y customers have shifted their preference toward internet scheduling at a faster rate than have Baby Boomers, every generation — with the exception of Pre-Boomers — has increased its preference for internet scheduling and decreased its preference for phone scheduling over the past five years.

Additionally, the percentage of customers who felt that their service advisor provided helpful advice was 70 points higher when the advisor was focused on them and their needs during the visit. Other factors that boosted a customer’s view of their service advisor’s helpfulness were …
• Informing customers about work performed on the vehicle (+44).
• Knowing the vehicle’s service history (+37).
• Keeping them informed of the vehicle’s status (+33).
• Letting them know when the vehicle would be ready before service begins (+30).
• Performing a vehicle walk-around (+30).