AutoTalk: Luxury Dealers Improve Servicing, But Digital Channels Lagging

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2015 Australia CSI Study - Luxury Segment

When it comes to retaining or adding new customers to their phone lists, Aussie luxury dealerships are going the extra mile and offering added services.

For example, washing and vacuuming a car, picking up and dropping off customers, and easy to navigate websites are proving to be real winners. Australian luxury automotive dealers have improved their performance in servicing and fixing customers’ vehicles, with the percentage of preinspections increasing this year. However, scheduling service can be an issue for customers.

A J.D. Power spokesperson tells AutoTalk that scheduling service can be an issue for Australian customers because they are: “Used to an online interface that allows them to have control over their lives, and don’t expect any less with their servicing dealer. Technology needs to be more integrated to provide extra control, transparency and ease for customers. Dealers can make sure that their online system allows the flexibility of choice of service time, and a loan vehicle at a minimum,” the spokesperson says.

The J.D. Power 2015 Australia Customer Service Index (CSI) study measures overall satisfaction with the vehicle service experience, at authorised service centres, by examining five factors (listed in order of importance): service quality; vehicle pick-up; servic eadvisor; service initiation; and service facility, based on a 1000-point scale. Overall customer satisfaction is 817 in 2015, a 14-point improvement from 2014.

The percentage of service and repairs completed by luxury brands during a customer’s first visit to the dealer has improved to 95% in 2015, up by 1% from 2014, and the percentage of cars washed and vacuumed has improved to 60%, up by 3% from last year. “It is encouraging to see that luxury dealers are doing a better job of completing all service work on the first visit,” says Loi Truong, senior country manager at J.D. Power. “This improvement is aided by the fact that dealer service advisors are spending more time inspecting vehicles when dropped off. Advisors who inspect the vehicle up front are able to identify and agree the work required with the customer, and, importantly, avoid any misunderstandings that could occur later in the process,” Truong adds.

Consumers use digital media every day to conduct a myriad of personal and business transactions, but scheduling a service appointment for their vehicle can be a pain point for those who use the online channel.

According to the study, satisfaction is lowest among luxury vehicle owners who use the Internet (via email, dealer or brand website, etc.) to schedule service (805). In comparison, satisfaction among vehicle owners who use more traditional service scheduling methods, such as phoning the dealer for an appointment, averages 820. “It is encouraging to see the improvement in the luxury brand segment in Australia,” says Gordon Shields, director at J.D. Power “However, it is clear that service centres are still struggling to make digital service channels really work for them. Not only should dealers make online scheduling easy and quick to use, they should also look at how other service companies use technology to help customers track the progress of the work, offer regular updates, as well as provide pricing online too.”

Encouragingly, the study found that pre-inspections of customer vehicles have increased by 8% in 2015, with 62% of customers indicating that their dealer performed an inspection when they dropped off their vehicle.

The study also finds that 14% of customers requiring alternative transport during their service visit either don’t receive any transport or are charged a fee for it. Satisfaction is higher among customers who receive a free ride from their dealer, than among those who are offered a loan car (852 vs. 843, respectively). One interesting aspect is that providing a consistent level of service to all customers is key to customer satisfaction, as the study shows that customers who indicate their service costs are all or partly covered under a service package (781) are less satisfied than their counterparts who paid all (814) or some of the service charges themselves (832).

Lower scores among customers with service packages are typically due to the perception they receive less time and support from service advisors than paying customers without such packages, making it important for advisors to provide the same level of service to all customers regardless of how payment is rendered. Compared to the JD Power study on volume dealerships in Australia, the luxury dealerships cleaned their vehicles when they brought it in for a service visit. Overall, 60% of luxury vehicle owners indicate their vehicles were both washed and vacuumed after the service, almost double of that of the mass market average of 31%.

Another key finding is that nearly nine in 10 customers (88%) who are highly satisfied (satisfaction scores of 904 or higher), indicate they would revisit their service dealer for a service work they would pay for (i.e., post-warranty work). Mercedes Benz takes top spot Mercedes-Benz was the best ranked luxury car brand in the survey when it comes to customer satisfaction with dealer service among luxury market brands, with a score of 843. Mercedes-Benz performs well in all five study factors. Audi ranks second (829). Mercedes Benz sales in Australia and the APAC region reached a new record of 55,725 units in November (+24.7%).

Since the beginning of the year, unit sales increased to the record number of 553,639 vehicles (+25.6%). In Australia, MercedesBenz has already sold over 30,000 sales for the year, a new record for the brand and also a first for any luxury brand in Australia. The 2015 Australia CSI study of the luxury market, is a part of the annual CSI study, which covers both mass market and luxury brands from a total of 4971 owners. The JD Power study had also included Land Rover, Lexus and Volvo but we were not able to rank them because they did not meet the minimum requirement of 75 samples to include them. As such, the study could not share the CSI score for these brands. The luxury study is based on evaluations from 453 vehicle owners who purchased their new vehicle between August 2010 and October 2015 and took their vehicle for service at an authorised service centre between August 2014 and October 2015. The study was fielded from late August to early October 2015.