The J.D. Power 2019 Customer Service Index Study measured customer satisfaction with car dealership service departments, as well as independent service centers, and ranked all auto brands. The study also identified certain practices that are sure to boost customer satisfaction, and those that dealer service departments aren't doing enough.

Mass Market Car Brand Rankings

The J.D. Power 2019 Customer Service Index Study, which was released in March, ranked all US car brands in terms of how satisfied their customers are in the service drive. J.D. Power surveyed over 57,000 owners and lessees of one- to three-year-old models using a 1,000-point scoring scale based on five measures: service quality, service initiation, service advisors, service facilities, and vehicle pick-up.

All in all, 19 mass market brands were pitted against each other, with Buick coming out on top for the third straight year. Here's the complete list of mass market brands and their rankings:

Top Car Brands for Customer Satisfaction in Dealership Service Departments

The mass market brand average score was 827 in 2019, a seven-point improvement over last year. Of the 19 mass market brands studied, 15 improved their scores year over year.

Mitsubishi, which finished in third place, made the largest jump of any brand, luxury or mass market. Their service departments improved 27 points to move from 21 overall in 2018 to 12 in 2019. Mazda (+25) and Dodge (+23) made the second and third largest jumps, respectively.

The four brands that saw their scores decline year-over-year were Chevrolet (-4), GMC (-3), Kia (-1), and Fiat (-1).

Luxury Car Brand Rankings

On the luxury end, Porsche finished in first place for customer satisfaction with dealer service for the first time the study's 38-year history. Here's how the rankings shook out for all 12 luxury brands studied:

Top Car Brands for Customer Satisfaction in Dealership Service Departments

Here, the industry average remained stagnant year-over-year at 862, while seven of the 12 manufacturers improved their scores over 2018. Sixth-place Acura (+21) and first-place Porsche (+19) made the largest year-over-year jumps.

On the other end of the spectrum, Land Rover (-31), Jaguar (-16), Audi (-14), and BMW (-10) were the biggest fallers of any brand, luxury or mass market.

How Car Dealership Service Departments Can Improve Customer Satisfaction

Car dealership service departments can improve customer satisfaction by leveraging the information uncovered by the Customer Service Index Study. Here are a few takeaways your store should pay attention to:

  • Use more text messaging: J.D. Power found that 34 percent of consumers said they would prefer to communicate by text message. Yet, they discovered this only occurs nine percent of the time! Service departments that adopt this practice can get a leg up on the majority of their competitors.
  • Deliver other digital experiences: Satisfaction was 75 points higher on their 1,000-point scale for customers who had an all-digital experience compared to those that were all analog. In addition to text messaging, dealer service departments should be offering internet scheduling, as this is increasingly becoming the preference over phone scheduling for all age groups except pre-Boomers. Your service advisors should also use a tablet during visits, as this was also found to increase satisfaction.
  • Perform basic key performance indicators: J.D. Power identified three simple key performance indicators that affect the perception of service quality. These were: correctly completing the work on the first visit, returning the vehicle settings to how they were when it was brought in, and washing the car before it's returned. These are already happening 85 percent of the time, 81 percent of the time, and 45 percent of the time, respectively, but dealerships can still set themselves apart by working to achieve all three every time.
  • Enable your service advisors to be more helpful in-store: Respondents perceived service advisors to be more helpful when they focused on a single customer and their needs during an in-store visit, resulting in a satisfaction score that’s 70 points higher. These other factors also increased how helpful service advisors are in the eyes of customers: being able to inform the customer of the work performed on their vehicle (+44), knowing the car's service history (+37), being able to update them on the vehicle's status (+33), telling them a completion time before the service begins (+30), and performing a walk-around (+30).

The Bottom Line

With new car sales slowing after reaching record heights a few years ago and cars lasting longer than ever, dealerships are going to have to rely on their service departments even more to increase profitability. Dealer service departments that are trying to catch the likes of Buick and Porsche in their respective segments should look to the study for tips on how to increase customer satisfaction in the service drive.

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