In the first such survey that measured customer satisfaction scores in the automotive aftermarket, renowned research firm, J.D. Power and Associates found that consistency is what matters to aftermarket customers. The highest scores for customer satisfaction are closely connected to consistent service processes. Another finding was that the one thing consumers really appreciated was the vehicle walkaround.
The first edition of the J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Aftermarket Service Index Study was carried out in collaboration with SurveyMonkey Audience. The results of the study give a general idea not only about what is important to consumers when they are either having general maintenance done, or tires replaced, but also includes a ranking of the top performers in the automotive aftermarket in the United States.
For the purpose of the study, tire maintenance and general maintenance were considered as two separate categories. And in each category, six different parameters were used for scoring purposes. The different criteria and their importance to customers in each category are given below in the order of importance:
General maintenance Tire replacement
Fairness of charges (19 percent) Service initiation (20 percent)
Service quality (18 percent) Fairness of charges (18 percent)
Service advisor (18 percent) Service quality (18 percent)
Service facility (16 percent) Service advisor (16 percent)
Service initiation (15 percent) Vehicle pick-up (15 percent)
Vehicle pick-up (14 percent) Service facility (13 percent)
Service initiation refers to the manner in which the customer books his service, whether it is done online, on the phone, through text or by just showing up at the a garage without a prior appointment.
The survey indicated that customers showed the highest level of satisfaction with regard to the quality of the service.
“Owners are holding onto their vehicles past when factory scheduled maintenance packages and warranties expire, meaning they’ll be responsible for footing the full repair bill when their vehicles need service,” said Chris Sutton, vice president of the U.S. Automotive Retail Practice at J.D. Power.
He added that based on the work needed, the repair bills can be quite high. Hence, the owners of the vehicles needed to be assured that their vehicles were in good hands and they would get value for money in terms of the services provided.
He said that aftermarket service providers need to ensure that customers benefited from a great experience so that they would return for future service, and might even spread the word about the facility among their family members and friends. Sometimes even minor things like following up with a customer after a service experience can transform a good experience into a great experience.
Two indicators of success
The survey indicated that vehicle walkarounds are the second-most influential Key Performance Indicator (KPI) when it comes to general maintenance and tire replacement. This important procedure however only occurs 72 percent of the time for general maintenance and 75 percent for tire replacement.
Satisfaction scores improve 49 points for general maintenance and 47 points for tire replacement when a vehicle walkaround is performed.
The most important KPI however was getting the work done properly the first time around, both in the case of general maintenance and of tire replacement.
The quality of customer service also turned out to be important. While follow-up service calls made satisfaction scores 28 points higher for general maintenance service and 21 points higher for tire replacement service, such calls are made only about 33 percent of the time for general maintenance and 38 percent for tire replacement. When both follow-up telephone calls and vehicle walkarounds are part of the service, customer satisfaction scores improve by 77 points for general maintenance and 68 points for tire replacement.
The Key findings of the study are as follows:
It is important to fix it right the first time: This plays a key role in increasing customer satisfaction, and is generally the case in most of the cases (93 percent for general maintenance and 94 percent for tire replacement).
In the general maintenance segment, satisfaction scores increase 247 points, which is about five times greater than performing a vehicle walkaround. In the tire maintenance segment, satisfaction scores are 231 points higher when the work is done right the first time.
Battery replacement and tire maintenance have the highest satisfaction for general maintenance (754 and 758, respectively). Tire alignment has the highest satisfaction in the tire replacement segment (772).
Prior experience vs. recommendations: In the case of customers belonging to all age groups prior experience outweighed recommendations proving that it is important to retain customers by providing them with a highly satisfying experience. Over half (56 percent) of Baby Boomers (born from 1946-1964) choose service providers based on prior experience with the facility, higher than the 34 percent in the case of Generation Z (born 1995-2004) service customers who have less prior experience. Word of mouth is most important for Generation Z customers when it comes to choosing a service facility.
Would you recommend this business? Net Promoter Score (NPS) measured customers’ likelihood of recommending their service facility on a 0-10 scale. Customers are grouped into either the detractor (0-6), passive (7-8) or promoter (9-10) categories. Service customers were either “dissatisfied” (550 and below); “indifferent” (551-750); “pleased” (751-900); or “delighted” (901 and above).
When the customers are highly satisfied with their service, the NPS increases dramatically. NPS scores improve 70 points (on a 100-point scale) between “indifferent” and “delighted” customers in the general maintenance segment and 65 points in the tire replacement segment. Nearly all “delighted” customers are also promoters of their service facility.
Aftermarket opportunities rise as vehicles age: The study founds that, among customers who had aftermarket service, 33 percent of owners within the first year of ownership also had service at a new-vehicle dealership in the past year. This percentage steadily declined as vehicles age, down to 21 percent for owners of five-year-old vehicles, and 16 percent for nine-year old vehicles. Only 8 percent of customers who own vehicles 10 years or older have visited a dealer in the past year.
“Customer experience is the cornerstone when it comes to satisfaction with aftermarket service,” said Jon Cohen, chief research officer at SurveyMonkey. “The data show how providers who excel at basic customer touchpoints — from vehicle walkarounds to check-up calls — have a clear edge among consumers. The data are also clear that even as larger companies embrace customer centricity, they’re lagging behind many of the regional providers.”
J.D. Power’s Sutton said that shops that specialize in more complex work might be at a slight disadvantage when compared to those that rely on oil changes. He said that such facilities need to compensate by focusing on other activities that can enhance customer satisfaction, like facilities they can enjoy while they wait and developing positive relationships between the customer and service advisor.
The 2019 U.S. Aftermarket Service Index Study was conducted in August – September 2019 and its results are based on responses from 12,554 vehicle owners
Manju Mathew, an MBA in marketing, completed publisher training courses from the Oxford Brookes University and New York University. She started with marketing and PR roles before moving on to her current position as a full time writer. Currently living in Dubai, her life as an expat has sharpened her observation skills and flair for writing. She enjoys writing about luxury cars like Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc even if she can only dream of owning them.
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