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Lexus, Mini Top J.D. Power Customer Service Index Study

lexus-gx460-blackline-2022-04-badge-black-exterior-grille-suv 2022 Lexus GX 460 | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

The bad news for vehicle service departments concerned with customer service is that wait times for owners are longer — but the good news is that owners still trust the work they do. That’s according to J.D. Power’s 2022 U.S. Customer Service Index Study released today. The study measures customer satisfaction with both dealership and third-party service centers among owners and lessees of vehicles from the 2019-21 model years.

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The results indicate that vehicle owners still trust dealership service departments, and there are clear opportunities to improve customer satisfaction — most of which center on modernizing the process and improving communication. Those steps will be needed to counter the rising wait times: Premium vehicles now have to wait an average of 4.5 days for a service appointment, and mass-market vehicles’ waits are 4.3 days on average; both have increased by nearly a full day since 2021.

Here are the leading brands for each segment:

Premium

Lexus: 897

Cadillac: 880

Porsche: 879

Acura:  871

BMW: 866

Mass-Market

Mini: 873

Buick: 872

Mazda: 856

Mitsubishi: 854

GMC: 853

The survey was on a 1,000-point scale, measuring service quality (32%); service advisor (19%); vehicle pickup (19%); service facility (15%); and service initiation (15%). The overall average score was 848.

Communication Is Key

According to the survey, 42% of respondents prefer when service departments send appointment reminders and updates via text message, and things like online or app-based appointment scheduling and payment processing are alternative methods preferred by significant percentages of respondents.

We’ve had struggles with the app-based appointment scheduling on the FordPass app for our long-term 2021 F-150. While we loved the ease of scheduling service via the app, it didn’t successfully communicate with the dealership, and we had to schedule another appointment elsewhere days later.

“Dealers who meet customers on their preferred communication channels are gaining an advantage,” Chris Sutton, vice president of automotive retail at J.D. Power, said in a statement. “Service departments need to jump on the technology train now or risk being left behind.”

J.D. Power also found that service departments providing photo or video updates about needed repairs are three times more likely to receive approval to perform those repairs and are more trusted by respondents.

Valet Is Valuable

Respondents also preferred dealership service departments that offered either valet service (where the car is picked up) or mobile service (where the technician or technicians come to the vehicle). It seems obvious, but providing more convenient methods for owners to get their vehicle fixed is a great way to improve customer satisfaction. We enjoyed the valet service when we owned our 2019 Genesis G70, for example, because it made it much easier for us to get it serviced.

Future-Proofing

The last opportunity for service departments is to become better at and more familiar with servicing battery-electric vehicles. Satisfaction among electric vehicle owners is significantly lower than owners of gas- or diesel-powered vehicles. As EVs become more popular, it’s important for dealerships not only to learn how to sell EVs, but service them as well.

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