Another month, another survey from J.D. Power. The firm's 2017 U.S. Customer Service Index examined how satisfied (or unsatisfied) vehicle owners and lessees were after taking their cars in for service. The brand-by-brand rankings probably won't surprise you, but let's take a look anyway.
To gather its data, Power polled over 70,000 Americans who owned or leases vehicles from the 2012 to 2016 model years. (That's important because many of those cars were still under warranty, making dealerships an attractive service option. If the vehicles were older, it would've been more difficult for Power to carry out brand rankings, because a greater number of cars would've been taken to places other than dealerships for service.)
Respondents were asked to score their satisfaction in five different areas: service quality, service advisor, service initiation, service facility and vehicle pick-up. Those surveyed could assign scores on a scale that ran from 0 (deeply unsatisfied) to 1,000 (couldn't have been better).
The good news is that average scores saw across-the-board improvement in 2017. The combined average for customer service was 816 this year, up from 802 in 2016. Service quality scores have seen the most improvement, climbing from 782 in 2015 to 809 this year.
However, quality of service wasn't the thing that most pleased consumers. They were most impressed with their service advisors, who received an average score of 835 points. Service initiation came in a close second at 832, and vehicle pick-up was third, with an average of 810. Service facilities received the lowest scores, with an average of 794.
Also good news--at least for dealers--was that consumers were far more pleased with their experiences at dealerships than at independent garages.
It might not come as a shock to hear that the places that fared best in the study were often those that prioritized communication with customers. Contacting folks by phone made 55 percent of those people more likely to return for service in the future. When text messages were added to the mix, the figure jumped significantly, to 67 percent.
Brand winners (and losers)
It's probably to be expected that luxury brands did better at coddling their customers than mass-market marques. The average luxury score was 859, versus 807 for mainstream brands.
That said, there was still plenty of variation in the luxury category. Lexus came out on top, with an average score of 874 points. It was followed by a cluster of brands that all scored in the 860s: Audi (869), Lincoln (868), Porsche (867), Cadillac (865), Jaguar (864), Mercedes-Benz (864), and Infiniti (861).
The worst performer on the luxury rungs was Land Rover, which scored a comparatively dismal 828. Volvo and Acura only did slightly better, with scores of 836. BMW came in slightly below average, at 852.
Among mass-market brands, there was even more variation. Buick aced the survey, scoring an average of 860 points. It was trailed by MINI, which performed almost as well as its sibling, BMW, with a score of 850. GMC (837), Chevrolet (829), and Nissan (822) rounded out the top five.
At the bottom of the chart...well, if you're a regular reader of these reports, you know how the story ends. It's all Fiat Chrysler, all the time. Coming in more than 100 points below top performer Buick was Fiat, with a score of 739. It was trailed by fellow FCA brands Jeep (753), Ram (755), and Dodge (771).
In fact, if it weren't for Mazda's score of 784, the bottom five would've been a clean FCA sweep: Chrysler came in sixth-worst, at 785.
Check out the full list of service satisfaction rankings in the chart above. Then, feel free to share your favorite service stories (or also: horror stories) below.