Increase in EVs Leads to First Customer Service Satisfaction Decline in Nearly 30 Years

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The increasing volume of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) being serviced at dealerships is contributing to a negative effect on overall customer service satisfaction, resulting in a year-over-year decline in score for the first time in 28 years.

According to the J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Study, released March 9, satisfaction with the service experience declines 2 points to 846 (on a 1,000-point scale) in this year’s study.

Customer service satisfaction among owners of BEVs is 42 points lower than among owners of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. A leading factor is that recall rates are more than double for BEVs than their gas/diesel counterparts. Additionally, service advisor knowledge continues to be a major satisfaction issue among BEV owners who provide a rating of 8.01 (on a 10-point scale) compared with 8.59 among owners of ICE vehicles.

“As the electric vehicle segment grows, service is going to be a ‘make or break’ part of the ownership experience,” said Chris Sutton, vice president of automotive retail at J.D. Power. “The industry has been hyper-focused on launches and now these customers are bringing their electric vehicles in for maintenance and repairs. As training programs for service advisors and technicians evolve, EV service quality and customer experience must address both the vehicle and the unique customer needs. The EV segment has the potential to spur massive convenience improvements in how customers service their vehicles---but we’re not seeing the benefits yet.”

The study, now in its 43rd year, includes emerging features such as valet service, mobile vehicle servicing and online/smartphone app payment options to gauge the effect these processes have on the service experience.

The study measures satisfaction with service at franchised dealer or aftermarket service facilities for maintenance or repair work among owners and lessees of one- to three-year-old vehicles. It also provides a numerical index ranking of the highest-performing automotive brands sold in the U.S., based on the combined scores of five measures that comprise the vehicle owner service experience.

These measures are (in order of importance): service quality (32%); service advisor (19%); vehicle pick-up (19%); service facility (15%); and service initiation (15%).

Key Findings of the 2023 Study

Vehicle recalls drive satisfaction declines: Satisfaction declines 23 points when an owner must bring their vehicle in for a recall repair rather than for traditional maintenance or repair. Recall repair visits also have a negative effect on Net Promoter Score® (NPS) ratings, a vital metric for owners who share positive recommendations about a business. This is most evident with premium brands as the servicing dealership NPS declines 13 points when customers experience a recall.

Service departments getting the (text) message: In the 2019 CSI Study, 34% of owners expressed the desire to receive updates through simple text messages rather than phone calls, but only 9% actually did receive texts from dealerships. Now, dealerships have gotten the figurative message, and, as measured in the 2023 study, are now sending simple text messages 21% of the time to update customers vs. making a phone call (17%). The go-to communication method for service departments is now text messaging, as more than half (54%) of Generation X, Y and Z customers say they prefer it.

Owners wait even longer for an appointment: Since the 2021 study, the number of days owners wait for an appointment has increased 1.9 days for premium vehicles and 1.3 days for mass market vehicles. Appointment wait times are now 5.6 days for premium vehicles and 4.8 days for mass market vehicles. Labor, loaner vehicle availability and parts shortages continue to be the catalyst for the increasing amount of time it takes to get a vehicle serviced.

Owners’ service preferences differ: Owners provide higher trust ratings for franchise dealerships than for aftermarket service facilities for complex repairs (6.14 on a 7-point scale) vs. 5.75 for aftermarket full-service maintenance and repair facilities. When ease of doing business is the primary driver, trust preference swings to aftermarket facilities for maintenance (6.18 vs. 6.11 for dealerships). These findings are based on a battery of similar questions asked both in the CSI Study and in the J.D. Power Aftermarket Service Index (ASI) Study.

Climbing the chart: The top three brands with the greatest improvement in year-over-year satisfaction rankings are Alfa Romeo (+59 points), Mitsubishi (+30) and Infiniti (+16).

Highest-Ranking Brands and Segments

Lexus ranks highest in satisfaction with dealer service among all brands for a second consecutive year, with a score of 900. Porsche (880) ranks second in the premium segment, followed by Cadillac (879) and Infiniti (878).

Mitsubishi ranks highest in satisfaction with dealer service among mass market brands for the first time, with a score of 884. Mazda (870) ranks second and Buick (867) ranks third.

For the first time in the study’s history, model segment rankings are now available to provide even more granularity. “A truck is not a car, and the vehicle needs are going to be different,” Sutton said. “Each vehicle segment has a unique service experience based on customer preferences, demographics and vehicle use, wear and tear, so it’s appropriate to recognize the different journeys that car, SUV and truck customers have in the service experience.”

Among premium cars, Lexus ranks highest (902), followed by Porsche (880) and Infiniti (878).

Among premium SUVs, Lexus (900) ranks highest. Cadillac and Porsche rank second in a tie, each with a score of 880.

Nissan (886) ranks highest in satisfaction among truck brands with a score of 886. Chevrolet (851) ranks second and GMC (843) ranks third.

In the mass market car segment, Subaru ranks highest (866). Mazda (863) ranks second and Honda (855) ranks third.

Mitsubishi ranks highest among mass market SUVs/minivans with a score of 884. Mazda (872) ranks second and Buick (867) ranks third.

The 2023 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Study is based on responses from 64,248 verified registered owners and lessees of 2020 to 2022 model-year vehicles. J.D. Power goes to great lengths to ensure that survey respondents are true owners of the brand they are representing. The study was fielded from August through December 2022.

For more information about the U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Study, visit the website.

Source: J.D. Power

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