Cadillac does the best job of retaining service customers, and Lexus is tops when it comes to satisfying service customers, but the fact remains: 46 percent of all customer-paid service work goes to aftermarket service providers.
That is according to the J.D. Power and Associates 1998 Service Usage and Retention Study, released last month. The study compares the service habits of customers whose vehicles are covered by warranties with the habits of customers once their new-car warranties have expired.
Joe Ivers, director of customer service research at J.D. Power, said that though 57 percent of the consumers who go to aftermarket service shops say price is among their reasons for not going to the dealership for service, price is not the most important factor when choosing a service provider. Convenient location is most important, followed by price and then quickness of service.
'These are reasons they choose a new provider, but not why they abandon the dealership,' Ivers adds.
One major reason consumers do not return to the dealership for service after their warranties expire is that they are dissatisfied with the service during the warranty period. Failure to fix the vehicle right the first time contributes to loss of business.
Dealership customers said they had to take their vehicles back for the same problem 70 percent of the time vs. 30 percent for aftermarket customers, Ivers said.
However, Ivers said there are some factors that may skew customers' attitudes.
Repair work is often more difficult to diagnose and more complicated to perform, and it covers heavy repairs such as transmission and engine overhauls. Maintenance work is generally less complicated and takes less time.
Maintenance customers are easier to satisfy than repair customers. Dealerships get more of the repair work; aftermarket service providers get more maintenance work.
Still, the highest levels of customer satisfaction come from a handful of brands of dealers. Lexus dealers rank No. 1 among the top 10 providers in the service satisfaction index, followed by Infiniti dealers and then independent service shops. Saturn, Cadillac and Texaco are fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.
When it comes to dealership customer retention, Cadillac leads the top 10 list, with 99 percent of its customers obtaining some service at a dealership over the past year. Cadillac is followed by Jaguar and Land Rover.