LOS ANGELES -- Knocking Lexus and Infiniti out of their accustomed places atop the J.D. Power and Associates Customer Service Index Study, Lincoln and Buick finished one-two in the annual market research poll. What's more, six of the top 11 brands in the survey were domestic, and all of General Motors' brands finished "above average" in the survey.
Lincoln has been rising through the rankings for several years. Last year, it reached a surprising third place, after finishing in 11 in 2002. Buick, too, jumped in the rankings from last year's eighth-place finish.
Customer ServiceBased on a 1,000-point scale
The survey once used vehicle quality as a component of its polling. However, Power now uses the CSI study to strictly measure customer handling in the three years after a new vehicle sale is complete. The study is based on responses from more than 97,000 new-vehicle owners and lessees.
The questions mostly involve treatment in the service drive for maintenance and repair. However, vehicle quality still has an indirect impact on results, noted Joe Ivers, executive director of quality/customer satisfaction at J.D. Power and Associates.
"In addition to their subsidized maintenance program, Lincoln was helped by improved vehicle quality. This has translated into a 14 percent decline in the volume of repairs needed, meaning that more of Lincoln's work is maintenance-only, which is easier from a customer satisfaction viewpoint," Ivers said in a release.
Among maintenance customers, who make up two-thirds of its service business, Lincoln receives significantly improved ratings in "fairness of charges" and in the areas of service initiation and service delivery. In fact, 97 percent of customers say they got the appointment date they wanted, and customers gave strong ratings on the ease of getting in and out of the dealership, the survey noted.
"Not only are a lot of brands improving by a significant margin, but also we're seeing improvements in the toughest and most important areas to customers," Ivers said. "Many brands are aggressively improving in fixing vehicles right the first time, which heavily affects customer satisfaction."
Ivers said that better treatment in the service drive is a key ingredient in maintaining owner loyalty and advocacy when the time comes to purchase the next new vehicle.
Several surprises in the data: