Website enhancements and a consumer invoice redesign paid off for Volkswagen Credit, which ranked tops among mass-market lenders in the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Consumer Financing Satisfaction Study.
VW Credit garnered 836 out of 1,000 possible points to best Ford Credit, which came in second at 835, and Honda Financial Services, which took third place with 829. Kia Motors Finance, which was No. 1 among mass-market brands last year, fell to 813 points, just below the 814 industry average.
Three captive finance companies swept the luxury brands as well, with Lincoln Automotive Financial Services, last year’s leader, again coming in first, this time with 867 points. Lexus Financial Services followed, with 859 points, and Audi Financial Services was third, at 854. The luxury brand average was 843 points.
Billing, payment key
The billing and payment process is the portion of the survey with the most impact on overall satisfaction, according to Mike Buckingham, senior director of the automotive finance practice at J.D. Power, which released the study last week.
Billing and payment sound pretty basic. But if a lender bills a customer the wrong amount or, say, fails to update a customer’s contact information with a new phone number or change of address, the customer begins to wonder what else the lender is getting wrong, Buckingham said.
He said the study also rates lenders on three other factors: the “on-boarding” process, that is, welcoming customers; lender websites, and phone contacts. Questions about pricing are not included in the study, Buckingham said. The top finishers did well in all four categories, he said.
That’s not easy, executives at No. 1 VW Credit, which ranked second last year, said in a phone interview Monday.
In the past two years, VW Credit has redesigned its customer invoices; launched a website optimized for use with mobile devices; redesigned its main website for use with desktop computers, zeroing in on the functions customers actually use; and appointed separate, brand-specific teams to answer questions for VW and Audi customers, said Julie Longley, senior manager for ecommerce marketing and new business development at VW Credit.
Edmund Field, VW Credit’s general manager for product development, said the company also invested in technology so customers could contact the lender via mail, email, mobile device or telephone. “Instead of forcing them into a channel, we provide them options,” he said.
Used-car owners added
J.D. Power made a couple of significant changes to this year’s study. In addition to new vehicles, it added customers who bought or leased their vehicles used, and also added used-vehicle customers who owned their vehicles longer.
Buckingham said in last year’s study most consumers had purchased or leased their new vehicle within two years; none had obtained their new vehicle more than three years ago. The company now includes used-vehicle owners who owned their vehicles for up to four years, he said.
J.D. Power completely redesigned the study for 2012, after taking it off the market for four years. The 2014 study was based on responses from 20,670 customers who purchased or leased a new or used vehicle for model years 2010 through 2014. The study was fielded from July to September 2014.