Dealerships, lenders and automotive brands have been slow to change what is often an uncoordinated set of communications to consumers at the end of their vehicle leases, most parties admit. If they want to improve customer satisfaction with that process, a more digital and personalized lease-end process may be the answer, they add.
"The evolution [of the lease-end process] has been very, very slow," said Jim Houston, senior director of J.D. Power's automotive finance practice.
J.D. Power expects 3.7 million vehicles to come off lease industrywide in 2018, rising to 4.2 million in 2019. In March 2019, the expected peak, 425,000 leases will come to term.
"Everyone is rationalizing in their head that, 'I probably need to do something different because I've got a ton of cars coming back,' " Houston said. "Making sure [lenders] are effectively managing inbound vehicles starts with customer communication."
J.D. Power's surveys show that a coordinated effort by the dealership, lender and brand drives the highest levels of customer satisfaction, Houston said. And, much of the time, personalized, digital communication is most convenient for the customer.
Ford Motor Credit Co. ranked No. 1 in lease-end satisfaction in the mass-market category of J.D. Power's 2017 poll of lease customers. For Ford's captive, a simple, transparent lease-end process keeps customers coming back to the brand, lender and dealership, said Shannon Mokhiber, Ford Credit's vice president of global marketing.
There should be a unified message among all parties so there are no surprises for the customer, she said. "As we're going more and more digital, it's about having more and more of that messaging available to customers on their terms," she said. "It's about getting that right message to the right consumer at the right time."