Parts and Staffing Issues Challenge Dealer Service Departments
According to the J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Study, car dealership service departments must contend with two primary pandemic-related challenges: auto parts supply chain delays and widespread staffing shortages, including automotive technicians. As a result, car owners now must wait almost a full day longer to get in for a service appointment compared to last year. The study reveals that luxury-brand vehicle owners must wait 4.5 days, on average, while owners of mainstream-brand vehicles have a wait time of 4.3 days. Longer wait times require customers to be more patient and forgiving of dealership service staff and processes.
"Dealer service departments are in a pivotal position to improve customer satisfaction and provide greater customer convenience, even though many challenges—including the parts supply chain disruption and the availability of new-vehicle loaners—are out of their control," said Chris Sutton, vice president of automotive retail at J.D. Power.
Now in its 42nd year, the redesigned CSI Study measures customer 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. J.D. Power measures satisfaction across five factors (in order of importance): Service quality (32%); Service advisor (19%); Vehicle pick-up (19%); Service facility (15%); and Service initiation (15%). In 2022, overall customer service satisfaction is 848 (on a 1,000-point scale).
Although service departments have no immediate solution to resolving current supply chain delays and complications in logistics, they can reduce customer frustration by providing information and transparency of the repair/maintenance process. Keeping customers informed can help quell the anxiety and stress associated with vehicle repair and maintenance.
"Proactive communication with customers is one solution for dealerships to mitigate a disruptively tough situation. Simply implementing text or email alerts can greatly improve customer satisfaction," said Sutton. Additionally, letting customers know what is happening at each step along the way, including why it is taking longer to book an appointment or providing any updates in parts delays, can help improve satisfaction." The study finds that 42 percent of respondents preferred text message reminders of upcoming service appointments and real-time repair updates.
In the same vein, the study finds customers are gravitating toward technology, as a whole, to communicate with their dealerships and manage their service experience. This includes making appointments online (27%), utilizing a mobile app (7%), and paying online (17%).
"Dealers who meet customers on their preferred communication channels are gaining an advantage," Sutton said. "Service departments need to jump on the technology train now or risk being left behind."
For the first time in the study's history, J.D. Power measured customer satisfaction of having a vehicle serviced remotely versus an in-person dealership experience. Remote service could either mean the car is picked up by a valet and transported to the service department, or the dealership sends a technician to the vehicle's location to make an onsite evaluation. The customer satisfaction score for remote services is 866 compared to 847 for those who brought their car into the dealership for service.