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Porsche took first place in JD Power's 2019 Customer Satisfaction Index, ahead of Lexus and Cadillac.

Communication is key to the success or failure of any relationship, and perhaps nowhere is that more true than in the service department of an auto dealership.

Auto dealers that communicate the best, i.e. the way consumers want, finished atop J.D. Power’s new Customer Service Index ranking. This year, that means Porsche, Lexus and Cadillac took the top three spots in the luxury car rankings.

In the mainstream results, Buick, Mini and somewhat surprisingly, Mitsubishi took the first three spots. Mitsubishi’s third-place finish came as a result of the greatest improvement (27 points) in the entire study year-over-year.

The Japanese automaker was also the highest-ranked Asian brand in the mass-market/non-premium segment and has improved its points position (61 points) in the CSI study — more than any other non-premium brand from 2016-2019.

(Porsche electrifying next-gen Macan. Click Here for the story.)

The study measures satisfaction with service at a franchised dealer or independent service facility for maintenance or repair work among owners and lessees of 1- to 3-year-old vehicles. The score is compiled from scores in five different categories.

Buick took top honors for non-premium brands in the latest J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Index.

“This is an important area of opportunity for dealers,” said Chris Sutton, Vice President, U.S. Automotive Retail Practice at J.D. Power. “Seemingly simple things like completing service right the first time; returning settings to how they were when the customer brought the vehicle in for service; and washing the customer’s vehicle—all three of which are Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)—can affect their perception of service quality.

“While completing repairs right the first time is done 94% of the time, the other two KPIs are only being completed 81% and 45% of the time, respectively. These basics are really building blocks to cementing the customer’s relationship with their dealer.”

The index also accounts for changes in customer preferences. For example, customers still want to hear from dealer, but they want their communication to be digital rather than from a person, especially when it comes to scheduling appointments.

In 2015, the industry average preference for these two methods was 20% and 64%, respectively. This year, preferences are 28% and 59%, respectively. While Gen Y customers have shifted their preference toward internet scheduling at a faster rate than have Boomers, every generation (with the exception of Pre-Boomers) has increased its preference for internet scheduling and decreased its preference for phone scheduling during the past five years of the study.

(Click Here for more about the new Porsche Macan.)

However, if you’re talking, then what you say needs to be important. The percentage of customers who feel their service adviser provides helpful advice is 70 points higher when the adviser was focused on them and their needs during the visit.

Mini was second behind Buick in J.D. Power's recent Customer Service Index.

This, along with informing customers about work performed on the vehicle (+44); knowing the vehicle’s service history (+37); keeping them informed of the vehicle’s status (+33); letting them know when the vehicle will be ready before service begins (+30); and performing a vehicle walk-around (+30), boosts a customer’s view of the service advisor’s perceived helpfulness.

Also those good feelings for customers result in those owners saying good things to others about the brand. More than three-fourths (77%) of owners are promoters in year one of vehicle ownership; 75% are promoters in year two; and 73% are promoters in year three. Most notably, when an owner’s vehicle is not fixed right the first time, scores drop approximately 50 points (on a 100-point scale).

Dealers can pick up satisfaction points for doing some of the little things as well, such as returning a vehicle washed and cleaned.

“This is an important area of opportunity for dealers,” Sutton said. “Seemingly simple things like completing service right the first time; returning settings to how they were when the customer brought the vehicle in for service; and washing the customer’s vehicle—all three of which are Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)—can affect their perception of service quality.

(To see more about Porsche expanding its subscription service, Click Here.)

“While completing repairs right the first time is done 94% of the time, the other two KPIs are only being completed 81% and 45% of the time, respectively. These basics are really building blocks to cementing the customer’s relationship with their dealer.”

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