A dealership’s service department is the number one determinant of customer satisfaction and dealership loyalty, according to the J.D. Power 2016 Customer Service Index (CSI) Study.

Among those who said they were highly satisfied (those scoring 900 or higher on a 1,000-point scale), 78% said they would ‘definitely’ purchase or lease their next new vehicle from the servicing dealership. When satisfaction dipped a little (to those scoring between 800 and 899), this figure dropped to 44%, and then even further to 23% when the satisfaction scores fell to between 600 and 799.

"When auto dealerships manage to get the service department’s customer service equation right, they earn incredibly loyal customers," said Axel Sprenger, senior director of European automotive operations at J.D. Power. "The service event is also instrumental in driving sales, as it is likely the most recent experience the customer has had at the dealer prior to shopping for a new vehicle."

The survey also found a number of relatively simple steps dealers should be making in order to improve this satisfaction.

For example, just 34% of customers said their service advisor used a tablet during their service visit, yet overall satisfaction increased by as much as 31 points on the 1,000-point scale when a tablet was used. Similarly, greeting a customer at the door could increase satisfaction by as much as 48 points, yet 61% of customers said they had to wait to be greeted.

The speed of paperwork was also important to customer satisfaction, with overall satisfaction highest among the 53% of customer who indicated the pick-up process took five minutes or fewer.

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