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How to Improve Customer Satisfaction: Greet the Customer

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The latest survey of aftermarket customers by J.D. Power shows service facilities can dramatically improve their customer satisfaction scores by quickly acknowledging and saying hello to customers. It also shows tire replacement providers have the greatest room for improvement in this area.

The J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Aftermarket Service Index study measures customer satisfaction with aftermarket service facilities, and it breaks down performance in three segments of the business: full-service maintenance and repair, quick oil change, and tire replacement.

See the J.D. Power rankings for top tire retailers here.

Customers said they were greeted immediately 34% of the time when seeking tire replacement. The scores for full-service maintenance/repair and quick oil change were 42% and 53% respectively.

J.D. Power says 27% to 39% of customers waited three minutes or more to be acknowledged by the staff across all segments. But those customers also gave the facilities lower satisfaction scores by as many as 219 points on a 1,000-point scale.

“One of every 10 customers waits more than five minutes before speaking with someone at a service facility,” says Chris Sutton, vice president of automotive retail at J.D. Power. “Seeing as how the pandemic has affected service volume, it’s really important to do a great job with the customers who do come through the door. Not being acknowledged can make customers feel that their time isn’t valued. Aftermarket service providers need to ensure someone is available to greet customers when they arrive, even if it’s just to say, ‘hello.’ Otherwise, they run the risk of losing out on return business.”

The study, now in its second year following its debut in 2019, measures customer satisfaction by providing a numerical index ranking of the highest-performing U.S. aftermarket service facilities. Overall performance is based on scores for seven things:

  • ease of scheduling/getting vehicle in for service;
  • service advisor performance;
  • service advisor courtesy;
  • service facility;
  • time to complete service;
  • fairness of charges; and
  • quality of work.

Key findings

J.D. Power highlighted the key findings from the survey:

Recommended additional services: It's important to make these recommendations right away and in a way that customers understand its value and purpose. "Satisfaction is highest in all three segments among customers who receive recommendations for — and accept — additional work."

Full-service maintenance and repair customers gave the highest satisfaction score (804) and spent an average of $564. Quick oil change customers gave a score of 782 and on average spent $252. Tire replacement customers spent the most — an average of $838 and gave a satisfaction score of 766.

“Suggesting additional work can be a real test of trust,” Sutton said. “Coming across as pushy or recommending perceived unnecessary work can negatively affect satisfaction, but downplaying potentially important work can result in a missed opportunity or even create safety concerns. It’s critical that service personnel be able to justify their recommendations.”

Fix it right: J.D. Power says the most critical key performance indicator (KPI) is completing the work correctly the first time. It increases satisfaction scores on average by 230 points for full-service maintenance and repair; 223 points for quick oil change; and 184 points for tire replacement.

The details count, including cleanliness: Customers have become "highly sensitized" to clean spaces since the pandemic began, J.D. Power says, and a clean service facility counts in overall customer satisfaction. But, the survey showed this expectation is met less than one-third of the time: 30% for full-service maintenance and repair shops; 25% for quick oil change bays; and 29% for tire replacement locations. When a business is cleaner than customers expect, scores can improve by 30 to 42 points, J.D. Power says.

Another score booster is contacting customers are the service is complete. “Simple things—like explaining to customers about the facility’s cleaning protocols—can make the difference between whether or not they willingly plan to return for future business or will recommend it to others,” Sutton said. “Aftermarket service providers should pay special attention to simple actions that can enhance the customer experience.”

“Even with many Americans having reduced their travel because of the pandemic, many still require automotive service, and their service expectations remain high,” says Timothy Gravelle, senior manager of research science at SurveyMonkey. “This research confirms that quality work done promptly, explained clearly, for a fair price, and delivered with excellent customer service is what leads to customer satisfaction among American drivers.”

The study is based on responses of 8,148 vehicle owners. It was conducted online between July and October 2020. Respondents were initially selected from the more than 2 million people who take SurveyMonkey surveys each day, and then respondents were screened to find those who had aftermarket service performed in the past 12 months.

Another highlight of the survey is a ranking of service providers in all three categories. Check out those results, including the top-ranked tire replacement providers, in this story.


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