J.D. Power Survey Shows Consistency Matters to Aftermarket Consumers

Oct. 30, 2019

In its first measurement of customer satisfaction scores in the automotive aftermarket, J.D. Power and Associates says the highest satisfaction scores are connected to consistent service processes. One thing consumers appreciate: the vehicle walkaround.

The inaugural J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Aftermarket Service Index Study — which was done in conjunction with SurveyMonkey Audience — not only shows what's most important to consumers when they're either having general maintenance done, or tires replaced, but also includes a ranking of the top-performers in the U.S. aftermarket.

The study splits general maintenance and tire replacement into two categories. And in each category, the scores are weighed by six different measures. Here's how consumers rated the experience in order of importance in each category:

General maintenance Tire replacement
Fairness of charges (19%) Service initiation (20%)
Service quality (18%) Fairness of charges (18%)
Service advisor (18%) Service quality (18%)
Service facility (16%) Service advisor (16%)
Service initiation (15%) Vehicle pick-up (15%)
Vehicle pick-up (14%) Service facility (13%)

Note: "service initiation" relates to how a customer sets up his or her service, whether it's scheduled on the phone, online or via text, or if they just show up without an appointment and approach the front counter.

Overall, J.D. Power says customers are most satisfied with their service quality (755 points on a 1,000-point scale).

“Owners are holding onto their vehicles past when factory scheduled maintenance packages and warranties expire, meaning they’ll be responsible for footing the full repair bill when their vehicles need service,” says Chris Sutton, vice president of the U.S. Automotive Retail Practice at J.D. Power. “Depending on the work needed, this can be a pretty significant expense, so owners want to be assured their vehicle is in capable hands and that they’re getting what they pay for.

"Aftermarket service providers need to ensure a great experience so customers will want to return for future service, and might even recommend the facility to family members and friends. A lot of times, simple things like following up with a customer after a service experience can make the difference between a good and great experience.”

Two indicators of success

The survey shows vehicle walkarounds are the second-most influential Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for general maintenance and tire replacement. However, this only occurs 72% of the time for general maintenance and 75% for tire replacement.

When a vehicle walkaround is performed, satisfaction scores improve 49 points for general maintenance and 47 points for tire replacement.

What was the most influential KPI? Getting the work done right the first time. This applies to both general maintenance and tire replacement.

Another key takeaway relies on the telephone. Follow-up calls are only made approximately 33% of the time for general maintenance and 38% for tire replacement, but such calls can account for satisfaction scores that are 28 points higher for general maintenance service and 21 points higher for tire replacement service.

Combine those two things — a vehicle walkaround and follow-up phone call — and customer satisfaction jumps 77 points for general maintenance and 68 points for tire replacement.

Key findings

There's value in fixing it right the first time: This is the most important activity for increased customer satisfaction, and it's completed in a vast majority of the time (93% for general maintenance and 94% for tire replacement).

In the general maintenance segment, satisfaction scores increase 247 points, which is roughly five times greater than performing a vehicle walkaround. Satisfaction scores in the tire maintenance segment are 231 points higher when work is completed right the first time.

Battery replacement and tire maintenance have the highest satisfaction for general maintenance (754 and 758, respectively). Tire alignment has the highest satisfaction in the tire replacement segment (772).

Prior experience vs. recommendations: Among all age groups, the most common reason why customers select their service provider is prior experience, stressing the importance of providing a highly satisfying experience to retain customers. More than half (56%) of Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) choose service providers based on prior experience with the facility, compared with 34% of Generation Z (born 1995-2004) service customers who have less prior experience. Generation Z customers are most likely to choose a service facility based on recommendations from others.

Would you recommend this business? Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures customers’ likelihood of recommending their service facility on a 0-10 scale. Customers are grouped into either the detractor (0-6), passive (7-8) or promoter (9-10) categories. Service customers were either “dissatisfied” (550 and below); “indifferent” (551-750); “pleased” (751-900); or “delighted” (901 and above).

NPS increases dramatically as customers are more highly satisfied with their service. NPS scores improve 70 points (on a 100-point scale) between “indifferent” and “delighted” customers in the general maintenance segment and 65 points in the tire replacement segment. Nearly all “delighted” customers are also promoters of their service facility.

Aftermarket opportunities rise as vehicles age: The study finds that, among customers who had aftermarket service, 33% of owners within the first year of ownership also had service at a new-vehicle dealership in the past year. This percentage steadily declines as vehicles age, down to 21% for owners of five-year-old vehicles, and 16% for nine-year old vehicles. Only 8% of aftermarket service customers who own vehicles 10 years or older have visited a dealer in the past year.

“Customer experience is the cornerstone when it comes to satisfaction with aftermarket service,” says Jon Cohen, chief research officer at SurveyMonkey. “The data show how providers who excel at basic customer touchpoints — from vehicle walkarounds to check-up calls — have a clear edge among consumers. The data are also clear that even as larger companies embrace customer centricity, they’re lagging behind many of the regional providers.”

“Shops that specialize in more complex work may be at a slight disadvantage compared to those that solely focus on oil changes,” J.D. Power's Sutton says. “So it’s vitally important to compensate by focusing on other activities that can improve customer satisfaction, like the amenities offered while customers wait and developing positive relationships between the customer and service advisor.”

The 2019 U.S. Aftermarket Service Index Study is based on responses from 12,554 vehicle owners and was conducted in August - September 2019.