Research firm J.D. Power surveys luxury car buyers, finds out they can indeed get satisfaction. Mercedes-Benz leads all comers.

If you’re shelling out big bucks for a premium car, you’re quite right to expect premium customer care. The good news is, according to global research firm J.D. Power, that’s exactly what most people are getting.

Its 2018 Australia Customer Survey for Luxury Vehicles spoke with 511 luxury vehicle owners who purchased their car between March 2013 and August 2018, and had it serviced at an authorised dealer between March 2017 and August 2018.

The key point – albeit one based on a limited sample size with some elements of customer subjectivity – was the overall average satisfaction score for luxury brands was higher than that for ‘mass-market’ brands.

A few things changed this year compared to previous iterations, with ‘service initiation’ and ‘service quality’ given higher weightings than before.

It was Australia’s top-selling luxe brand, Mercedes-Benz, that fared best in the survey.

According to the report, the three-pointed star shone against the main consideration factors, a smidgen ahead of Audi. On a 1000-point scale they scored 831 and 830 respectively. BMW (806) was 15 points below the market median of 821 points.

Lexus, Land Rover and Volvo were featured in the study and shaped the overall average, but the tiny sample sizes meant they weren’t individually ranked on the scale. Which frankly doesn’t help buyers searching to break up the German hegemony in the market…

For context, the mass-market average in a separate J.D. Power survey with 4586 responders, published at the end of August, was 764 out of 1000. Mazda topped that survey on 789 (its third annual win in succession), narrowly edging Toyota (783) and Nissan (779). More on that report here.

In somewhat related findings, J.D. Power in the US published results earlier this year that found Lexus and Porsche were the most dependable brands at the upper echelons of the market. Those sample sizes are much larger…

What are some of the interesting take aways from the luxury survey? According to the research, service advisors that pick up the phone are at an advantage. Although nearly 40 per cent of customers received calls from dealer staff, 52 per cent indicated a preference for it.

Rapid servicing was also rewarded, with luxury owners often in a hurry. Of customers who were offered an ‘express service’ of their vehicle (30 per cent overall), 68 per cent of them chose it. Satisfaction among these customers was 30 points higher on the scale.

Apparently, the majority of customers find servicing costs reasonable. Given the rollout of service packages and capped-price servicing plans – direct responses from OEMs to keep independent repairers away from their profit engines – this may not come as a complete surprise.

A claimed 76 per cent of respondents indicated the cost was ‘reasonable’ and 71 per cent said they were provided with a detailed estimate prior to work commencing on their vehicle.

We’d love to see this more directly compared to mass market shoppers, those no doubt with differing views on what constitutes a ‘reasonable’ cost, because their household budgets are probably a bit tighter.

The firm also cited what it called a ‘high’ overall rating on the quality of work performed on vehicles. Only three per cent of customers said they were ‘disappointed’ with their service experience at the dealership, and a clear majority (87 per cent) said they were ‘pleased’ or ‘delighted’.

As you’d expect, service advisor interaction was also deemed “crucial”. Overall satisfaction among customers who were greeted by their service advisor was 37 points higher than among those who were not (835 vs. 798).

Service advisor knowledge also played a key role in supporting a customer’s expectations. Among customers who say their service advisor had a positive level of technical knowledge, satisfaction was nearly 100 points higher than among those who said their advisor’s technical knowledge was lacking (831 vs. 741, respectively).

Note to franchise dealers: train your front-of-house service advisors properly, and get them to pick up the phone and keep owners in the loop…

“Customers have confirmed that open and honest communication throughout the entire service process promotes a transparent relationship with their dealer,” said J.D. Power’s director in Australia, Bruce Chellingworth.

“This, in turn, leads to an enhanced customer experience and drives the promotion of the brand and dealership.”

We’re interviewing Bruce on our podcast this week. Any questions you’d like answered? We will attempt to work them into the conversation if they’re good…