Sunday

The Service Departments That Make a Difference

The service department is the front line of customer satisfaction or customer irritation. If the dealer's service department treats the customer like gold, the customer stays happy and will put up with almost anything that goes wrong with their vehicle. If they make the customer mad, then tolerance grows short, customer satisfaction goes down the drain, and the customer is one step from a lawyer's office. Smart dealers know that, too.

Lexus, Buick and Cadillac dealers do the best job providing repair and maintenance services for their customers, according to the JD Power 2006 Customer Service Index Study. That explains why we see fewer complaints on those three brands than any others, in spite of a recent and serious safety recall by Buick and Cadillac.

Meantime, VW and Isuzu owners are an unhappy lot with their dealers, according to the survey. That, too, fits what we see, punctuated by VW's recent recall of 362,000 vehicles.

Lexus is at the top of customer satisfaction in the service department survey and you can bet that fact isn't lost on Lexus. They scored 912 on a scale of 1,000. Just a notch behind is Buick, with 911, followed by Cadillac at 909. We aren't surprised to see Lexus at the top of the heap, but while the score may be neck and neck on the Cadillac and Buick numbers, our clients have filed a lot more lawsuits over Cadillac lemons, by far, than Buick. The service departments maybe doing great, but the manufacturing quality seems to be much higher at the Buick plants.

Isuzu bottoms out the list with the worst score for the second year in a row with 781 points, and their sales have reflected it for several years. VW scored 810 points and Suzuki with 823 wasn't far behind. Isuzu and Suzuki both have a checkered history of customer satisfaction troubles. A few years ago VW's quality seemed highly touted but that appears to have fallen, more or less likely in direct proportion to the number of "New Beetle" vehicles on the road.

The survey was based on results from nearly 80,000 drivers of 2003 - 2005 model vehicles and is worth checking out.