India's Suzuki subsidiary Maruti Udyog ranks highest in customer satisfaction with automotive dealer service for the third consecutive year, according to the JD Power Asia Pacific 2002 India Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) Study released this week.

The annual study, now in its sixth year, identifies five factors that measure customer satisfaction with dealership service in India. In order of importance, these are: problems experienced, service advisor, service performance, service timing and facility appearance.

"Maruti further consolidates its industry-leading service performance observed over the past two years in this study," said JD Power Asia Pacific senior analyst Sanjay Ralhan.

"The impressive 2002 CSI performance demonstrated by Maruti is a consequence of sustained, crossorganisational focus on delivering a positive ownership experience and is driven by industry-best scores on four out of the five factors that determine service satisfaction."

The study finds that the quality of a vehicle has a significant impact on a dealership's ability to offer a satisfying service experience. In addition to understanding the relationship between vehicle quality and the servicing dealer's ability to rectify problems experienced with the vehicle, substantial gains can be made in customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy when there is strong manufacturer support and the adoption of customer-centric processes at the service dealership.

"Fixing the vehicle right on the first visit and doing so in a timely manner is the foundation of the service/repair experience," said Ralhan. "Maruti dealers are among the most consistent in meeting customer expectations on fixing problems right on the first visit and service timeliness. Consequently, one in four Maruti owners (26%) rate their service experience to be even better than expected, compared to just 18% for the industry."

While the industry's gains are largely driven by improvements recorded by volume manufacturers Maruti, Telco, and Hyundai, nine out of the 11 ranked makes achieve an improvement in service satisfaction over 2001, indicating that most manufacturers now place an even greater emphasis on ensuring a positive customer experience. Fiat and General Motors continue to place at the lower end of the rankings but show important gains in CSI compared to 2001.

The 2002 India CSI Study is based on evaluations from 3,181 owners of personal-use vehicles surveyed at 12 to 18 months of vehicle ownership (i.e., customers who purchased their vehicles between January and September 2001). The study is designed to provide an objective measure of customer satisfaction with dealer service and vehicle condition, with primary analysis conducted at the make or nameplate level.