Toyota has been ranked highest in a JD Power customer satisfaction survey of dealer aftersales service in Thailand for the second consecutive year.

Among the eight brands in the 2009 survey, Toyota scored 825 and performed particularly well in the service quality and service facility factors. Mazda ranked second (824), performing particularly well in the service initiation and vehicle pickup factors. Ford, Chevrolet and Honda also ranked above the industry average of 817.

"The study findings confirmed the trend of a growing proportion of customers - now 76% - staying at the dealership while their vehicle is being serviced," said Loïc Pean, country manager at JD Power Asia Pacific in Bangkok. "This obviously puts more pressure on dealerships to manage waiting time and customer expectations more efficiently. Manufacturers are improving the quality of their dealership facilities, notably the waiting lounges, in order to ensure that customers can wait comfortably, which, in turn, increases their satisfaction."

The study found customer satisfaction increased as a greater variety of amenities were provided, such as reading materials, TV, refreshment counter, free food and internet access. In addition, providing opportunities for customers to observe their vehicle being serviced and/or to speak to the technician also increased satisfaction. Satisfaction scores were approximately 20 points higher among these customers, compared with customers who didn't have this opportunity.

The study also found that about half of customers were contacted post-service to verify whether the work performed was satisfactory. This follow-up contact, if performed within one to two weeks, can considerably influence customer satisfaction, as the average satisfaction score was 31 points higher when customers were contacted. Among the customers who were contacted, 17% reported a problem.

Among customers reporting a problem, 88% said the dealership ultimately resolved the issue and had an overall satisfaction score above the average.

"Post-service contact with the customer provides the dealer with an opportunity to identify any problem that may have occurred after servicing and to offer to fix it for the customer, which enhances the customer's experience," said Pean.

Twice as many customers (19% vs. 9%) who said they were "disappointed" with dealer service visited a non-authorised facility to have their vehicle serviced, compared with customers who indicated they were "delighted" or "pleased". Similarly, the proportion of customers who stated they "definitely would" revisit the dealer for post-warranty service was more than double (48% vs. 20%) among customers who said they were "delighted" and "pleased," compared with customers who said they were "disappointed."

"Improving customer service not only increases short-term customer satisfaction and positive word of mouth, but also reduces customer defection and increases post-warranty servicing volumes - ultimately maximising the return on investment for manufacturers and dealers," said Pean.