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New AAA Study Shows Communication is the Key to Auto Repair Satisfaction

12 June 2000

New AAA Study Shows Communication is the Key to Auto Repair Satisfaction

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Gaps between consumer expectations and the beliefs of auto repair facility managers appear to be a root cause of customer repair-provider frustration with auto repair experiences, new research from AAA shows.

    "Repair providers in general appear to be misjudging the importance of factors important to consumers in a variety of areas," said John Nielsen, director, AAA Auto Repair Network. "This suggests consumers should be more direct in explaining their expectations when arranging for service, and the repair industry has an opportunity to evaluate if they are focusing the right amount of resources in areas consumers judge to be important."

    AAA, which provides repair services as well as emergency road service to more than 43 million members, maintains a network of 4,600 independently inspected and approved repair facilities. These facilities offer specific benefits and protections to AAA members, and must consistently achieve high levels of customer satisfaction.

    AAA commissioned the research to learn how the repair experience can be improved for all repair shops and consumers. AAA also plans to distribute a pair of informational brochures later this summer recommending specific steps repair providers and consumers can take to narrow the gap in expectations.

    Areas where repair providers overestimate importance to consumers are: promptness in writing up service orders; courtesy of personnel; helpfulness of personnel; ability to fix a problem on the first visit; and shop reputation.

    Areas where repair providers underestimate consumer expectations are: Number of mechanics to do the work; time required for maintenance repair; convenience of service hours; convenience of service locations; special offers/discounts; warranty provisions; fairness of fees; and affiliation with AAA.

    Important reasons consumers choose a repair facility are: quality of work, 99 percent; ability to diagnose problems properly, 96 percent; and, knowledge/expertise of service personnel, 95 percent. Consumers also indicate they value the ability to fix problems on the first visit, the amount of time required for maintenance/repair and the number of technicians available to do the work.

    In general, consumers say their satisfaction level with repair providers is 18 percent below what repair providers believe it to be.

    An additional gap between repair shops and consumers is in the area of understanding and following recommended maintenance procedures. Nine out of 10 consumers say they know the manufacturer's maintenance schedule for their vehicle while repair providers say they believe only 42 percent of consumers actually follow the recommended maintenance procedures.

    "Either way, there is an opportunity for more communication between shop personnel and vehicle owners on what is being observed under the hood, and what constitutes good preventative maintenance procedures," Nielsen said. AAA responded to more than 28.6 calls for emergency road service in 1999.

    AAA's findings are based on a mail survey to more than 3,850 AAA member households and 4,600 repair facilities with a response rate of 16 percent and 32 percent, respectively.

    As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides its 43 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.