When she began looking for a new car, Chris Anderson had her heart set on a midsize Ford sedan. But in the end, she wound up buying from the Detroit maker’s cross-town rival General Motors. It wasn’t that she liked her new car better. It was the dealer she liked – or more precisely, the Ford dealer she didn’t want to buy from.
And the Detroit saleswoman is not alone. What happens when a customer walks into the showroom can have a big impact on what they buy – or where they buy – says Fran O’Hagan, an automotive analyst whose annual Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index is aimed at measuring which dealers and brands do the best job in treating prospective car shoppers. And this year, the study found Mercedes-Benz repeating as the industry leader.
The Pied Piper study relies on so-called “mystery shoppers” who go through the car buying process at thousands of U.S. showrooms each year subtly notating how well salespeople handle such basics as providing buyers with a vehicle walk-around, brochures and test drives, things O’Hagan explains “correlate highly with whether a customer buys.”