Motorists have come to expect the latest high-tech features in the cars they buy. Ironically, that’s also a frequent cause of customer frustration, buyers struggling to figure out how to pair a phone or plug in a destination.
Manufacturers that hope to keep customers happy – and loyal – need to ensure that product specialists spend time at the showroom explaining how to make that technology work, according to a new study by J.D. Power and Associates. Having the right staff on hand is one of the key reasons why Mercedes-Benz topped Power’s latest Sales Satisfaction Index, or SSI.
“With such tech-heavy vehicles today, introducing product specialists into the sales process helps improve the delivery process and customer understanding of how to operate key features,” explained Chris Sutton, vice president of the automotive retail practice at J.D. Power.
When a customer works with a product specialist, the survey showed a significant increase in sales satisfaction. The good news, according to the 28th Power SSI, is that such specialists are becoming more common at dealerships across the country.
Nearly eight in 10 customers now get help pairing their cellphones before they drove off the dealer lot, while 84% have had help understanding how to use often complex navigation systems.
But keeping customers satisfied is a challenging process that requires more than just pairing a phone. Dealers have also had to adjust the basic sales process – toning down the classic hard sell techniques – while also explaining complex finance and insurance issues.
Even there, the new SSI found that technology is useful. Dealerships that used computers or tablets to help explain financing options generally had more satisfied shoppers.
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According to the new study, Mercedes ranked highest overall, scoring 761 points on a 900-point scale, an increase of 33 points over last year – the biggest improvement of any brand. Notably, Mercedes also led in a separate study of customer satisfaction, the Pied Piper Index released earlier this year.
Mini, despite lagging below average on J.D. Power’s quality charts, was the top mainstream brand in the latest Sales Satisfaction Index, with a score of 727.
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Buick was the most improved of the mainstream brands, at 726 points, an increase of 32 points. The General Motors brand came in just below Mini among mass marques and ninth overall.
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The Sales Satisfaction Index surveyed both those who purchased a new vehicle between July and September of this year, as well as “rejecters” who walked away from a dealership.
Long-term studies have shown that how customers feel they were treated at the showroom can have a lasting impact on their satisfaction with a vehicle – as well as whether they remain loyal to a brand when it’s time to trade in.